28 May 2015

Day 23-25 Devil in the Details

You know what they say... about details and that devil. Well I'm so wrapped in the planning of life that I'm having a hard time trying to live it. There's summer plans, baby showers, physical training and work schedules.

Can I keep up? Well I've learned that when I start spinning it's time to start writing. I make my list, check my priorities then make sure what I NEED is getting attention before what I WANT gets me in TROUBLE.

Tonight? I want to stay up and write something brilliant, but I need to sleep. So, sleep it is. Tomorrow... something astounding I promise (well maybe not astounding but at least more thought provoking that this brilliance).

XO XO & Stuff,

Jinger

26 May 2015

Day 20-22 - New Vantage Point, Memorial Day 2015

When I reflect on the piece I wrote Dear America, Please Don't Thank Me,  (for me) it applies to more than Memorial Day. I don't deserve any adoration. I wanted to serve. I was able to serve and I took the opportunity with joy in my heart. The reality is I've never been called to a combat tour. I've never had to save a friend's life on the battle field, or hold them after they were lost. The closest I got was GTMO and jerks in cells. I've never felt worthy of anyone's attention. I've been blessed to be able to serve. I've been lucky to welcome our friends home.

So each year around Memorial Day I honestly feel guilty. I haven't done enough. I didn't DO enough. So my family and I hunted down a memorial service. Wandered a Veterans Cemetery to pay our respects... but it was always random. I just looked for a stone with no flowers and went over. Read the name aloud and hoped that somewhere their spirit was warmed by the sound of their name again. I'd wonder who they were, if they still have family in the area or at all. In the end I felt like what I was doing was superficial.

This year... One of our buddies, Sully was taking part in 60 to 60 ~ Ruck to Remember. I contacted the organizers and requested to be a part of the volunteer crew - have to admit. I was elated when they said YES. I was welcomed with open arms, tasks to complete and honestly joy. It felt really nice to have someone be that happy to see my ugly face.

The event was so humbling. Here are 80+ people carrying their ruck and climbing closer to Arlington through the heat... the dark... over mountains... The atmosphere was calm. I don't think it's because they were tired (trust me they were), but it was just such a quiet reverence. You'd think a group of this size filled with determined and ambitious people would be rowdy at rest points, but it was the opposite.

Veterans, civilians, men, women, young and old. Novices and Hardened athletes from Operation Enduring Warrior... They all sat quietly. Chatting about why they were here. The miles that were still ahead. Who they would visit when they "got to 60". They helped each other with foot care and dressing wounds, blisters and hot spots. They rested and then geared up for the next stretch.

What I found the most inspiring was the connection. Here they were, many strangers linked together in a selfless act to honor the fallen and serve their families. I can only imagine how a Gold Star Family would feel about having their Service Member's name, story and in some cases personal belongings carried throughout this entire march. Each pause filled with Stories of Valor. The participants only goal was to lift up the fallen. To keep their memory alive with each and every step.

I'm not going to share every detail with you. Some are too private. Some hurt too much... others you just have to experience to understand. If you've had a gap in your heart. If you've been searching for a way to DO SOMETHING to truly demonstrate that you REMEMBER and you FEEL the loss of our young men and women... get involved with this group of patriots. Do something more than put a sticker on a window. Ruck up and step off. ((if you aren't ready or able to Ruck - be a Red Shirt. Trust me it is worth it))

I'll see you there, Memorial Day Weekend 2016.



XO XO & Stuff,

Jinger

22 May 2015

Day 19 - Sitting here hoping

Overnight Success never happens over a single night. Even a lottery winner had to go somewhere and buy a ticket. They had to have a plan and execute it... otherwise they'd just be another person who said "I should have..."

Anyway. Tomorrow is coming very soon. I've been working hard for this year's Memorial Day Weekend event and it's less than 8 hours away. When you put something on the calendar for the future it seems so far away then, what seems like suddenly, the day arrives.

As I type there is an O-Course for kids set up, chairs sitting empty waiting for patriotic souls to take residence. Route signs are drying in the garage ready to line the path for our motivated runners who will treat The Colors with the respect they deserve. Participants are resting, or hydrating... or drinking too much thinking "it won't be that bad"... and me?

I'm sitting here hoping.

I hope that tomorrow I will honor the memories of those who've paid the ultimate price. I hope that tomorrow someone driving down the road to hit the beach will see Americans RUNNING with Old Glory blazing a trail and stop for just a moment to reflect on what this weekend is about. I hope that a child eager for time at the pool will pull on Mommy's hand "What's going on in there? I want to do it!!" and that maybe instead of rushing her child along, she'll say yes.

I hope that a Gold Star Mom hears what we are doing and thinks "My son would have loved that" and it brings a smile to her face knowing we are doing it for him.

I hope a fellow Veteran who is struggling with the disconnect we feel from our fellow Americans can see - literally see - that people are willing to stand up and say WE CARE! YOU ARE NOT ALONE.... WE REMEMBER.

May the actions you take this weekend help it be a Happy Memorial Day for our Gold Star Families and those who loved a Service Member who's gone too soon. I've got to get some sleep got a run date with Old Glory in the morning.

XO XO & Stuff,

Jinger ~ We Remember

20 May 2015

Day 17 - Taco Tuesday yeah... I know it's Wednesday

Deployment is such a freaking maddening thing at times. Errands he'd usually run are now being run by me which means the errands that I usually run are being run by me which means me is usually running behind. In this lies the monster. The sleeping dragon that is culinary complacency. Simple sustenance. Fast.. freakin... food.
It is common sense. Really it isn't rocket science...

