Military Life Lessons.

Growing up, we were told of different family members that served our country.  When you are young, you don’t really understand the importance of it.  You hear it, you acknowledge it, you move on.

But, as I’ve grown older, I realized that what I once believed about military service was nowhere near the truth.  Then, I began dating Shane.  Only then was I able to begin to understand the sacrifice, the pain, and the commitment.

My maternal grandfather as well as my paternal great-grandfather served our country.  I don’t know many details because honestly, I never met my great-grandfather and my grandpa never talked about his time of war.

One of the very few military pictures we have of my grandpa.
One of the very few military pictures we have of my grandpa.

But none-the-less, they sacrificed a part of their lives to serve their country to protect those who took freedom for granted.  We still do.

I can’t help but look around and see ungrateful people everywhere, myself included.  We just take for granted that we can wake up in the morning, put on whatever clothes we feel like and drink our coffee and read the Bible, or that we can watch whatever TV show we please after a long day at work.  We forget that we are able to do these things because someone has fought for our freedom to do so.

Being a military wife has opened my eyes to so much of this, and I’m just as guilty.  I don’t thank Shane, Keith, Phil, or anyone else who is serving/has served nearly enough.  I take for granted that I can thank them “the next time I see them… in uniform…. after a drill… (insert another time here)…”  and the excuses goes on and on.  (So Shane, Keith, Phil, Chris, Joe, and anyone else who is serving or has served, THANK YOU!)

Being in the position that I am has taught me a lot.

1.  Patience:
I thought I was a pretty patient person… that is until I started waiting for phone calls, text message, or Skype calls.  When your soldier is away, all you want is for them to be back home.  Be back in an area where you are able to hug them and see them and have a conversation without saying “I didn’t hear you.”  “What was that?”  “Babe, you still there?”  “**static** **beep beep beep** “Call Dropped.”  It’s not easy always knowing what they are doing (or not doing) or when they will be back in an area where they are out of harms way 100%.  I hate the unknown and my patience does get tried.

2.  Be thankful for your food…even school food:
Our kids are always complaining about the food that they get in school.  “It wasn’t enough.”  “It looked….gross…”  But, I bet you ask anyone who has just eaten MRE’s or some slop thrown on a plate for two weeks, they would prefer school lunches over that.  Their food can be delivered cold, it can be running two hours late, it may be running an hour early.  There is never a consistent time when they can eat.  When they are able to eat, it’s enough to taste and that’s about it.  Their portions are small and the taste is questionable.

3.  Sleep:
Even on nights where we sleep terribly, chances are that we slept better than anyone in the service, no matter where they are; over-seas, at any type of training, etc.  The beds they get are small and the mattresses are thin.  But, even that is better than the cold steel they sleep on when they are out in the field.

4.  Time can stand still:
Not literally, but figuratively.  You try to keep yourself busy all the time while your loved one is away.  But no matter how busy you are, time still seems to stand still.  The days seem never-ending and the nights seem longer than that.

5.  Sacrifice:
When you have a loved on in the service, you learn to sacrifice… A LOT.  You sacrifice time with them, you give up church on Sundays, you give up holidays, you give up anniversaries, you give up birthday celebrations, you run the risk of them missing doctor appointments and the birth of a child.  The amount of things that you give up is about endless.  You adapt to doing things on your own but it doesn’t make it easier and it’s not ideal.

6. Support:
You learn different ways to support your loved one.  Pictures, messages, or just by talking.  Even when you are having a bad day, you put your own emotions on the back burner and support them.  They have a job to do and it gets hard for them knowing that you are struggling.  Does this mean that I hide my feelings of hurt, loneliness, and the other struggles from Shane?  No.  He knows.  But I tell him I’m struggling with whatever I am at the time and leave it at that.  I don’t talk about it with him because I know he’s going through hit too.  I offer support, I encourage, and I distract.  I wanted to make this time apart as easy as I could for him.

7.  The wait is terrible but the reunion is sweet:
You learn not to take your loved one for granted.  Enjoy the time you spend together instead of bickering about the small things in life.  I hate being away from Shane, but I love the butterflies and the nervous feeling knowing that he is soon on his way back home.  It’s like the feelings of the first time we met all over again.

Point being, we take so much for granted and we don’t even realize it.  Yesterday was Memorial day and even though I didn’t post this yesterday, I paid my respects to those that served our country who have lost their lives either in the line of duty or by other causes.  Each one of them held a substantial part in keeping this country a free one.  Same with the men and women who are currently serving.

