Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Right Words

There are times in life when you have to share something really big with someone you love. And often times, there's not a particularly right thing to say in response. Over the years, Joel's had to take on the difficult task of sharing with loved ones about his upcoming deployments. Sometimes there's just silence, sometimes a word of encouragement, and often times the question of why he has to go back.

Joel and I have both experienced responses that make us uncomfortable and even angry. Going overseas is a hard task, one that we've both signed up for in many ways. But it's even more difficult when you know people at home who should be standing next to you in it, criticizing it. When Joel got back from Iraq, someone who I have known for my entire life and have so much respect for, said that they didn't understand how Joel could leave his wife and child and go overseas for so long. They thought what he was doing was wrong. I was so surprised, so angry and so hurt that I just left in the middle of the conversation. I had no words.

There are those who decide that after just telling them about his upcoming or current deployment that it would be a great time to tell me, his wife, how wrong the war is and what a waste of lives of those who've been lost. Really? This is the best time to get into a political debate? My husband's in the middle of a war zone, and you're going to choose now to tell me how wrong the reason behind the fight is or why those who have given their life for it have died in vain? I call them heroes, not mistakes.

And then there's the inevitable "Will he have to go back?".... usually right after he gets back. Well, he's not retiring, so probably, yes. Do people think that a soldier who's deployed only has to tally up so many overseas deployments before the government is like, eh, you've had your share?! I know we're still fighting in two wars, but we'll just find someone else?! Come on.

The truth is, there isn't a perfect response. I guess the old rule of "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" is still a good one. The best responses are a warm hug (or a firm handshake in Joel's case), a "we're praying for you" and "we stand behind you in this".

But the best response yet, was a card Joel got in the mail from one of our Sunday School kids. Here are a few lines:
"Dear Mr. ______,
Thank you. Thank you for going to protect our country and even to protect a people who are not your own. And thank you for inspiring the generation coming behind you, to stand for your country, to protect your loved ones, and to trust that God will be with you. Please be safe... You are in my prayers..."

I can guarantee you that card is going to the Middle East with him. And I'm sure it'll be those words that stick, and not all the negative ones he's heard along the way.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tears on Sunday

Yesterday was Joel's last time at church with us before he leaves. He wanted to say goodbye to the Jr High Sunday School class we've taught for the last 2 years, so we stopped by to see them before the main service started. We love our kids and it was great to see Joel's face light up when he saw all of them again - we haven't taught since the beginning of April due to Joel's work schedule and Autumn arriving a bit early. I'm going to miss seeing them for an hour each Sunday, but I'm excited to get back to teaching when Joel gets home.

After we saw our kids, we headed to find seats for the main service. It was communion Sunday, and I was really looking forward to some quiet reflection time. We sang a few hymns, and I just soaked it in as Joel and I sang together with Grace next to us - I love that special family time of worship. I started getting teary during the songs, because I kept thinking about the next several months of me doing Sunday's alone and how much I'll miss Joel next to me on a Sunday morning. Then our Worship Pastor told us to put on our "happiest face" and greet those around us. Happy face? I wasn't feeling it. At all. So much so that I just completely broke down and tears started coming full force.

I think I told Joel something about needing to check on the baby, and I ran out of there. Every one was standing up shaking hands and making small talk... I had to bob around people in the aisle to find the quickest path to the door. By the time I made it to the back, I was a mess. Tears were dripping off my face and I started making that blubbering noise when the tears just come too hard. The ushers in the back took one look at me and parted like the Red Sea. I ran to the bathroom, tried to pull myself together. But I just couldn't.

I knew I couldn't make it through the service and I sure wasn't going to hang out in the bathroom for the next hour, so I decided to hang out with my smallest mini-me in the nursery. Fortunately, two of my girlfriends at church were in the nursery for the service. They've seen my cry plenty, so I knew I was in a safe place. For the next hour, I rocked Autumn and cried off and on. It felt so good to just get it out.