Kids' Meals x 3 = $12

       Mama Meal = $7

w/ Tax..................$25

After a week you're looking at $100 - $150, over an average Navy deployment you're starin' down the barrel of $3600 - $5400 literally in the toilet. That isn't even counting the times you "treat" yourself to Starbucks or I don't know get fancy and go to BWW for a night. 

After our parent/teacher group meeting, and running to walmart and finding out Blue Eye's bike hadn't been assembled I heard the siren's call. I could see her beckoning me with her beautiful curves and golden arches. I had every intention of buying the kids a carton of nuggets and letting them split a sweat tea. Then I remembered.

I set a goal.

I made myself a promise.

This time around one of my simple goals is to avoid letting a restaurant do the cooking for me as often as I have in the past. Now let me put this in perspective. Within our family we very rarely go out to eat. Almost every afternoon I'll get a text from Big Sexy "need anything"... I'll roll out  a small list (usually veggies) for dinner and he'll grab them on the way home. The exception is Pizza Night - that would be Fridays at our house. Every Friday we grab a couple of pies, dive in and relax. We know that lunch tomorrow is already done, and we go on with our day.

Weeeeell...

During deployments that schedule is out the window, and I've been known to roll through the drive through on the daily. This time? Pizza Night and our once a month feast. NO cheating. That is five times a month I have no work to do, and today was honestly the first day I had to fight it.

As I pulled out of my parking spot with K-Baby crying she was hungry I remembered I didn't eat lunch. Dug through my bag and handed her my banana... forked over my pistachios to the boys and promised everyone we'd have tacos when we got home.

I am proud of this taco dinner. It wasn't fancy. It wasn't elaborate, but it was homemade and a promise made was kept. In the future I'll be sure to have some small snacks on hand in the event my running around leaves them running on empty.

Each step I make toward a goal is just another proving I am stronger than the stress building around me. That an easy out isn't necessarily going to be the better plan.

Hope everyone is having a great night - here's to Taco Tuesday (or Wednesday).

XO XO & Stuff,

Jinger


19 May 2015

Day 16 - Just Another Day

It's been over two weeks. 16 days since he walked away from us. I've got this right? Yep. Yeah... sure... I've got this.

**ping**

IT'S HIM!

Ahhhh just when I'm feeling low, a little modern day love note picks me up. It wasn't a long chat, but each second made me feel a little closer to the man I love. We talked about work, hit up some personal finance questions... figured out where my next tattoo would go. Nothing to award a Nobel over, but it sure helped me feel better.

I don't have much to write today. There was some working out, some school... some baby shower planning for my neighbor.

Today's lesson is simple. Enjoy the moments you have with people, and when you have the opportunity to invest in the smaller pieces of the puzzle to create a larger one - do it. You don't have to make every day be some sort of gigantic event... hell sometimes getting through the day with your sanity in tact is an accomplishment.

Enjoy the details.

Invest in happiness.

Hunt the good stuff...

XO XO & Stuff,

Jinger

18 May 2015

Day 15 - Running on Empty

I haven't been avoiding writing, but when your computer crashes you tend to be left without a keyboard to pound out all your thoughts on.

This weekend was jammed pack. To the point where I couldn't keep track of what day it was.

Friday morning, I joined together with other members of our community to run in honor of fallen Law Enforcement Officers. There were only 7 of us present for the run, but hey that's 6 more than my usual number. I got to run with a friend of mine who's been working diligently to improve her health - and I have to say I couldn't be more proud of her.

Throughout that day at work I felt motivated and excited to be a part of something bigger than myself again. I've missed that since leaving the Army. Later that day I spent time with my neighbors and a new friend from the kids school. Our middle guy FINALLY finished a reader's wheel - and he did so with a much better attitude than we've dealt with before.

Saturday the kids and I woke early to work at the American Legion. We followed that up by running errands and joining some families from the command for a pot luck. We were with peers. People who said goodbye to their loved one the exact same time we did. It was nice to laugh about Murphy's shenanigans. Vent about communications or lack there of, and seek each others' strength on things we were working through.

Sunday was simple... and yet it concluded with a neighbor saving the day by grabbing smore supplies for us after we struck out at all the local spots.

Over the last two weeks we've been keeping busy. We've been dedicated to having a positive deployment. I've tried to hunt the good stuff...

 tonight? I'm tired. I miss my husband and his warmth. I miss him reminding me to SLOW DOWN. I miss his voice when he says "I'm proud of you." I don't sleep well in general, so without him here it only gets worse. I'll fill the quiet hours with some garbage TV... maybe I'll catch up on some reading...

Either way - I have good people and good things happening all around me. Even when the loneliness creeps in I can find solace in the fact that we will navigate through this absence. I will find strength  enough to keep running on fumes (caffeine), so I can make it to tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow is one day closer to home.

XO XO & Stuff,

Jinger

17 May 2015

Dear America, please don't thank me...

Today I'm going to appeal to the American People. Those who perhaps mean well, but in a good nature gesture obscure the true meaning of this sacred day.



It is bound to happen. Each Memorial Day my Facebook notifications begin to chime like a Vegas casino.

 "Thank you for your service"...

"Happy Memorial Day to all our Soldiers"...

But, I need you to know, and understand, that today isn't about me. On this day I do not seek or hope to be thanked. I do not wish for attention to be called to my service. Memorial Day is about my brothers and sisters who've lain down their lives so others, so we all, may live free. This day (or weekend) is somber for us... as it should be for the rest of America.

We don't throw BBQs and parties on September 11th. We don't have a "blow out sale" on Pearl Harbor Day. Americans sit in solemn reflection of the lives lost, and yet Memorial Day - the day set aside to remember 1,321,612 lives GIVEN is chalked up as the flag waiving opening day of Summer.