They sacrifice time with their families, they give their all, and some lose their lives to keep this country what it is.

Thank you, soldiers, for all your sacrifice.

“All gave some, some gave all.”

Worry Wart.

Day 8:
Something that you are currently worrying about?

Well, I would be lying if I said nothing.  I have one current “worry” and that is Shane’s upcoming trip up north for the Guards.  I hate when he goes on those extended trips because of all the garbage (adultery, severe intoxication, etc) that goes on up there.

I know I don’t have to worry about him but it’s the fact that he is surrounded by people who continuously do these things.  They have zero respect for those around them who respect their wives, they have zero respect for those who choose to not drink heavily and they have no respect for upper command.

I feel that he needs to feel appreciated and I can only do so much of that from this far away.

30day-blog-challenge1

Getting Framed.

Over the last few days, I have noticed that the frame of mind that I am in when I wake up sets the tone for the rest of the day.

I can safely say that over the last 3 days, I had the worst frame of mind and had a tough time.

Having Shane gone has been…rough; to say the least.  You don’t realize how dependent you are on a person until they aren’t there.

I’ve heard people saying “I wish I could send my husband off for five days at a time.”  No.  No you don’t.  If you do, and if you are happy to see them leave, there is something deeper going on.  I will never reach a point in time where I will be happy that he is leaving for a 5 day drill or a 17 day training camp.  I wouldn’t wish “shipping your husband off” on anyone.

I didn’t feel that I asked for help all too much.  But, having to do everything on my own has proved otherwise.  If I’m wrapped up in cooking, I can’t ask for him to let the dogs out.  I had to make my own coffee because he wasn’t home to be able to brew it before he went to work (which is before I wake up, now).  Needless to say, I have had coffee one morning.

I wasn’t looking forward to this time alone.  The kids had gone back to their moms so that means it’s me, fur Satan, and the dogs.  I’m a talker (which I’ve also found out through this).  I didn’t realize how much I talked, until I had no one to talk to.

I’ve battled numerous emotions; some of which I had never experienced before.

The first day he was gone was a challenge.  I missed him so bad that my body physically hurt.  It took every ounce of effort I had to get through the day at work.  I wanted to go home, curl up in a ball and cry.  But, I had to put that smile on, put cheer in my voice, and carry on.

The first night was just as hard.  Not having him by my side made for a very empty bed – and trust me, queen sized beds are HUGE when it’s just you in it.  I had a restless sleep.  I woke up about every half hour or so.  In total, I was looking at about 2-3 hours of sleep at most.  Sometime during the night, I ended up with a panic attack.

You’re probably sitting there thinking “How dumb.”  But seriously.  I had never had one to this extent.

I was crying uncontrollably, had body shakes, I was sweating, if felt like my chest was being crushed and I couldn’t breathe.  I literally felt like I was dying.  It took me almost two hours to calm myself down to the point where I could breathe.  It took another 30-45 minutes to relax enough to feel comfortable trying to get back to sleep.

Call it insecure, call it naive, call it whatever you please.  But you truly don’t understand until you have been through this.  Having your husband leave for a night or two on their own will is one thing.  Having him leave because he is forced to is a totally different feeling.  He may still be in the state (as a matter of fact, he’s about 4 hours away) but the fact that our communication had gone from pretty consistent every day down to very little, it, for the lack of a better term, sucks.

Every morning that I woke up, my first thoughts were “Another day without Shane.”, “I really miss Shane… I wish he was here…”  or “I wonder what will be first to go wrong today.” or something negative along those lines.  Every day just ended up snowballing out of control.  I would sit and cry when I was at home and I would let my mind wonder and make up circumstances that weren’t even close to the case.

Perfect example of this was yesterday – which is also why I didn’t write yesterday.  It was my birthday and I had been dreading it for months knowing that he would be gone.  But, like any other day this past week, I woke up and the first thing that ran through my head was “Well, no good morning or happy birthday text.  He must have had a late start or he got busy and forgot.”  Que overactive mind.  I got a response to my text about 10-15 minutes later saying that the morning had been busy.  I understood, after all, that’s military style.  But, as the morning went on, I didn’t hear much.  By 9:00, I was convinced that he had forgotten my birthday.  (Selfish I know.. but it’s the first birthday we’ve been together and he wasn’t here, so naturally, I wanted him to remember.) He hadn’t said much about it and we had talked more than enough for him to remember.  I tried to pick my head up and carry on.

