Boy + Girl + Army + e-Harmony = Captain and Mrs. Butters! This is what we're up to. Observations, opinions, events, images, and more.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Deployment Brags

I know that a lot of my recent posts (infrequent though they may be) have had a negative tone--that's because I use this blog to "dump" my deployment-related emotions. I don't often talk about the deployment in real life, and only then to a select few people.

Anyway, I thought I'd change things up a bit before I (most likely) write a few sad pieces on missing Spike during the holidays...and brag on myself.

After a month or so of Spike being gone, and thanks to the tough love of some friends, I decided that I shouldn't spend the entire deployment in personal limbo. If I have no choice but to spend the better part of a year geographically spouse-less, I might as well use the time constructively.

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I'm learning to play the violin. Now that I am back in North Carolina post R&R, I have resumed my weekly lessons. Learning new songs and hearing how much I'm progressing (compliments from my teacher don't hurt either!) makes me feel so empowered...maybe because it's something I have complete control over? I'm three songs away from finishing my beginner's book, and I've even played some simple Bach!

At the end of August I sucked it up and had iLASIK surgery done. Worth every penny of the money that would have otherwise gone into savings. (Thanks, Spike!) I went from not being able to read a book that was held 6 inches away from my face to working, driving, and living totally correction-free. And if you're thinking of having iLASIK done, I can honestly say that I felt no pain during the procedure, which only took about 10 minutes. Seriously, I am SUCH a weenie when it comes to medical stuff, and this was a breeze.

My last brag for now is that I've re-connected with art over the deployment. I always enjoyed drawing, painting, etc. in high school and college, but I haven't done much of it since then. Having periodic art projects to work on has honestly been therapeutic, because art is one of those things that gets me  into a state of "flow"--I stop feeling the passage of time and I'm totally focused on what's in front of me. Earlier this year I posted a pencil drawing I did of a friend's in-laws. Here are the other things I've worked on since Spike has been gone. Excuse the poor lighting and blurriness.

I did this for Spike as an anniversary present.  It's mixed media: tissue paper and paint on canvas. He always calls me his Lobster--if you've ever seen the Friends episode in which Phoebe explains her Lobster Theory, you know what he's referring to. There are love song lyrics behind the claws and paint.

I suppose you could consider this one art, though it didn't involve drawing. I thought it was going to be a simple, quick project--it wasn't! Took hours and hours to cut out all the strips of cloth and roll them up. But I like how it turned out.

I did this painting as a wedding present for a dear friend. I tore up the save-the-date, invitation, and wedding program and incorporated them into the piece.

Next I'd like to do a small painting of my dog...or a large one of me and Spike, if I can find a picture I like well enough.

I had considered doing National Novel Writing Month again this year (the challenge is to write 50,000 words during the month of November--I did it in 2009), but I don't think that's going to happen. It ate up all of my free time the first time around, and while I had a lot of fun, I was also frazzled, reclusive, and had tunnel vision focused solely on meeting my daily word quota. Not sure that's the best idea since I'm trying to stay as balanced, social, and positive as possible while this deployment drags on. But we shall see. I DO have a story idea. Poor Spike--my first round of NaNoWriMo happened right after we'd been matched on e-Harmony. I ignored him for the better part of a month. He'd probably be scared the same thing would happen again! And in any case, that story idea will keep until 2013.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Banner Day

When my dog Ellie and I got back to North Carolina, we were greeted by a banner made by my younger brother. You can see where his priorities lie....

It made me laugh. At least I got a small shout-out in the corner.

In other news, I think I can cross "the big crisis" that's supposed to happen during a deployment off my list...I was Car One in a three-car accident yesterday evening. I had stopped to wait on traffic in the other lane to break before turning left into my parents' driveway after work, and the car behind me had also stopped. However, the car behind them hardly slowed down, hit Car Two, and pushed it into me. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and my car (poor, poor Mini Cooper, less than a year old) is still driveable. I think it will need a new bumper. All in all, it could have been a lot worse. After the initial shock of being hit, I really wasn't that upset; after all, eleven years ago I had an accident in which I WAS the driver doing the rear-ending, so I know how easily it can happen. My parents commented on how calm I seemed. All I could think was, After living day and night with the knowledge that my husband is far away in a dangerous place, something happening to my car--with no human injuries--doesn't even compare.

But still, this counts as my Deployment Crisis, right?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Post-R&R Update

I forgot to write about the build-up, but I think I'll record the aftermath.