1,321,612 LIVES GIVEN*

Let that sink in. Some people throw on a stars 'n stripes bathing suit and hit the beach instead of the War Memorial. They're more concerned about finding a good parking spot than finding a service to attend.... or perhaps we've forgotten how deep this day cuts for some.

As a Service Member I've been given the sacred duty of performing final honors for the fallen. I've executed a 21- Gun Salute, carried a flag draped casket. I've had a mother's tears soak my uniform while I battled my own grief in order to maintain my military bearing.  Those aren't just names in the hallowed ground of Arlington, they are my brothers and sisters. I've choked on sobs as the deafening silence of final roll call fills a room. 

There are millions mourning. We are losing young men and women every single day to suicide because the scars have cut too deep or the grief and guilt are too much to carry. There are mothers, spouses, fathers, siblings and children who cannot gain relief because their loved one is gone. There are still 1, 629* Service Members who are unaccounted for... missing... lost. One Thousand Six Hundred and Twenty-Nine families who have no answers.

Memorial Day is for the Lost and Fallen. Memorial Day is an opportunity to stand up and truly show your support for our Gold Star Families. To reach out to our military community and say - if you are struggling we are here! We cannot allow ourselves to lose another...

I ask you to celebrate with purpose. Respect that our Freedoms came at a high and painful cost. Raise your glass to the fallen. Support an event in your area specifically planned in honor of those lost. Take a little bit of that beer money you were going to throw away and support a Gold Star Family. Hunt down a Team RWB chapter and join their 21 Guns WOD with Warriors and physically show the military and Gold Star community that you care, that you haven't forgotten.  On Monday, attend your local Memorial Day Service. Contact the VFW or American Legion in your area and ask how you can honor the fallen - where you can pay your respects.

Veterans and Military Families, appreciate the gratitude and support of the American people, we are humbled by your patriotism, it is an honor and a privilege to serve. We respectfully ask on Memorial Day, in lieu of saying "Thank You for your service!"

Tell the world...

WE REMEMBER.

12 May 2015

Day 9 - Having a Positive Deployment

After a decade of playing the military family game, you know at some point the raw pain of deployment departure will dissipate and things will get back to normal.

It happens slower for some families than others, but eventually you just get used to setting the table with one less plate. You don't remind the kids to remember Daddy and his buddies in their nighttime prayers, it's automatic. There's no need to answer the "where's big sexy" question because everyone knows he's deployed.

THIS IS NOT A BAD THING! When you finally get a grip 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 months in,  it means you've found your feet and now you can climb over the obstacles ahead. In no way does successfully managing your life demonstrate a lack of concern or longing for your service member. On the contrary - communicated the right way - your strength will provide a peace and confidence that will allow your war fighter to focus on Mission First (instead of a leaking faucet 7,000 miles away that they cannot personally fix).

Here's how I find my feet...

1. Preperation:

Even if you are a "salty" spouse go to the pre-deployment brief. Make sure that your expectations are correct. For example, we've gone through our share of deployments already, but the nature of those missions and AOs allowed for almost daily internet connectivity and easy access via MWR or personal resources. This time around is very different. Even though we've gone through the separation before we are learning all new communication techniques based on limited availability. 

Have the following on speed dial (and yes I recommend interviewing them prior to your spouse leaving) Mechanic, Plumber, General Handy-man (or woman) and a PAID babysitter/petsitter. The first three are obvious the last one I recommend because it can be very hard to KEEP asking your friends for help. I however feel no guilt calling up someone we pay to watch the kids (especially so I can treat my friends who keep helping me to a drink).

Finally, prep your family and friends. Let them know if you are horrible at asking for help. ASK THEM to CHECK ON YOU. Then - be honest when they call. Even if all you need is to chat with another human. They'll be happy to help and you - I PROMISE - will feel better knowing they are ready, willing and able to help.

2. Pout Time

You do not need to walk away from the runway, hanger, drill hall or pier with your big girl panties (BGPs) in the full upright and locked position. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO FEEL BAD when the LOVE OF YOUR LIFE leaves for God only knows how long!

That's right. I pout. I usually afford myself a good 72 hour carb-laden, ice cream devouring (kids), alcohol imbibing grump fest. I watch TV, I ignore the house work. I pout.

*This is where #1 Preparation will come into play if you know your pout window is ending, but you'll need help to get out of the funk - schedule a lunch date with a good friend.

3. Pep Talk

After I've pouted. After I've looked around the messy house it's time to grow the hell up and get back on track. Grab your BGPs pull 'em on and buck up. I get the hell over it. I can't cancel deployment so I might as well make the best of the time I have with or without half my soul by my side.

I no kidding look in the mirror and give myself a pep talk "I can do this. It is only ____ ______. He'll be home before I know it, better not let everything fall to pieces."

If that doesn't work - phone a friend. The one who's always got a "look on the bright side...." at the ready. Yep ring ring - grump ass calling - tell me how I can make this crap sandwich into creme brulee.

4. Perception

This one can be hard. It is  easy to fall into a pit of poor me, and the deeper the pit the harder it is to climb out. When the car breaks down (on the way home from dropping him off), the water pump goes out, someone drains your bank account, the dog barfs on your work pants and two out of three kids have the flu...  it can be difficult to step back, deal with the issue and not blame everything on ___insert branch of service here____.

View each situation as it actually is. The car broke down? Not a problem I have a mechanic. Water pump is out? Call the handy-man first and see if it's a big problem or if he can fix it. Dog barf? I have a washer. Kids have the flu? Ask a friend who's already out to pick up some comfort items and thank them for dropping them off.

I try my best to deal with the reality in front of me instead of the tragedy my mind likes to create. I've found over the years that things aren't as bad as they seem at first. If you've prepared yourself both emotionally and logistically things will be much more manageable.