I thought getting my hair cut would help with my mood, no go.  I thought shopping would help fix it, also a no go.  I tried all these things to lift my spirits but all I wanted was for Shane to not forget.  I was walking around Shopko and he called while they had some down time.  We talked about his morning, we talked about my morning.  He did manage to say “Happy birthday.  Or I hope it turns into a happy one.”  That’s all we talked about it.  I wanted to be done crying, I wanted things to be ok, and I wanted to turn my day around.  Talking to Shane helped but I felt like I was so far into my rut there was no getting out.

My parents came down for lunch and we were able to sit and talk.  It was nice not sitting in a quiet house.  By the time lunch was done, I was just about out of my rut; it was time to go to work.

As I was sitting at the desk, the leader of the Family Readiness Group (FRG) came in carrying a bag.  She set it on the desk and said that my husband had given her instructions to deliver it to me, she gave me a large smile and said “Happy birthday.”  I returned the smile, thanked her and started to tear into the bag.  I had gotten an entire at home mini-spa kit.  But down towards the bottom of the bag, there was a card with “Elizabeth Peterson” written on it…in Shane’s handwriting.  Immediately I felt the butterflies in my stomach and the tears well in my eyes.

I pulled out the envelope and opened it and read it… then re-read it.   And read it again.

It said:
“Elizabeth,
Happy Birthday love!
Even though I’m up at Ripley,
There is no way I’d ever forget these special moments.”

He hadn’t forgot.  He had gone through the effort of setting something up, even though he wasn’t here.  It was the one of the happiest moments of my day.

I sent him a message thanking him for it and apologizing for allowing my brain it sit and create all these situations while he’s away.  I felt like the World’s worst wife (still do).  Never did I even stop to think that the reason he didn’t say much was because he didn’t want to ruin the surprise.  Because I was being selfish and I wanted instant gratification.

I put to use everything I got in Shane’s gift.  I dissolved the shower burst, lit the candle, ran the bubble bath, ate the chocolate and popped the bottle of wine.

I felt the stress melt off of me and it was the best feeling in the world.  I hadn’t realized how much I had been carrying – or how much of that I hadn’t placed in God’s hands.  Right then and there, I said a prayer and apologizing for failing (once again) as a believer.  For believing that I could handle this on my own.

This morning, I woke up and my first thought was “I do miss Shane, and I love him but it’s taken me this long to realize that he has done everything in his power to make sure that I am happy while he is away.  It’s time to have a good day.”

Even though today has been quiet, and pretty long, it’s been a decent day.  I haven’t cried and I haven’t had thoughts pass my mind that shouldn’t be there.  I have prayed, I have smiled, I have laughed.  I’ve embraced today as a good day.

We are down to no more than 27 hours until I will be able to hug him when he walks through the door.  I cannot wait but time only passes at one speed.  So I need to make the best of what time I have left.

We need to remember to allow ourselves to ask God to put us in the right frame of mind for the day.  We can’t do it on our own, we just don’t have that power.

By My Side.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Today, my heart is heavy.  I am beginning to feel a new sense of loneliness and I have begun to feel overwhelmed.  I need you.  I need you every day but especially today.

I ask that you be by my side and to help me to feel your presence and allow it to fill me up until I am content.

I will begin to miss that human touch, the sincere hugs, the better half of me that I can have conversation with and the calming voice saying that it is all going to be alright.  I am asking you to place your hand on my shoulders, embrace me and calm my fears as I walk the next five days without my husband by my side.

I know you will never leave me nor forsake me, but the human feelings overtake what I know in my heart, soul and mind.  I know that you have sent your love and peace towards me, but help me to feel it in my soul.  Help me to not be consumed with sadness but instead, allow me to keep busy and accomplish tasks that need to be done and find happiness within them.

Allow this time to be a time for personal growth in faith as well as in each other.  Circumstances are not ideal but we know that it is what needs to be done; his duty has called.

Please stay with us Lord, as we embark on this journey.  Allow us to get a taste of how You will continue to be by our side.  Allow us to learn how to handle times away, especially when he is required to leave for weeks at a time.  Allow us to feel your presence and allow us to understand that we are never alone.

In your name I pray,
Amen.

My hero is my supporter, my comforter, my best friend, my husband.

He Gives Me Strength.

One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is be a military wife.

I know I should consider myself fortunate that Shane’s boots currently rest on American soil but that doesn’t fix the challenges that we end up having to face.  Most of them will seem petty to someone who hasn’t lived military life but to those who have lived or are currently living military life will understand.  One of the biggest challenges that we face is the time that it takes away from family.