Toward the end of September, Spike left to go back to Afghanistan...again. He was home for his two weeks of R&R leave, which he received because his unit is scheduled for a 12-month deployment. Spike may not be gone for a full year since he was thrown into the deploying unit last-minute and had to stay behind to catch up on training, but he will still be gone longer than nine months...and I'm certainly not complaining that I got the time with him.

In a nutshell, our R&R "outing" was a four-day trip to Chicago, two of which were shared with Spike's parents. Mostly, though, at Spike's request we stayed home in Kansas. There were a couple day trips to Topeka and Kansas City, but it was surprising (to me, anyway) how nice the everyday, non-exotic things were: going to the grocery store together. Watching a movie. Smoking a cigar on the front porch (okay, maybe that one isn't normal for most people...). Driving into town and walking through mall. Washing the car in the driveway. Cooking dinner. I hadn't realized until Spike was home how much I missed doing those things as a couple; how lonely they could be as only one-half of a team.

I did notice myself trying to cling to the age-old coping mechanism of distancing myself to lessen the pain of separation, which I knew was coming. It didn't work. Dropping Spike off at the airport was still heartbreaking, but I managed to make it back home before I lost it. Small victories.

So now I'm preparing to drive back to North Carolina, where I intend to spend the remainder of the deployment. There, I'll be able to go into the office every day, which is helpful professionally and personally. (Working from home--aka being alone in the house all day, every day--is a recipe for depression, at least in my case.) Being able to interact with my co-workers in person has definitely been a silver lining of this deployment. Another silver lining is the fact that I get to see old, dear friends who still live in NC!

I'm hoping that the holiday rush (and fingers crossed--more violin lessons) makes the rest of the year go by quickly. And once 2013 hits, I think I'll be able to say that we're on the downhill slope of the deployment.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Election Season Rant

Let me preface this by admitting that it is a complete and total rant. But that’s what personal blogs are for, right? Also, I know that to some extent this post is the pot calling the kettle black, as not every word that comes from my mouth is dripping with perfume and honey. (Far from it.) That said…

One particular aspect of election season disgusts me. Why do we have to validate ourselves by demonizing others? Why do we have to define our own positions by telling others how and why they’re wrong? And why—instead of trying to work together and find common ground—do so many people spew hate and contempt?

I’ve removed several people from my Facebook newfeed because of obnoxious (and frankly offensive) political postings. So many things being shared are hateful, hurtful, bigoted, and devaluing. I don’t care what “side” you’re on (for the record, my personal beliefs don’t align perfectly with either of the major parties), but for heaven’s sake, don’t insult, demean, or belittle those who disagree with you. (Oh—and it might be helpful to fact-check before posting something inflammatory.)

There are multiple solutions to most problems. And if someone sees an issue differently than you do, that doesn’t automatically make them an idiot, stupid, or a sheep. They are not any less worthy as a human being or as an intellectual thinker because they have come to a different conclusion. Honestly, what do you hope to accomplish by throwing those types of accusations around?

Nothing constructive, productive, or helpful can come from this type of hate-filled, narrow-minded speech. All you are doing is making yourself look small-minded and prejudiced. You are attracting others who share your self-righteous worldview while repelling anyone who disagrees. You are making the divide worse and squandering an opportunity for mutually beneficial, constructive dialogue. And at the end of the day, is your quality of life any better after spreading opinions that only serve to tear others down?

…rant finished.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Lately I've been feeling tired. Tired of going through the motions of living a "normal" life when the truth is, life is pretty darn far from normal. There are a lot of "big" changes I could get used to--moving to a new place, starting a new job, etc.--but having my husband in a war zone is not one of them. I was warned that I would hit my first major wall around the three-month mark; I guess this is it. I think that three months is daunting because it feels like Spike has been gone for ages. I've had time to develop new routines, take up a new hobby, and resurrect an old one (more on that later), but we're not even close to being done. The majority of the deployment still stretches before us, and we're not even within hailing distance of the halfway point.

Besides the obvious worries that I refuse to dwell on or even type out, I think my biggest fear is what "the new normal" will turn out to be once this period in our lives is over. I can feel myself evolving and changing in ways that Spike isn't a part of. Even though we're very fortunate in that we are able to communicate regularly, Spike isn't participating in the changes I am--he's just hearing about them. I know the same thing is happening with him. It's true what they say: in many ways, we really will be two new people saying "hello" at homecoming, rather than the same two people picking up where they left off.

What I need to remind myself of is that the BIG things are remaining the same. My values, defining personality traits, character, and commitment aren't undergoing any big shifts. It's just that the trimmings are going to look a little different when Spike re-enters daily life in the flesh. I know that the same is true for him. And since those big things are what attracted us to each other in the first place, I know we'll be okay.