5. Perseverance

Through all of the hardship, frustration and trials of deployment I've had the opportunity to get to know myself again. I've learned my strengths, my weaknesses and my behavior patterns. Knowing who I am and pushing myself to be stronger has taught me there are no limits to what I can do. With a little creativity and alot of support I can make it through this time a better person than when I started.

Set goals. Achieve new things. Hold yourself accountable and be proud of your successes. When your service member gets home you'll both have great stories to share about deployment.



Time for me to feed the hellions - hope this helps...

XO XO & Stuff,

Jinger

11 May 2015

Day 8 - The Pink Slip

This one should have been a pre-deployment post, but hey better late than never... plus now I have some feedback from Big Sexy.

I, like most military spouses, search the internet looking for best practices and great ideas for connecting with my husband over time and distance. One common idea among wives is to sneak a note or a card into their loved one's gear before they ship out. The idea is that the service member will find it when they are unpacking for the long haul - and have a little note of encouragement to last them until mail starts arriving (which can take weeks or months).

Well, Big Sexy, being the sweetheart he is... had a full load (or 3) of laundry he needed folded. I am the supportive wife so I got to work while he packed up his gear. What he didn't know is that I'd armed myself with a pad of hot pink post-its.

So, every article of clothing, pocket on a bag and nook and cranny I could find got some special attention.

It doesn't have to be anything elaborate, just something fun for him to find through the days and weeks ahead. A little touch of home to put a smirk on his face and know I'm thinking of him. There are a few things to remember when you do this.

1. Keep it simple. This isn't the 30 page love letter professing your fidelity and passion. Its just a "hey, you're pretty" to keep things positive.

2. These little notes do have a chance of popping out when least expected - and when you didn't intend them to.

Case in point...

Earlier he was out with his two buddies and when he pulled out his wallet to pay for dinner one of these little beauties slipped right out of his pocket and onto the floor. He didn't notice, but a server walking past retrieved it, took a look at it and handed it over to one of the other gents in their group. He, wondering what the young lady had just handed him also took a look at the note, laughed and handed it to the rightful owner.

Well... this was of course the ONE note that I was a little more, shall we say colorful with? I'm willing to bet Big Sexy's face matched the color of the post-it.

XO XO & Stuff,

Jinger

10 May 2015

Day 7 - Timing is Everything

There are times in a military family when things line up just right. Three day weekends turn into four day weekends because of special liberty. A big concert out of town falls on a national holiday so you can have a the time to go see it. Homecoming is scheduled at the perfect time of year for surprising the kids at school!

Yes, there are times when it is awesome. Then there's today. Mother's Day. Some people wouldn't think this is that big of a deal (those people are idiots). I mean he can still send flowers over the internet right? The kids can still give you a card right? Well sure, and you can take your happy ass to the grocery store and buy your own birthday cake, but it isn't quite the same is it? So there... yeah, mother's day when you are playing both sides loses a little luster.

If mother's day wasn't rung in by a sad trombone, it's also our anniversary. Not our 3rd or 7th our 10th. That's kind of a big one. People take cruises and go out to dinner it's a big deal. It really sucks to be apart today. I'm kind of unhappy about the whole thing...

BUT (you knew that was coming)

Yesterday, my sweet neighbor Lisa dropped in, chatted for a minute then asked me what I was doing tomorrow afternoon. I assumed she needed me to let the dogs out. Nope, she invited the kids and I over to their house for a spontaneous Mother's Day Lunch. I asked what I should bring, she wouldn't let me do any work because it was Mother's Day. I went to sleep with something to look forward to.

This morning, as the sun crept into my bedroom window our six year old sprung out of bed HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY MAMA!!!! She sprinted out of the room and returned with a carefully wrapped gift - which included a coupon for a free hug. The gift was a booklet she'd written at school. It included a note, a picture of me she'd drawn and other interesting things about myself I didn't know.

Lukey presented me with an adorable craft he made in school by tracing his hands. I cherish these little things.  They are more important to me than any bouquet or spa day or fancy brunch. I want to see how my children think they should celebrate their mom. THAT is what hits me hard.

Then our oldest popped his big ole noggin in "You ready for some craps mama?" I wasn't sure how to respond, but just out of obscene curiosity I said yes. The kitchen came to life with the sounds of pots and pans banging on the stove top. The sent of coffee lifted in the air. I figured as long as coffee was on the menu the rest would be workable.

I was then presented with breakfast in bed.
Toast
Berries
Scrambled Eggs and...
Craps no wait sorry a single solitary Crap


To my relief, craps were actually crepes and my beautiful boy said "I jacked it up mom so its really just a sugary pancake"... I don't care what he called it - breakfast was delicious.

While we were enjoying our morning together I got another wonderful surprise - no not flowers or candy - I GOT TO SEE A PICTURE OF MY HUSBAND! After years of deployments which included pretty much unlimited internet connectivity we are navigating new waters. So for the first time in a week I got to see his handsome face - and the best part? He was smiling.

Breakfast in bed, Lunch at the neighbors and seeing my handsome husband (digitally) on our anniversary? I'd call that a good day.

So, to the teachers who take the time and make the effort to do mother's day crafts? Thank you. You never know what is going on in a child's home. Perhaps Mom is a single parent,  maybe Dad has passed away or is too far from home to help a child make something for mom. What you do matters.

To the neighbor who thinks "should we invite them over" THANK YOU! It may not always be convenient or  your norm to invite the neighbor over for what is traditionally a family holiday, but man oh man do you make a HUGE difference in how a day can feel. It is a simple - yet selfless act that can really turn what would be an emotionally draining day into one filled with smiles and company.