I realize that 3 days per month for drill seems like nothing to some people, but then you start adding in the drills (4-5 days) up at Camp Ripley, along with Camp Ripley Training Camp (14-17 days) along with any other meetings, functions, etc that they have going on, it takes up a lot of time.  I can’t even count how many times we have had to rearrange plans with family or how many school events Shane has missed.  That doesn’t include the church services he doesn’t get to be a part of, trips to Sioux Falls, or other things of that nature.

But, I know women who have had to give birth while their boyfriend/fiance/husband is away for military duty, women who have gone through a deployment with their soldier; holding down the fort and taking care of the children while their spouse is half a world away, women who have lost their soldier in war and women who have spouses that have not remained faithful.  I thank God every day that I have not had to endure any of these situations thus far.

Not only is the time away from families a challenge, so is the unknown.  Not knowing if they are going to get a “48-hour call”.  You know.  The one that says they have 48 hours until they have to report for deployment.

Its frustrating.  This year, Shane will be missing my birthday; he will be at Camp Ripley for drill with the possibility of not being able to text, call, etc. I will then be spending about 2 weeks by myself while he’s up at CRTC.  We will then be possibly cutting the honeymoon short because he has to report to drill that weekend.

Yeah, a birthday at this age is “just another day”.  But it’s the real possibility that he will not even be able to call to say “happy birthday.”  It’s the real possibility that I probably won’t even get to talk to him at all that day, maybe even for a few days depending on where they are at in training.  Even though it’s “just another day”, it’s “just another day” I wish I could spend with him; complaining that I’m getting old, whining that I “found a gray hair”, and all that other stuff that you would do on “just another day.” But, instead, this year, he will be spending “just another day” 180 miles away.

It’s hard enough to plan things around work schedules but when you throw in a schedule that is not flexible at all, it makes it even worse.  Some people were irritated when we told them when we had set our initial date for the wedding – September 5th.  Well, when you are working around kids’ custody rotation, Shane’s job, my job, drill schedule, camp schedule; you just look at all your options and pick the one that has the least amount of conflict.

But.

One of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done is be a military wife.

I get to be a part of a HUGE family who is there for one another.  Shane gets a sense of unfailing brotherhood, I have my group of military spouses that understand my frustrations, and the kids get to be around other children who have experienced and coped with the same things they have.

I get to give my husband support.  I’m talking more than just a pat on the back and a “You’re doing well.” I’m referring to sacrificial love.  The kids and I sacrifice time with him so that he is able to fulfill this career, I sacrifice morning coffee dates so that he is able to report to drill on time, we sacrifice eating at a decent/normal time (most drills) so that we are able to eat together as a family.  To some, that may not seem like much of a sacrifice, but turn the tables and ponder about how different things would be if your spouse were in the military.

I get to show my faithfulness.  Never once have I given Shane a reason to doubt if I was faithful, nor him to me.  But, while he is away, I make it a point to either stay home, ask for his permission or tell him if I’m going somewhere.  He knows where I am at all times.  It’s not out of obligation, it’s not out of feeling like I can’t do anything without him; it’s out of respect.  Respect for him and his feelings and opinions.

I get to experience homecomings.  I haven’t been through a deployment with him, but the feeling I get after not seeing him for a few days up to a couple of weeks is something that I’m not able to easily describe.  It’s like you are going out on your first date all over again; butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms, racing heart, a huge smile plastered on your face.

The one thing that gets us through situations such as these is God.  We pray.  We read the Word.  We trust.  We believe.

Sure, we could try to take on these situations and frustrations on our own, but we wouldn’t get very far.  But even on my weakest days; much like today, He reminds me that I do have the inner strength to keep my chin up and keep moving forward.

Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Home Of The Free Because Of The Brave

Home is where is boots are.
Home is where is boots are.

“Behind every strong soldier, there is an even stronger woman who stands by him, supports him, and loves him with all her heart” ~Unknown

If there’s one thing that I am the most proud of about Shane, it is that he is serving his country.  I’ve been subjected to the “military” life before but all of this is fairly new to me.

In high school, I had a few friends who joined the guards and I went through their Basic Training, AIT, and even a deployment as a support system.  I was as supportive as I could be from so far away and would listen when they had issues that they just needed to get off their chest.  Obviously, being so far removed from their immediate life (not being a family member or a spouse), I never realized how taxing the service is on families – I mean I knew but I didn’t KNOW.

