My Deployment Screw-up–A Year Later

One of the biggest anxiety producers of a deployment (aside from the biggie:  your love being in harm’s way) is being the only one responsible for all the major transactions of life that may occur during that time period.  By major transactions of life, I mean things like buying a new car when the one you’re driving goes sour, paying taxes come tax day, and finding a place to live should a move occur during that time period.  Surely many adults deal with these difficulties solo on a day to day basis, but when you are used to doing things as a team, it can be a daunting task.  This is especially so because you always have the thought in the back of your head that you want to make sure you do things extra perfectly so your spouse will be pleased.  You want to get it right. You want to get it perfect.

Because of my Mom’s illness prior to my husband’s last detachment cycle and deployment, we opted to leave our apartment and put our belongings into storage.  I headed to IL to be with my family, and husband headed out to the deep blue sea.  That meant that at the end of deployment time we needed to have a new home lined up, and the responsibility of finding such a humble abode was mine.

When I first saw the listing for our home I was excited and disappointed all at once.  I was excited because the rent was affordable, and the house looked just right for us.  I was disappointed because there was a very clear ‘no pets’ label on the listing.  I took a chance and emailed the company to find out if there was any way around that, and it turned out there was with certain, reasonable stipulations.

I put in our application and we got the house.  A few days before Husband was due back I strapped one year old Little Miss into our car, and caravanned with my wonderful father back to WA.  Once here, I did the paperwork, got the stuff out of storage, and Dad and I had the place whipped into a relative sense of homeyness in the 4 or so days that we had before Husband’s homecoming day. 

I was so proud of myself…  Here was this big, huge, grown-up thing that we’d always tackled together before and I’d handled it.  By myself.  The house was nice.  The big things were moved in so that husband could just be home and relax for the first few days back.  And, I knew my husband would be proud of me.

So…  fast forward a year….  Yesterday I go in to renew our lease and notice that there is a notation that we have ‘no pets.’  I questioned this and reminded them that we had been up front about our kitty and the owner had ok’d our having him in the home.

The property manager left for a minute, flipped through some paperwork and found that this was, sure enough, the case….  And oh by the way–since this is indeed the case you owe us 12 months worth of pet-rent that hasn’t been paid. 

I was panicked.  I really thought I had taken care of everything.  Our rent is directly deposited every month.  I remembered sitting down with someone at the property manager’s office and going through all the paperwork.  How had this been missed?

I came home and scoured our rental agreement and all the paperwork that they’d given me at move-in.  There wasn’t anything noted there about the pet rent except a note about a pro-rated pet-rent move-in fee, but I did vaguely remember agreeing to it outside of the paperwork.  There was also no ‘pet addendum’ as the paperwork noted there should be.   I remembered that I had gotten nervous once or twice during the year, and gone back to the contract wondering about an extra fee, but finding nothing about this monthly fee, I thought I must have been remembering the policy of our previous apartment.

I thought wrong.

I screwed up. 

And now we owe a chunk of money at a time when we have some big baby-preparation purchases that need to be made and not a lot of extra in the bank.  We can make it by, and we will with no problem….  but it is discouraging nonetheless.

In my defense, I feel the property manager shares at least part of the blame as they drew up all the paper-work minus that very important detail and cited our rent in several different places as being the amount that we have paid all this time assuming that either there was no pet rent or it was included in that price.

Still it feels sucky to have this badge of honor taken away from me.  Here I thought I’d done everything right, and gotten us here and gotten us settled and handled all the scary paperwork and ‘grown-up’ stuff like a pro, but I missed this very important detail.

And a year later we get to pay for it.

It is hard to feel that I didn’t drop the ball.  It’s hard to remember that this is only a minor detail and that I really did find us a great house and get us all moved in and settled safely. 

I just feel like I failed this little military wife test……

At least I know I’ll do better next time around.

Losing a Parent in Early Adulthood and in the Midst of New Motherhood

****Tonight (2-24-2010) this post has 100 comments.  I am blown away by the stories shared here.  I am humbled that anything written here struck a chord with others.  I am grateful to know that I am not alone.  If you are finding this blog for the first time and have experienced the loss of a parent, know that you aren’t alone.  Know too that I read every. single. comment.  I care.  I understand–at least as much as I can through my own experiences.  Thank you all for being with me on the journey.***

This is something I have thought about many, many times since my Mom died.  I’ve writen some about it here previously. 