Over the past few months I've tried to prepare for the deployment in my head and have held back the tears. Well, for the most part. I've made list of to-do's and lined up help for the yard work and the girls. I've tried to prepare practically, but have ignored my heart in the process. Mostly because I didn't want to deal with a flood of tears.

I know in my head that I'll survive the next several months. I know I'll have the help, if I ask. I know I'll have many great adventures with the girls. I also know, that most likely, Joel will come back just fine. I know that our marriage will be stronger at the end of this and that I'll be able to do all that's ahead of me. I also know of how hard the separation is, how awkward the phone calls are because of the delay and how my nights will feel incredibly lonely.

But I've kept things so much in my head that I think my heart needs to catch up some. It's ok for Joel to see me cry. As uncomfortable as it makes him feel. Hopefully he sees it as a sign of how much I love him. I'm glad to have friends who are fine with me crying, as ugly as it may get. I'm thankful for family who can hear me vent and not feel the need to offer advice, but merely offer a warm hug. And I'm most thankful for a God who knows my every need, my every hurt and sees my every tear.

I know from past experiences, that God does His best work when our hearts are open and often broken. I love that He is known as the The Great Comforter and that He promises to help us in our weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:9 "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly for my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Replacement Baby

This picture was taken just moments after Grace was reunited with her beloved Soft Baby... well, Soft Baby's "sister".

Just a few weeks ago, I took the girls to the mall while Joel was out of town. Both Joel and I had made a rule a few weeks back that Grace wasn't allowed to bring any toys or her purse while we did errands, because she got in the habit of leaving things places and then we'd end up running everywhere trying to track things down. Well, a certain momma had a lapse in judgement and allowed Grace's favorite baby, aka Soft Baby, to come out for a shopping day.

After a very nutritious lunch at the food court, I realized Grace no longer had Soft Baby with her. We went back to all the stores we visited... twice. I talked to the manager's from the stores, but no one had seen her. Before we left the mall, I spoke with an employee from the Chanel counter - whom I know too well and see too frequently. She said she'd keep and eye out and check with her store before she left. (She ended up calling twice within the next few days to check-in to see how Grace was doing without her doll).

I called the mall stores and the mall office several times over the following days. Poor Grace was pretty lost without her Soft Baby. Who would she drag around the house with her?

Joel and I emailed back and forth - both of us were trying to find out who made the doll and if we could find a similar one on EBay. No luck and then Joel found her - she was made by Goldberger Doll Company out of Brooklyn, NY. He contacted the company and just this Tuesday, a representative called back and said they had one left at the factory. So, they shipped it overnight to us and last night, Grace got the surprise of her life.

She knows it's not the same baby. I think Joel told her the new baby is Soft Baby's sister or something. Grace seemed fine with that answer. So, Soft Baby's sister is named Heartie. I think because she has a heart on her? I don't know.

Major kudos to Goldberger - what great customer service. They've made our four-year old very happy and this momma feel a little less guilty.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Bad Dream

Do you know what is worse than dreaming about going to work or doing housework? A deployment dream... specifically, the deployment goodbye. I was exhausted last night and then Joel and I ended up staying up late talking, which was great. So, by the time I fell asleep, I was really looking forward to just sleeping and maybe even sleeping in. And then it happened... a horrible dream about THE goodbye.

Deployment goodbyes are the worst. It's the most emotionally exhausting goodbye I've had... perhaps there are worse. But I haven't experienced one.

When Joel deployed to Iraq the first time, his squad didn't leave until about 10:00 at night. So we woke up early with Grace and had the whole day together - a day of dread, really, because we knew what was going to round out our day. I pretty much cried that entire day. Poor Joel. He was finishing up packing and trying to spend as much time with Grace and there I was crying. Balling, weeping, sniffling... not pretty cries.

And then the time came for him to leave. We said what we needed to say to each other, we gave each other as many hugs and kisses to last six months and then he was gone. The door shut and I just dropped to the floor - weeping. Poor Grace just looked at me. She had never seen me like that before. I felt absolutely broken - torn to pieces. Part of me was out the door and I didn't know if that part, my best friend, would ever be back. Or if he did come back - what would he be like?