For the service men and women who think maybe a picture isn't enough? There is nothing we want more than to know you are doing well and finding some joy along the way. Your smile and the sound of your voice are much more valuable than any material object.

So thank you to Mrs S and Mrs W who made crafts with their classrooms, and thank you to Lisa & John (and your entire family) for welcoming my kids and I for a mother's day celebration. To Big Sexy for sharing his day with me through pictures. I enjoyed every single pixel!

We can let the emotion of hardship build and build until we are crushed beneath it - or - we can recognize when we are hurting, respond to those emotions and look for ways to improve our moods. I am very very blessed to be surrounded by people that are cheering us on through this deployment - while I am alone much of the time, they help me keep the loneliness in check.

Happy Anniversary Big Sexy ~ Thank you for making me the happiest girl in the world, and for bringing our three little ones into this world with me.

XO XO & Stuff,

Jinger

09 May 2015

Day 6 - 5 Thing That Don't Totally Suck About Deployment

Deployments aren't fun. In the grand scheme of life they are a frustrating fraction of our reality, but when you are treading these waters it can feel like an eternity. What do you do when there are difficult times, and certain aspects that you cannot change? You look for the silver lining, bright side, the eddy when the waters get too rough.

I was wearing shoes and drinking a glass of wine when I thought these up so I can't remember anything past number 5... So here goes...


 1. TV

No not Game of Thrones, House of Cards or Vikings.  I mean no kidding he hates it I love it hours of ridiculously absurd Vampire Diaries, Witches of East End, Say Yes to the Dress MARATHONS. With no one saying 'you watchin' this?" while waiving a remote at me.

2. Laundry

There are no instances of "hey babe, forgot these PTs were in the car..." followed by semi damp rancid death shorts cascading into my arms. I don't miss that. No... not at all. 

3. 0-Dark Thirty

Unless you are on a mission to go kill some asshole terrorist no-one should have to get up in the dark. Well maybe bad ass first responders cause people do dumb shit at night. Really though, it is nice to wake up with the sunrise not 90 minutes before it (yes hyper critical jacktards I know 0-dark thirty is actually 30 not 90 but just shut up, seriously shut up).

4. Dinner

I make what ever I feel like. Big Sexy isn't a fan of Taco Tuesday - well Cinco de Mayo baby you get a taco, you get a taco Tacos for EVERYBODY! Sometimes I just skip dinner. Kids hungry? Warm up left over pizza. You'll live. Tonight? I had Tostitos and cheese dip for dinner... while watching Reign. I'm not sorry.

5. Shaving

When I feel like it... or not.

Wait... That doesn't really change with deployment, sorry Big Sexy.  I'll shave more when you get home, for like the first 6 weeks... we both know I'm lying.  I love that he loves me anyway.


The flip side?

What I really want to do is prance my happy hairy legs around the kitchen while I whip him up some lasagna from scratch after he comes home sweaty from a long day of hard work. Then listen to him snore, while I fold laundry with American Dad annoying me in the background.

Yes there are some silver linings but none of them compare to the light at the end of the tunnel. Every day is one day closer to home.

XO XO & Stuff,

Jinger

08 May 2015

Day 5 - Girls Night In


It's Military Spouse Appreciation Day, our first 5 days are almost done and I have somewhere to be tonight.

Through a great group on Facebook for Navy spouses I learned about a company called The Traveling Vineyard, and met our local wine guide, Agana. Let's talk business first - TTV sends a wine guide to your home with 5 bottles of really great wine. They help you with pairings and take you through a tasting of each wine. You get to eat, drink and laugh with friends - then you order the wine you like. It is the only in home party I will host.

Anyway, a friend of mine is hosting the party tonight. In the last six months it's become a monthly (almost) event for our circle of friends. The theme this evening - Pajamas!!! Seriously? Oh and since she understands what a pain it is to find a sitter in the middle of deployment KIDS WELCOME!Are you kidding me - yes and yes. So I threw on my new Mother's Day PJs (Thanks Big Sexy) packed up the kids and headed over.

We talked, we drank... we laughed at each other and ourselves. It was 100% what the doctor ordered.


Deployments don't have to be whittled away drowning yourself in a pillow of tears. Get up. Go out. See friends. Instead of sitting at home watching Netflix I crushed another 3 hours of deployment by hanging out with good people.

You've got this - every day is one day closer to home.

XO XO & Stuff,

Jinger

07 May 2015

Day 4 - Misery Loves Company


I truly believe that misery loves company, but not in the sense most people do.

I was feeling a little down today. Tomorrow is military spouse appreciation day, Sunday is mother's day... it's also our 10th wedding anniversary. I'll wake up alone. I'll probably get something brilliantly concocted (and inedible) for breakfast, but I won't be with my husband to celebrate our successful decade of marriage, or our management of three littles for 9 years.

I believe that those who are feeling low seek empathy from the world around them. They are searching for someone who's walked their path and did so successfully. Be it injury, separation or even tragic loss, we want to find someone else who has survived the pit we've found ourselves in. Someone who looks you in the eyes and says "I've been there, you can do this."

So I went in search of people who understand. People who won't say "I'm so sorry" or "I don't know how you do it"... I headed to my local American Legion Post - and I'm glad I did.

Once a month the American Legion Riders host bike night. They not only have the traditional awards for best bike, but they include trophies for kids tricycle and bicycle. My kids look forward to it each spring.



We walked in, said our hellos and not a single person asked "where's the big guy"... why? Because they know he's deployed. They know how much it sucks to be constantly reminded that you are rollin' solo. They also know exactly what to say...

"When will he be home?"

"___insert date here____"

"Damn, that sucks!"