So, change of gear: since I put my original deployment project--writing a historical romance novel--aside due to the fact that I write more than enough at work these days, I am pursuing another goal that I've had for years: learning to play the violin. So far I've had three lessons and can produce a few recognizable, if not perfect, songs. Eventually, I want to focus in on bluegrass and Celtic fiddle tunes. Loving it so far! Practicing gives me something to look forward to every evening.

From my first lesson--hadn't yet begun to learn left hand fingerings at that point!

 I have also returned to doing art on a more regular basis. In June I created a pencil portrait of a friend's in-laws for her father-in-law's birthday.

Hadn't quite finished it in this shot, obviously, but it's almost there. 
Now I'm working on a painting of a good friend and her new husband as a wedding gift. I'll try to post a picture of it when I'm done, since it's in a completely different style.

So, I'm keeping busy and endeavoring to have productive things to show for my time.Onward and Upward.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


They used to be about planning vacations, buying houses, and writing books.

Now they're about final countdowns, surprise homecomings, and the warm body I miss sleeping next to.

Funny how perspective can change.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dear Unit FRG:

I understand the usefulness of Facebook as a way to disseminate information. However, next time you might want to think twice before posting that there will be a redeployment ceremony within the next 24 hours when it is the case that
A) No email was sent regarding said redeployment ceremony and
B) The ceremony only involves a small fraction of the unit's deployed soldiers.

A spouse whose heart swelled with irrational hope while scrolling through her newsfeed, only to experience equally irrational crushing disappointment when she realized her husband wasn't involved.

P.S.--I'd also like to thank my husband's company FRG leader for finally sending out the first email I've received during this deployment, excluding the generic ones from the FRSA.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Apparently, the Army turns me into a toddler.

As always, I feel encouraged and honestly humbled by the responses to my angsty posts. Reading back over the last one, which was typed and published in an emotional hurry, I am struck by how whiny the last bit is. Looking at my words from a calmer place, I have realized that on some level, I’m expecting gentleness and sympathy—maybe even a touch of pity—from others because of my “situation.” I definitely haven’t been prepared for callous and/or uncaring responses I have received from time to time.

Those of you who pointed out that I have a right to my feelings, whatever they are, are absolutely correct. I’m going to keep that in mind going forward. What I don’t want to do is be a victim.

In general, I’ve noticed that the Army brings out my childish side. I guess that makes sense—in my adult life, I’ve never felt, or been, this powerless. As a military spouse I don’t get to decide where I live, how long I’m there, or (the real biggie) whether my husband is home with me or in a war zone. So yes, in some ways, I feel like a little kid whose life is being run by a parent, and I find myself coping by whining, But that’s not faiiiiir. Why me? Woe is me! Poor, poor me. Everybody, look at how much my life sucks compared to yours.

What I need to remember is that as an adult, I have access to healthier coping mechanisms. So somebody, please give me a metaphorical slap upside the head if you see me wallowing in an extended pity party. Save me from myself!

From now on, my goal is to acknowledge that yes, reality does suck more than usual. The extended absence of a spouse is a big deal, and it’s normal to be affected by that. I don’t have to pretend that everything is okay when it’s not. I may even set a timer when I’m feeling upset and give myself permission to rant, rave, cry, and otherwise fall apart until it goes off. But after the timer buzzes, I want to kick the victim mentality to the curb. I can still miss Spike and acknowledge that a major part of my life is out of whack without whining about it.

(That doesn’t mean I won’t be quieter, grouchier, or even more sarcastic than usual. I am a grown woman trying to be mentally and emotionally healthier, not a saint!)

As an old friend (with whom I need to reconnect…start working on that, minions! ;-) ) reminded me in her comment, I am still one fully-fledged person within a two-person team. There can still be growth and happiness and fulfillment and interest in my life, even during a deployment.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Depolyment Update #1: Am I normal?

Several people have asked me why I don’t update my blog frequently anymore. The short answer is, after Spike’s career course, I have rarely found Army life to be amusing. And I try to keep the bitter/angry/frustrated posts to a minimum.

The longer answer also includes the fact that I’m writing a lot more for work than I used to (I work as a copywriter/ghostwriter, and create material ranging from whole books to press releases to blog posts for my firm’s clients). Usually, the last thing I want to do after work is stare at the computer screen and keep typing. That’s also why my former plans to write a trashy romance novel during deployment fell by the wayside! For now, I prefer to focus on the writing that contributes to my paycheck.