I mention it here again because, well…  because I can’t stop thinking about it and right now I feel I am at a place where I can objectively explore the issue a bit, although I fear that regular readers are again rolling their eyes and going, “More on the grief stuff… get over it.”  (To those who may indeed be thinking those things, I will assure you that I am allowing myself to heal, but these things still assault my every day life, and are very present in my thoughts…  even as I do heal and approach life in the beginnings of a ‘new normal.’)

When you lose a parent as an adult, you get a lot of, “Well this is the normal course of things….”  The idea here is that since it is ‘normal’ it must necessarily then be ‘easy.’  I am here to tell you that those two things should not be assumed to equate.

You also get a lot of underlying messages of, “Well you are a grown up now, so suck it up.  It’s not as tragic as it might have been if you’d lost her as a child.”  I will agree to an extent with the last part of that sentiment.  I will.  But just because I am a grown up, does not mean that it is “easy” to be without my mother.  It does not mean that in many ways I don’t still need her.

Mom died when I was 24.  My first daughter was 4 months old.  She was diagnosed with Lung Cancer when I was 6 months pregnant.  I am an only child.

I lost my mother at a time when my ‘grown up life’ was just starting and my adult relationship with her was in it’s infancy.  I lost her as I was becoming a mother.

Two books that are recommended over and over again to women who have experienced mother loss are Motherless Daughters and Motherless Mothersboth by Hope Edleman.  I have a confession to make:  I’ve never read either.  The reason I’ve never read either is simple:  from what I can gather looking through the dust cover, front flap, and first chapters the books focus quite a bit on the commonalities that exist between women who lost their Mom’s during childhood.  I have been afraid to read the books because I didn’t want my loss to be minimized because it occurred soon after my graduation from ‘childhood.’  Also, the theme in Motherless Mothersseems to be the idea of healing by becoming a mother myself.  However, my experience has been that because of the juxtaposition of losing my Mom when I was becoming a mother myself my grief has been complicated quite a bit.  I don’t feel healed as I approach the task of motherhood.  I feel haunted by my loss.

I really believe that losing a parent at this juncture in life–during the life stage of ‘starting’ as an adult and of ‘starting a family’ contains unique issues that often get passed by.  No we don’t necessarily deal with our parent not attending our high school graduation or seeing the adult that we’ve grown into, but neither do we fit into the category that seems to be automatically skipped to in resources and literature–the ‘sandwich generation’ category.  I DID NOT lose my mother during middle adulthood.  I didn’t get to see her be a grandparent to my children.  I don’t have her to support me as I work my way through this fledgling phase of being a wife, being a mother, being a woman.  No, I didn’t deal with the issues surrounding the possibility of her entering a nursing home for an extended period of my life–but that’s because I didn’t have the privilege of having her around for that long.

So what do I feel are the important issues related to parental loss at this stage of life?  I think ‘not fitting’ is one of those issues.  I think being expected to ‘suck it up and move on’ because we are adults–when we are really only just getting used to our own grown up skin is another. Missing the help and support that many parents offer during this pivotal time in life is another.  We face the loss of a primary advisor at a time of newness and uncertainty.  We lose a parent’s normal physical helpfulness at this stage–i.e. helping care for the grand-kids from time to time. 

You lose the opportunity to relate to your parent in an adult to adult relationship.  You lose time to make peace with the terror that you were as a teenager or to talk things over and understand where your parent was coming from set into the context of their own larger lives.  When Mom was diagnosed I had just begun to reflect on the fact that she was quickly becoming one of my ‘closest adult friends.’  Right before she was sick I called her several times a week, if not every day just to talk about….  anything.  I was talking things over with her that I never thought I would talk over with her.  With her decline all of that was lost.

I don’t think it is a ‘normal’ time to lose a parent, and I don’t think the loss is as ‘normal’ as we are asked to believe it is. 