Hell yes it sucks, and darn it's nice to hear. I don't want anyone else to be missing their spouse I just want someone (company) who knows exactly how it feels to want to be rockin' my inner Eeyore (misery) for a day or two (yes I totally had to google Eeyore for the spelling).


Our friends and neighbors are amazing. I am blessed to also have the support of my brothers and sisters at AL Post 288 (NC). They play with the kids. Remind them that patriotism is a QUALITY to be proud of. They fuss at them for being lippy with their mama... then they give them candy when I'm not looking. They allow me 3 minutes to go to the bathroom - EVEN when my kid needs a band-aid.  

Let me get to the point - I'm not throwing myself a pity party. I'm not going to wallow in despair, but in order to learn and grow from struggle you actually have to struggle. To learn how to manage your emotions, you need to feel something. Resilience isn't established in the absence of hardship, it is built on the foundation of growing stronger THROUGH hardship.

I am blessed to have friends who help me hunt the good stuff every day. They remind me that I have a new job. My children are strong and thriving. I'm never at a loss for someone whom I can call on for help or encouragement... and a reminder that "you can do this, he'll be home soon."

Surround yourself with people who've already made the rounds, and are willing to share their road map.

When you're miserable, find GOOD company - you'll be surprised how much better you'll feel.

XOXO & Stuff,

Jinger

06 May 2015

Day 3 - Creative Comms

I love Big Sexy. He is literally the man of my dreams. He isn't perfect - there should be a picture of him next to the words "Strong Silent Type". There is one thing we struggle to connect on during deployment, I've tried different ways to explain it, I've begged (nagged), pleaded (nagged), nagged (bitched)...

WRITE US (ME) A LETTER!!!!

After years of trying I remembered something:


In an effort to inspire our middle guy's struggle with reading and writing, I had snagged a journal from Walmart (it's a marvel avengers journal - seriously - awesome). We told him he could write whatever he wants - and encouraged him to draw his own comic books.

Before we knew it he'd created 5 pages of text and graphics.. an idea was born. 




Remember the old game where one person would tell part of the story - and the next would pick up where they left off? We're taking a page from their playbook; each kid and Daddy will be creating a story together.

I grabbed a few more journals from Walmart, they've got a big variety and some of them will take the work out of it for you. Each kid has their own, my husband will wait for the journal to arrive, add his drawings and story then ship it back (I recommend a pre-addressed flat rate envelope). So far this is what we've got ~


Through my deployment and my husband's, honestly it can be hard to come up with something new to say. Mission First doesn't always lend to the excitement they create in Hollywood. We'll start letters and find them shallow... so they never get sent. You never know which way a story can turn, so give it a try. ((by the way - Mr. "I hate reading" is now knocking out books like a champ #winning ))

Next - let's play 20 questions - Navy Family Style (Surface):

1. How many bathrooms are on the ship?
2. Where does the poop go?
3. Do you have to do homework?
4. Do you get sea sick?
5. Is there a doctor on your ship?
6. Do you have to get shots?
7. What does your bed look like?
8. Do you have to share your room?
9. Where do you put your stuff?
10. If you share your room who snores the loudest?
11. Who is the youngest person on the ship?
12. Who is the oldest person on the ship?
13. Where do you play games?
14. Does anything funny happen on the ship?
15. How tall is the tallest person on the ship?
16. If its your birthday who will make you a cake?
17. What happens if you get hurt?
18. How fast does the ship go?
19. Does Santa visit the ship?
20. What makes you feel better when you are sad?

Check back for additional branches & new questions.
Comment with your ideas and I'll add them to the list!

This list is mostly geared toward children w/ a parent who is deployed, but can be easily adapted to inspire letter writing or journal entries for adult. As always please feel free to contribute ideas and I'll add them to the list. 

1. Write a thank you card to the person who farted and made your mom/dad laugh.
2. Describe how you imagine homecoming will be. In the morning? At night? Surprise or waiting on the pier (airport, hanger, parade field...)
3. What kind of gear would you invent for your mom/dad to wear? How does it work?
4. Tell a story about a dog who lives on the ship (goes on convoys, flies the plane, mans the gun...)
5. What is a role model? How do you grow up to be one?
6. Create a poem using the letters U. S. A. or RED WHITE & BLUE
7. What are some goals you have? How will you reach them?
8. If you were on the ship and playing hide and seek where would you hide?
9. Pretend there are no phones, computers or letters - invent a new way to communicate with mom/dad?
10. Tell us about the first place you want to go after mom/dad gets home.
11. If you could control the clouds what kind of shapes would you make?
12. Write a list of different ways you can make yourself feel better when you're sad.
13. Who is your favorite character in a book?
14. Make a list of 20 great things you've learned to do this year.
15. If you could train any animal to help mom or dad win the fight what animal would you choose? What would it be able to do?
16. Tell us how you countdown 'til homecoming.
17. How do you think we should celebrate mom/dad coming home?
18. Write a happy birthday card to your mom/dad's ship/unit. How old are they this year?
19. Create the perfect menu for the ship/unit. Don't forget to tell them how to make the food!
20. All of your toys have joined the __insert branch here__ who's the boss? Where are they going on deployment?
21. Design a new tool your mom/dad can use at work.
22. You're all grown up, what are you going to do on vacation?
23. You're a teacher, and there is a kid in class who feels sad - what would you do to make them feel better?
24. Aliens are coming! Are they nice? or mean? You tell me...
25. Tell us how you think they celebrate Christmas where your mom/dad is going.
26. How many houses have you lived in? Write about your favorite thing at each home.
27. What is your hometown?
28. Where is your favorite place to visit? Why?
29. Make up a story where the envelope who carries your letters is a Ninja!
30. When mom/dad misses a special day how do you make yourself feel better?
31. What is your favorite thing to send to mom/dad?
32. Your mom/dad has to wear a uniform, draw a picture of what they look like. How would you change the uniform draw a new one that you designed just for them!
33. Write a thank you card to someone who's helped you feel better when you're missing your mom/dad.
34. What would you tell a kid who is going through deployment for the first time? How would you help them?
35. What makes you special? How do you know?
36. How do you know someone is your friend?
37. Make a list of 10 ways to make new friends.
38. What are some good things to put in a carepackage?
39. What are your favorite jokes?
40. Write about your biggest secret then hide the page!!
41. Draw a picture of your favorite animal - now write a story about how its a spec ops super hero.
42. What is your favorite thing to do? Why?
43. Make a list of all the different places where you know someone who lives there.
44. Write down your favorite 10 people - who would you visit first?
45. How do you know your mom/dad is in a bad mood? How can you help?
46. How long does it take for your mom/dad to get your letters? Why does it take that long?
48. Were your grandparents in the military too? Did they go any place interesting?
49. Make up a story about a hero, use your mom/dad's unit as the hero.
50. Tell other people why being a military kid is hard - and why you are so GOOD at making it through tough times.