So, last night's sleep wasn't as peaceful as I hoped. I woke up exhausted. I tried to go back to sleep many times, but my mind just wouldn't shut off.

THE goodbye is coming up. I know what to expect. I've done it twice, but it doesn't get any easier. I expect to have many tears ahead and to cry myself to sleep. But we have today. We still have plenty of moments together. So, today I'm hoping that feeling of dread leaves so that I can enjoy these moments together. Trying not to let the feeling of dread ruin our today.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Autumn: An Introduction

Sweet Autumn came into our family this April. She's two months old already, which is hard for this momma to believe.

She's a super easy-going baby... she hardly cries and started sleeping through most of the night by two weeks old. Autumn was born with lots of brown hair and has eyes as blue as sapphires. She's such a joy and we're blessed to have her in our family.

Obviously, at just two months, there's still plenty we don't know yet about this little girl. I rock her in the middle of the night and wonder who she will become. What will her dreams and joys be? What will her laugh sound like? Will her and Grace have a close relationship? It is in these quiet moments that I pray over her - that she would know God at an early age at that she'd have a heart for Him. I pray that I would be a good mother to her and her sister.

We're enjoying each of these precious moments as a family of four. In just a few short weeks, Joel will be leaving and we know that it will be many long months until the four of us are together again. My heart hurts because I know Autumn will change so much while he's away, and he knows that more and more. It's something I don't even need to say, because it's written clearly on his face when he holds her and looks at her. He knows he'll miss many of those precious "firsts".

I just want these next few weeks to slow down... I wish I could add hours to every day.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Grace: An Introduction

Grace, Gracie, Bubbers, Bubberkin.... this beautiful girl came into our lives in March of 2006. For four years, she was our one and only.

I thought I'd let her introduce herself to you. So, I sat down with her and asked her some questions - here are her responses:

Me: Tell me what your favorite thing to play is.

Grace: With my kitchen at Grandma Anne's house.

Me: Where do you like to go for fun?

Grace: To the toy store at the mall and Toys 'R Us.

Me: What is your favorite toy right now?
Grace: My bicycle.

Me: If you could have any toy that you wanted, what would you pick?

Grace: A giraffe.

Me: What foods do you like to eat?

Grace: French toast, chicken nuggets, honey, chicken, potatoes and cheeseburgers.

Me: Where are your favorite places to go?

Grace: To the mall, to Target, to the park and to see Aunt Kristin.

Me: What is your favorite animal at the zoo to visit?

Grace: A giraffe.

Me: Why do you love Daddy so much?

Grace: Cause he's so cuddly.

Me: What about Autumn is so special?

Grace: Cause she's cuddly and I like to hold her hand.

Me: What's your favorite color?

Grace: Blue.

Me: What is your favorite song to sing?

Grace: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Grace is full of energy and is a great mix of Joel and I. She spends as much time with her train table and Lego as she does with her dolls and cooking toys.

She's a lot like Joel in that she picks up on new concepts extremely fast but is like me in that she's cautious to try them out. She's analytical and likes to figure things out before she attempts them - she was slow to crawl, walk, talk and "potty", but once she figured out how to do these things in her head, she was set to go and quickly conquered the new skill.

Grace has been my little bud through two deployments. There's no way I would have survived as well if she wasn't here to keep me busy and my daily life full of joy. When times were lonely, she'd offer plenty of sweet kisses and warm hugs to fill me up and help me to keep trucking.

She's my ray of sunshine, my mini-me.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Joel: An Introduction

I thought over the next few posts, I would introduce our family to you. Let's start with the troop who started this all, Joel. Add Image

I'll probably post later on the story of how Joel and I met. But for today, I'll give you a glimpse of the guy I call "Joelers". He hates that name, by the way.

Joel's an east coast man, all the way. He loves the outdoors and the simplicity of life that the northeast offers. It would be his dream someday, for us to abandon life in Indiana and move to the middle of nowhere in the mountains - to a place where we're surrounded by land and not by people. We're still negoitating this dream.