Additionally there is a ‘distance’ that I’ve read you are supposed to feel with the loss of a parent as an adult, I guess because it is not the loss of someone in your immediate household.  However, I think at this time in one’s life that ‘distance’ isn’t necessarily there.  You are just beginning to walk out of the phase of needing Mom and Dad for everything.  Your history includes far more years of living with them than it does the family you are starting (and I in NO WAY am implying that a loss of spouse or child at this point in time would be ‘easier,’ because I know that I can’t even imagine how staggering those losses would be at ANY TIME….  I am simply saying that this ‘distance’ from parents that is supposed to make things ‘easier’ isn’t present at least for me at this stage of my development as a human.)  I think this is the stage in life that the connection to parents may in some ways feel almost equal to the connection to one’s growing family.

On top of those issues there was the timing of my loss—which was not as uncommon as you might think.  Mom’s illness, decline, and death superimposed on my pregnancy, daughter’s birth, and first four months of life really threw a wrench into my grief….  and not just  because of the hormonal issues that are common to pregnancy.  Losing my mother while becoming a mother was an indescribable experience.  The loss that I feel at every stage of Little Miss’s development is huge.  The loss that I feel at having a child that my mother will never meet is huge.  The comfort that was offered by folks who would say, “Be strong for that baby,” or “Just hold her tight,” often just seemed a cruel reminder of the loss of my own mother and the loss that my children were experiencing before either having understanding of it, or even….  having existence.  Dealing with the newness of my identity of a mother on top of the newneses of my grief was….  well it was staggering to live through.  It truly was.  And I’ve spoken to several women in very similar situations who have expressed very much the same thing.

And then there are those in early adulthood who *haven’t* started a family.  Those who will miss having their parents there to walk them down the aisle or to hear the words, “I’m pregnant.”  No one could convince a person dealing with those issues that whatever number makes one an adult makes the loss of those milestones with your parent any less tragic.

I guess what I wish is that this significant loss in my age and stage wouldn’t be glossed over.  I wish that the platitudes and assumptions that go along with the loss of a parent as an older adult weren’t automatically slapped onto my situation as a younger adult (and really they should NOT be slapped on to ANY situation).  I wish there were resources that explored something other than the lifetime of difficulties caused by the loss of a parent in childhood (and certainly those resources ARE greatly needed).

And just in case anyone else was having those thoughts, I thought I’d say them out loud.

Additionally, I would love feedback from anyone who has lost a parent during a similar age and stage….  or from anyone who hasn’t.  Maybe I’m all wet.  Maybe I’m overly sensitive.  Maybe I’m being ridiculous.  I don’t know.  I just know that these are the feelings I’ve had as I’ve observed the world reacting to my loss and the feelings I have had as a result.

Days Like This

There are days when surviving the act of motherhood for five more minutes seems a herculean feat….  when exhaustion, and stress, and overwhelmedness crowd out the joy of it all and you go into mommy-robot mode defending your mental numbness in one breath and condemning yourself in the next.

There are days when you can’t take another act of defiance.  Another little rebellion.  You can’t do another time out.  You can’t walk her back to her bed that one last time after she got out of it for the 20th time in a row.  You just can’t do it.  You can’t patiently explain the importance of having kind hands and feet, or deal with the amazing feat of strength that a small, but wiry, suddenly stiff toddler can achieve when you try to strap her into her car-seat.  You just can’t do it anymore.

But you have to.

There are days when it takes every ounce of your fortitude to force your positive attention on your child, smile brightly, come up with ways to play…  When walking back to your child’s room and digging out the kitchen toys, or the dolly stuff, or the fish puzzle just seems so incredibly mundane that you don’t even think you can force your hands to reach out and do the tasks.  Silly dancing, silly singing?  Forget about it.  You just can’t muster that much perkiness.  You just don’t want to.

But you do.

There are days where the panic rises within you as you wonder if you’re doing it wrong.  As you look at the ball of behavior  in front of you and wish someone would just tell you how to fix it.  Days when you even think that you might not even slap someone who came and told you how you were screwing up if their ways would only just work.  Days when you feel like you are parenting in a bubble of isolation and wonder if everyone else feels this vulnerable and uncertain all the time about the methods of discipline that they try desperately to enforce.  Days that you just want to go ask the next fellow-parent that you see if they feel this way too and how they survive, but don’t for fear that they will judge you as harshly as you are judging yourself.