That's all I've got for now y'all - Even if you don't use any of the above material I hope it inspires you to think outside the care package box and get creative. We can't all be Noah & Allie.

XOXO & Stuff,

Jinger

05 May 2015

Day 2 - Open Season


There's this guy. He's kind of an asshole. Most of us know him as Murphy. Well, I'll tell you he has a tracking device on every service member, and as soon as they are outside of a reasonable commuting distance Murphy declares open season on those keeping the home fires burning.

He's basically this guy only invisible...


Well here we are on day 2 and B must have just crossed over whatever magical line activates his Mother-Truckin-Murphy beacon.

1. Lawn Mower wouldn't start (we're on 2.5 acres... I can't just let it go).
2. Low Tire Pressure light.. fill tire.. find nail.
3. Oldest Kids shoes are too small
4. Can't find my debit card (so can't solve above listed problems)
5. Playstation needs some sort of update? I don't know I don't speak video game. 

These aren't big problems. I 100% realize that, however they are the kind of issues I would just shoot B a text "how do I", "do you know how"... "WHAT THE FXCK!!!!", but when you know they can't fix the issue and you don't want to burden them, these little things can become overwhelming quickly. In the past I would have flown off the handle and cussed out Murphy and in the present I do the same damn thing, but but but but but... I have learned to ask for help.

Shot my neighbor a text and asked him to check the mower when he got home from work. He flipped the gas level from the right to left tank and bam back in business.

Talked to the guys at walmart about the tire they said I'd be good for another few days and it can be fixed with a plug.

Navy Federal has IMMEDIATE replacement cards at your local branch - so I can now buy shoes for my shoeless child who is growing faster than my grass.

While I was out at Walmart my OTHER neighbor knocked out a portion of my grass for me - he would have done all of it but my dogs are well... doing their job and not letting anyone in the yard while Big Sexy is away. ((Good puppies, but don't eat the neighbors)).

The Army's Master Resilience Training program taught me to Hunt the Good Stuff. I will RESPOND to each issue that pops up and do my best not to react (yes there is a difference). I will appreciate the assistance of friends and neighbors. I will accept their help with a grateful heart, knowing they aren't doing it for reciprocation they are just being good friends and neighbors.

So take that Murphy. I'm not alone and anything you throw at me that my friends and I can't handle? I'll just call my Farm Bureau agent and hire a pro. Let the hunter become the hunted. I've got Murphy in my sights and this time he's goin' down!



XO XO & Stuff,

Jinger

Homecoming Chain


We've all heard of homecoming countdowns. The basic concept is this you count the number of days deployment is projected for, fill up a jar with candy or pennies and then remove one item each day, as the jar gets empty you have a visual reminder that its almost over...

one problem... 

those damn dates are written with disappearing ink, not stone.

When Big Sexy deployed to Iraq in 2009, I had three kids at home - sorry not kids - kids go to school, are potty trained and can communicate with words - I had two toddlers and a baby at home (3, 2 and 7 months). So the idea of emptying a jar was just too abstract for them... I was worried about the disappointment if the date changed and the jar was empty, so I canned the whole concept.

Then we stopped over my friend Crystal's house and everywhere I looked there was color and fun. She and her boys were marking their successful journey through deployment. They were making a Homecoming Chain.

Never one to have an original thought I jumped on that bandwagon and grabbed some construction paper on my way home.



We started our homecoming chain a little late, but it was a great experience. Each day the kids and I would sit down and talk about our day. I'd write little notes so I could tell the big guy about our time when he was away, and the kids would draw and scribble all over the other side. Soon our home was filled with color and reminders that even though it wasn't easy - we were working hard to make it through.


Well we've started for this go 'round and I'm looking forward to seeing it grow - the longer it gets the closer he is to coming home.


Have fun with your chain. Use flowers or hearts,  color coordinate with their branch of service or favorite football team. Be creative and have fun. We keep ours simple, but my kids are young and sometimes simple = maintaining my sanity.

We have choices in life, even when there are aspects which are out of our control. You can be crushed by your emotions or you can respond with action. Every day isn't a cake walk, but you can grow stronger through hardship.

XO XO & Stuff,

Jinger

Idle Hands


One thing I've learned over 10 years (this weekend) as a Navy Wife - is that I do not do well with downtime. Idle Hands are not my friends. So, in addition to my nightly confessions about deployment realities I plan on sharing with you some of the busy work I'll give myself to pass the time, but first let's talk our left and right limits.