I got my first taste of it back in June when Shane went on a 2 1/2-3 week training camp up at Camp Ripley.  Our relationship had just taken a leap from “casually dating” to serious.  Worst.  Timing.  Ever.  It was difficult to come to terms with the fact that the man I was falling so hard and so fast for was going to be physically removed from my life with little, or on some days, no communication.  I came up with the idea to start a notebook that he could take with him.  I wrote a message in it for him that said this:
“I choose you for life.  I promise you all of my deepest love, my fullest devotion and my tenderest care; through the pressure of the present and the unknowns of the future.  I promise to always be faithful to you, to always love you, to always be committed to you and to show you never ending support.  I respect your talents and your abilities, I will lend you strength for all of your dreams and goals.  You have shown me what the meaning of true love is, and for that, I am eternally thankful.  You are everything that I need; my prayers have been answered.  I thank God for you, your love, and your devotion to me.  I know that our love is work of hands that are not our own and I promise to be here for you forever.  You will never have to walk alone; I will be right by your side.  My heart will be your shelter, my arms can be your home.  Just as I have given you my hand to hold, I give you the rest of my life to keep. ‘Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you’ – Hebrews 13:5″

It was a deceleration from me to him that I am supportive of all that he does and all that he desires to do.  He read it the night before he left, and the look on his face was pure awe.  We decided that while he was at CRTC, we would write on days that we could and read them to each other when he was back.  Fair enough, I like to write.

The days were long.  I couldn’t focus well at work, I wanted to know how things were going, etc. etc. etc.  The nights were longer.  My mind wouldn’t shut down, wondering how he was handling it all, fast-forwarding a few years to the fact that there could be another deployment for him and that the 2-3 weeks is now extended into 52 weeks, so on and so forth.

I realize that being on American soil, he was safe and that he was going to return home.  But that didn’t stop the emotions and the thoughts from going every where else.  There were times where I was in tears because I didn’t know if I was going to be strong enough to deal with a deployment if, God forbid, that were to be in our future.

After the first, and hardest, 5 days, things started to smooth out a little.  Communication became a little more frequent, but you could tell that we were both antsy for him to come home.  The rest of the time went by fairly fast.  I found little things around the house or around work to do that would occupy my mind.  During those weeks, I felt so many different emotions; sadness, nervousness, loneliness, happiness, cowardice.  But I found a Bible verse that made all of those feelings feel so small: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.  Let your requests be made known to God. – Philippians 4:6″.  After some prayers, everything didn’t seem so bad.

The day Shane got back was the longest morning I had experience in a while. I was at his house getting ready for him to get back (I dressed up… In a DRESS…and CURLED my hair… He’s something special!), when I got the message that he was within a half hour of home.  The butterflies in my stomach started doing their thing, my palms got all sweaty; it was like our first date all over again.

I heard the car pull up and I walked around the corner to catch a few deep breaths before making a fool of myself.  I heard him come in and slowly walk through the kitchen.  I walked around the corner to see this amazing, smiling man clothed in his ACU’s with an Army bear in one arm and a large bouquet of flowers in the other.  Both items got set down and I got the most amazing hug I’ve ever received.  All of the nervousness and the anxiousness just disappeared.

We sat on the couch and talked about his experience at CRTC and all the things that they did.  I could tell he was happy to be home – able to dress in civilian clothes, sit on a cushioned chair, sleep in a real bed, eat real food.  After talking about his time up North, he pulled out the notebook that I had given to him before he left – he had added to it.  I will spare you the letters because they are definitely emotionally charged and still bring goosebumps to me when I read them.  But a few of the sentences he wrote sums the letters up pretty well.
“I know that the burden of having me so far away, near unreachable, has been one of the most stressful things you have experienced.  I need you to know that I understand how hard this has been and that I am coming back to you – that you will never be truly alone.  I love you with all my heart, my mind and my soul.  I am yours only.”  “I knew when I met you that I had just met my wife, life partner, soul mate, best friend, my solid 10.  I knew with everything I had, this was it.  My life was about to mean a whole lot more.  Just as I know that I’ll never be alone again, neither will you.”

Those words will stick with me the rest of my life.  I can’t even describe the feelings I had when I read those words.  As stated in a previous post- when I opened that office door, there was just something about him – I just knew.  He’s brought a whole new meaning to my life; if that means I have to go through a deployment – I will.  I’ll stand behind my solider 110% and support his decisions; no matter what.