There are days when you aren’t sure you can haul both the 28 lb. toddler and the weight of your growing baby in your belly even one step further as you waddle out to a vehicle, into the house, into a store, out of a restaurant–almost always with something slung over your shoulder or resting in the crook of your elbow as well.  Days when you just don’t think you have the oomph or the strength and certainly not the energy as you tackle the world in your over-tired, always-achy, and rarely ‘typically glowing’ pregnant body.

There are days when you feel that if you can’t catch a break…  If you don’t have an hour of rest and quiet and strictly adult thinking, you’ll never make it another minute.  Days when you swear that if tonight isn’t the night for a good night of sleep, you’ll never function right again.  Days when exhaustion is palpable.   It is a living, breathing entity eating away at your strength from the inside out, clawing at your always-sagging eye-lids.

There are those days.  Days like today.

But even on days like today there is that moment when you are sitting away from your child–in a meeting, or at church, or even out on the couch while they nap….  and within you rises an urge to run and scoop up your child and just be near them because the 30 minutes you’ve been without them seems too long.

Even on these days there are the giggles that your child pulls out of you–exhausted, stressed out you–real giggles elicited by a funny face, or a silly antic, or a ‘tale’ told in that adorable two-year old way.

Even on these days there are those moments where you smile in pride and delight at a new word learned, a new concept grasped, a new skill mastered….  And you can’t believe how proud you are at the amazing little person your  child is becoming.

Even on these days there are the snuggles that make you go limp and lean in and breathe in the smell of that dear little person, fearing that in the next instant they will be gone.

Even on these days there is the fierce mama-bear lurking in the shadows ready to take on any foe that might dare threaten your baby.  

Even on these days there is that part of you that catches when you see your child curled up asleep and you can’t believe that there was ever even an angel as good and beautiful and pure as this little being.

There are those moments, even on days like today.

More Whining

I. don’t. feel. good.

Little Miss was up bright and early.

I didn’t sleep well last night, even though she did minus the early rising.

And Husband, if I don’t miss my guess, will be late getting home tonight.

Anybody wanna come spell me out of my life for a bit?  Just long enough for a long shower and a nap? 

Going the Distance and Climbing Great Heights

Just a couple of fund-raising efforts to plug here. 

First, Five Million Steps for a Cure:  If you’ve followed the journey of The Cat Lady at all, you know about her husband, Eric, and the courageous battle he fought against acute lymphocytic leukemia.  A year ago, he gave his life in the fight.  To honor him, and in an effort to help all those also effected by leukemias and lymphomas his uncle started out on a trek of the entire Appalachian Trail.  The journey began this last Saturday, and he hopes to be done by September.  Go check out the site and donate!   All pledges will go toward the Leukemia/Lymphoma society.

Secondly, check out Climb for a Cure.  Brian lost his Mom to Lung Cancer last year and in her honor he’s climbing Mt. Everest!  Word has it that he and his climbing buddy have travelled to that area of the world to embark on their last bit of training before beginning the climb.  Go donate there too!  All proceeds go to LUNGevity which provides research money to aid in the fight against Lung Cancer.  And if you’re REALLY motivated you can even do your own Satellite Climb with Brian.

So….  Go fight cancer! 

A Journey of Faith and Hope

Being pregnant is scary.  It’s 40 weeks of wondering if everything is going alright.  You can’t see the little bean in there except for the precious moments of an ultrasound.  You can’t know for sure that all is happening as it should.  You do your best to take care of yourself and thus take care of the baby, and you hope that indiscretions like Oreo binges won’t jeopardize the balance for your beautiful little one.  That’s not all though, it’s also 40 weeks of wondering if everything will go right after the baby comes out.   If the pregnancy was normal, will the baby continue to be healthy?  Will he or she be happy?  Will you irrevocably screw her up by some choice you make as a mother?

I do a lot of reading when I’m pregnant.  I read to inform and empower myself, but reading leads one to find that there are so many things that can go wrong.  Once you get through that first trimester of worry there are things like chromosomal abnormalities, birth defects, preterm labor, pre-eclampsia and other such scary words to wonder about.

What it boils down to is that it’s all an act of faith and hope.  I’ve talked a great deal about the irritations and discomfort that comes from this little being taking over one’s body, but the reality of it—the reason that you submit to doing it at all— is because of that faith and hope and the chance to participate in the creation of an entirely new little person.  That’s nothing short of a miracle.  That is one of the highest privileges granted to a woman.