1. Know Yourself. 
I always get in shape over deployment. It is tradition. It is something I enjoy. Find something that makes you HAPPY and fills you with a sense of accomplishment, and invest your time and energy in that thing. You will feel the days go by faster. 

2. Be Realistic.
I used to make huge goals for the 6-9-12 months my husband was deployed. Then I figured out that sometimes making it through TODAY is a big enough goal (3 kids, 1 mom... 4 rounds of stomach flu). Start with small daily goals until you are in the swing of things, then choose a goal you can work toward over a week... then a month... then before you know it you'll be hanging banners on the house and making appointments for sexfoliation.

3. WIFM
Do things that make you feel better. I'm not saying you should spend every penny of deployment $$ buying yourself things. Spend your time growing stronger. If volunteering feeds your soul - raise your hand and get to work. If you love animals, go to the SPCA and pet puppies when you're lonely. Do you enjoy crafting? Look around your home and take some time to invest in your decor or make some great items for a craft fair and give it a go. Its OK to do the things you LIKE and things that bring you JOY.

Now, let me go find my BGPs and a glue gun. I've got some work to do.

photo credit polyvore.com


 XO XO & Stuff,

Jinger

04 May 2015

Day 1 a Different Kind of Deployment


We made it through day 1. Pretty well actually (I'll totally cry tonight, but its cool). I have to say this one feels different, and so far it's for pretty great reasons.

In the past the sitter arrives, my husband would quietly kiss the kids and say "see you soon" - they were little. They didn't know what deployment was they just knew "Daddy is at work". We'd pack his gear into the car and head off to the airport. The terminal would be filled with kids and family members. Melancholy filling the room. We'd sit. We'd wait. He'd leave. I'd sit in the empty car for a minute. Cry for a couple more. Then take a deep breath and get on with it.

I was alone.

Not this time.

Our neighbors next door are also a Navy family, about to PCS up to Ohio - they sent messages to make sure they got to say goodbye to Big Sexy before he left. He caught up with them briefly in person. As we walked out of the house yesterday with the big guy in his whites, our neighbors on the other side were pulling their boat for a day of fishing - they stopped right where they were jumped out to say goodbye. My sweet friend Lisa hugging my neck "I'm so sad for you"... it actually felt GOOD to have someone understand that it hurts to say goodbye - even if its only for few months. I guess misery does love company (or at least a little empathy).

Following the final departure our neighbors up the road hijacked my pouting plan, and hulled us over for some BBQ and a few drinks. It was nice to NOT wallow. I needed that. The kids did too. These friends a Coast Guard family, said they hadn't walked in our exact shoes, but doggone it we shop at the same store.

Today was filled with appointments, errands and some good company (Thanks Jamie). Things very quickly snap back to normal...

but... its the after bedtime quiet that gets to me. That empty space. The moments I look over to comment on Game of Thrones and my dog just stares in reply. Those are the moments you have a choice. Succumb to the sadness or reach over your shoulder and pat yourself on the back.

Another day is done. He's another day closer to home. I am not alone, and this time around I will not be too proud to ask for help. 

Tomorrow I'll tell you all about our homecoming chain, care package plans and how we are going to kick the crap out of this deployment.

Tonight? I'll pout into my Pinot and follow that up with a pat on the back.

XOXO & Stuff,

Jinger

03 May 2015

Day Zero


I wasn't sure how I was going to use this time to fuel my writing. Should I think about a structured format to compartmentalize what is happening? How I'm feeling? Maybe I should just focus on the "buck up" and "big girl panties" bad assness...

Better yet.

I think I'll just write what comes to mind, and let the rest sort itself out.

Welcome to Zero Day.

Today doesn't really count as Day One. It can't, why? Because I woke up this morning to see his handsome face snoring brilliantly beside me. I heard him stretch and hit snooze. I felt his breath, his warmth. Watched his body lumber up out of the bed. He was here this morning. No, today, the day that hurts more than most, today doesn't really count.

Today is Zero Day. Today is the day everything feels fragmented. Your everything walks away. Today is the testing ground. Today... we stood side by side as our world wobbled and tried to fall apart. Today we held it together.

Tomorrow we'll talk about resilience. Today just sucks.

02 May 2015

Deja Vu


It's all too familiar. We've been here before...

The kids hug his neck while their little voices break, his eyes close and he inhales as he pulls them in. They're a bundle of skinny little arms and legs all wrapped up in Daddy's bear hug.

The oldest wants to know every detail of WHY Daddy has to go...

The baby just knows she's sad, and keeps asking how she'll talk to him on her birthday.

Our middle guy is mad. A scowl etched into his young face... his blue eyes glimmer with welled tears. His best friend is leaving and he's not going to like it.

He releases each of them. Kisses them on the forhead and reminds them, "Daddy loves you".

Now its my turn.

I know in my head he'll be fine. I know in my heart that he loves me. I know in my soul I will see him again... I'm trying really hard to keep myself together. Trying everything to keep my tears from falling.

He pulls me in so I can hide my face in his chest. My shoulders rise and fall with my tears while he envelopes me in his strong embrace. I stop crying.

"you good?"... his voice is gruff.

"yeah, I'm ok. I'm good." he starts to pull away "No... no I'm not" and we repeat the same all over again until I am actually good. 

His big bear hands grasp my face and we kiss (1, 2, 3) its always 3. Three little kisses... I love you. Three little kisses... See you soon.

I hate what comes next.

He'll take a deep breath. He'll grab his gear.

"I love you guys. Be good for mom. Love you babe..."

"Love you too, come back to me."

Three little kisses...

"Always."

he'll turn on his heal and walk away.

It's not Deja Vu. It's Deployment.