He's easily one of the smartest people I've met or know. He loves to read and is constantly in the middle of a few books at once. There's a stack of books and magazines always sitting on the floor next to his side of the bed. Joel remembers details easily and constantly reminds me of the details I leave out when telling a story or relaying information I read.

He loves his girls dearly. I didn't know how Joel would do with a daughter, let alone two, but those two girls are his life. He has a great balance of being extremely gentle but firm in his parenting. I've known very few men who work as hard as he does to make sure his girls are taken care of. And even when he works two jobs in the same day, he finds time to sit on the floor with our oldest and play Lego or color in a picture.

Joel is an amazing husband. He's hands-down the better spouse in our marriage - incredibly selfless, gentle, loving and patient. He adjusted to marriage immediately and was so patient with me as I took a few months to let-go of my singleness and become a partner with him. He knows me better than I know myself often times, and constantly encourages me so that I can be a better mother, wife and friend.

He has a hunger to know God better. Joel was not a Christian when we first met. I'll get into his testimony at another time. But right from the start of his faith, he wanted to know more. We teach our church's Junior High Sunday School class, and his love for the students is really amazing to watch - he wants for them to know Him better and strives to be the best example he can to the kids.

And of course, Joel loves our country. He has given up so much so that he can dedicate his life to the military. He's absolutely passionate about what he does and who he serves with. He's about to go on his fourth deployment - this time to the Middle East. Just days after 9/11, he was called up and later deployed to Diego Garcia. In 2007, he served in Kirkuk, Iraq and in 2009 went to England for a 3-month tour in support of the war.

He is my warrior, my husband, my partner and my best friend. I am absolutely blessed to have a man in my life who lives with such conviction. And it is my honor to stand beside him and support him as he goes away to do what I know God created him to do.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Practice Run

Joel just got back from a 10-day trip out east to see his dad and one of his brothers. It was more-or-less his last hurrah before his deployment. I decided to stay home with the girls - I wasn't quite ready to road trip with our baby. Nothing about 14 hours on the road with a 6-week old sounded like fun to me.

So, I just thought that 10 days would be a good practice run for me. I could see how I'd do with the two girls by myself.

Well, I survived. We had plenty of play dates with friends so that I wasn't sitting at home starring at the walls. We took lots of walks and a few too many trips to the mall. I even managed to take both girls with me to a doctor's appointment - miracle of miracles.

I learned two important things during this 10 day practice: I can do it but I need to ask for help. I think I tried to do too much by myself during Joel's last two deployments. There's something in me that thinks it's easier to just do it myself. But when you're talking about many, many months of doing it by yourself - it's not always easier. I ended the last two deployments completely drained. So, Joel would come home from overseas exhausted and I would be home waiting for him, exhausted.

I don't want this deployment to end the same way. Two girls by myself requires a whole lot more effort - way more energy than I can sustain on my own. So, when people offer to take the girls for a few hours, to help me with projects around the house or to make a meal - I'm going to take them up on it.

Hold me to it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Boots on the Ground

Here we are - starting this adventure into the blogging world. It took two years for some of my friends to convince me to get a Facebook account - two years ago, blogging was far from my mind. Actually, it was not too long before that I googled "blog" because I didn't know what it was. So, at least you know where I'm coming from!

I had the idea to start a blog about my adventures as a military wife and momma in the middle of the night when I was up with my newborn. I do most of my thinking in the middle of the night. Honestly, it's the only time that I actually have the quiet I need to put a decent thought together.

Hopefully A Troop's Girl will be a good outlet for me. My goal is for it to be a constructive use of my time and experiences as a wife to a guardsman preparing for his fourth deployment overseas - the third since we've been together. The last two deployments were rough for me and I hope that with a place to let my heart go, maybe my experiences will encourage you in some way - whether you're a military dependent or not.

So, please come along for the ride. There are sure to be some bumps, but I hope not too many. My prayer is that this journey will be a great time of growth.