When my Mom got sick I was quite suddenly disabused of the notion that “it (whatever it may be) only happens to other people.”  And this knowledge has been a dangerous thing for me since then, and especially during this entire pregnancy.  The first few weeks of it I lived in absolute guilt and a bit of terror that I was even able to get pregnant so easily again.  I know and love so many others who have struggled and struggled to do so with varying degrees of success.  With that bit of good fortune behind us, I couldn’t help but wonder if something terrible would happen….  Since becoming pregnant I’ve heard a good deal about the misfortunes that have befallen other children–through blogs, or acquaintances, or friends living in that sort of difficulty.  Add on the fact that our previous years had been so full of difficulty, I couldn’t imagine that we could get by with 9(10) months of relative stability….  especially with something so precious hanging in the balance.

I must admit that for a large portion of this pregnancy I have waited for the other shoe to drop.  The shoes seemed to drop heavily when I was pregnant with Little Miss–with Mom’s illness weighed against impending deployment.  When it looked as though Husband was going to deploy this time, a large part of me actually felt relief.  I thought at first that was because I would have something to worry about again.  Maybe instead it was because that was a shoe-drop that I thought I could handle.  Like a Birkenstock–well-made and not easily poofed away, but already worn in to the contours of my feet. 

Part of me is still waiting for the shoes.  I am doing my best to simply be grateful for what is, and to live in the joy of it.  I’m not saying that I am wracked with fear or living in terror or anything dramatic like that.  I simply keep sweeping my eyes over the horizon looking to see what may come up.

And the truth is, I think all mother’s do.  I think it is part of being a mother.  It’s the part that stops being able to watch the evening news because of all the terrible stories about things that happen to children–young and old.  The realization that *everyone* is someone’s child is one that is not easily shaken when you are entrusted with a fragile human life to care for and it takes a good bit of separation and objectivity to not let every tragedy overwhelm you.

The worries don’t stop when the child is born–they only change.  You get through those nine months and realize that you have an entire lifetime of scanning the horizon ahead of you for dragons to slay before they can hurt your child.  With each child you add another lifetime.

So far the shoes are staying aloft.  I hope this is a trend that will continue.  We’re back to being in the midst of the everyday familial challenges right now…  but a time will undoubtedly come when those challenges are bigger.  Who knows what form they will take.

Until then, I’ll keep holding on to this hope and faith even as it’s balanced with my shaken sense of reality.  I’ll scan the horizon and draw my sword if I see any monsters lurking.  I’ll trust He who knit my children together inside of me with their little lives and with my own. 

It’s what mother’s do and it’s all I can do.

Whine of a Sleep Deprived Mommy

Night-times have been very exciting since we got back from our trip.  Mainly because Little Miss has been sick, and discombobulated by all the changes, and has forgotten how to stay in her big girl bed. 

Can you say “back to keeping the newborn hours?”  We were up from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. with her last night trying to remind her that we sleep during the night time, not play…  It’s been like that to some extent most of the last week.  She’s not scared or upset (Except when we firmly change her plans of nocturnal play-time).  She just wants to play.

So we’re sleep deprived and the upper respiratory gunk she’s had has made it’s rounds.  Husband had it first the last days of our trip and our first days back, then Little Miss the first days back…  I really hoped I was going to dodge it.  Not so.  How could I when we’re not sleeping?

Husband gets to have a killer week this week too, as they want to make a plane that’s literally broken in pieces flying by early next week.  I could make a comment here something like, ‘This my friends, is what they call military intelligence,’ but that probably wouldn’t be appropriate for a supportive Navy wife to say, would it?

Now before you say, “This will be good practice for when the baby comes” let me just pre-emptively verbally slap you.  Two things that I don’t think ANYONE needs practice for:  Separation from one’s family, and sleep deprivation.  You deal with those when they come to you.   You don’t practice for them.  And anyway–remember the post about the joys of Third-trimester sleep?  Go away spin-doctors.

So, alright…  go ahead and judge me.  The T.V. is babysitting today….  I’ll be a better Mommy when I’m on my feet again.