To update those who are curious, Spike ended up deploying in mid-May after a few false starts. At the beginning of June, I packed up my Mini Cooper with enough luggage to see me through the summer, shoehorned the dog in too, and drove to my ancestral home of North Carolina. I’ll be staying with family here through the end of August (probably).

The upsides: I’m not in Kansas, of which I am not a fan. I can go into my actual office every day instead of telecommuting (read: my days now include forced social interaction and I am not a hermit). I can drive an hour or so on the weekends and visit good friends who live nearby. I’m mostly enjoying the time with my parents and grandmother. But I know that I’ll be ready to go back to Kansas and live “my” life by the end of the summer. It kind of feels like I have gone back in time to my pre-marriage self right now—except I am married, which means I don’t quite “fit” into that prior life, and it’s not as comfortable as it used to be.

Of course, changing my geographical location hasn’t changed the facts that:
  • Deployment SUCKS
  • I miss Spike A LOT
  • Time is moving at a glacial pace and needs to speed up
I’ve heard a lot of good metaphors for deployment, and now I’ll add mine to the pile:

You know that feeling you have when you wake up from a wonderful, awesome, transcendentally great dream? For a little while after you get out of bed, before the dream fades, you feel a mixture of sadness, frustration, and dread because you just want to be back in that fantastic dream, and you know that whatever your day holds can’t be as good as what you just experienced. For me, that’s deployment. A constant sinking feeling because reality is just lacking. Sometimes the feeling is overwhelming; mostly it just lurks on the fringes of whatever I’m doing to some degree.

I really am trying to live my life while Spike is gone. I go to work and spend time with my family in the evenings. On the weekends, I go visiting and crash friends’ guest beds (highlight so far was attending a Wing-Fest and eating lots of buffalo wings). I’ve completed a few art projects, including crafts for Spike’s care packages and a portrait of my friend’s in-laws that she’s giving her FIL as a birthday gift. And I’m looking into the possibility of taking a few fiddle lessons over the summer—currently making inquiries from a few local instructors.

All in all, I think I’ve done a pretty decent job of establishing a routine. But I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not my “old self.” (Is anyone with a deployed spouse?) I’m never quite as happy as I used to be. I’m not unfailingly positive. Sometimes it’s a struggle to go through the motions. I feel “blue” and hollow a lot. And I do have bad days during which I’m grouchy, negative, and just can’t summon up a smile.

That said, I don’t wallow. I do my utmost to shed any tears in private. I don’t blabber on about how much I miss my husband to everyone in earshot. (I get the feeling that nobody really wants to hear it.) And yet—here’s my rant!—anytime I am feeling down, a shocking number of people tell me to “try harder.” To “get over it.” To remember that “this is about Spike, not about me.” Even to “be less dependent on Spike for my happiness.”

Maybe this is because I’m not currently living in a military community? I guess many of the people around me genuinely don’t get it? Still, it’s frustrating. I want to shake them and scream, Hey! My husband is in a war zone for almost a year! How long have you been apart from your spouse?!? This IS a big deal, for both of us! How could I NOT be affected? I love that man so, so much, and OF COURSE he is now an integral part of my happiness! I can’t just conveniently forget about him and the role he plays in my life, nor would I ever want to!

Women (and men) who have been there, am I overreacting? Do I need to just suck it up and bury any evidence that life has lost its shine while my husband is in Afghanistan? Or is this normal and okay? I’m asking honestly here, as this is my first deployment as a spouse. Thanks!

I'll end on a positive note. Spike is on a larger base, and for $65 a month, has Internet in his room. So usually, we get to FaceTime or Skype for a few minutes before he goes to bed. I know how fortunate that makes me as the spouse of a deployed servicemember. And believe me, our talks are the highlight of every day. Wherever in the world he happens to be, whether it's in Afghanistan or next to me on the couch, I am such a lucky woman to be Spike's wife.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Note to Self:

Husband's impending deployment is probably not a good reason to sing "If you leave me now, you'll take away the biggest part of me..." under my breath.

Fortunately, Spike thinks it's funny and joins in with "Ooh ooh ooh no baby please don't go."

Honestly, I'm feeling pretty fortunate because Spike was originally told he'd leave at the end of April. We were less than 48 hours from "the drop-off," his bags were all packed and by the door, and his entire family was here to see him off...and then. And then we found out that his chain of command had somehow distributed completely incorrect information, and that no one, Spike included, was EVER slated to deploy on the original date. So we got a three-week reprieve.

We didn't have enough advance notice or flexibility to plan a big vacation, but we have squeezed in two weekend getaways. And every afternoon when I finish work, Spike is downstairs waiting to hang out. We both agree that we've spent more meaningful time together since the end of April than we did in the entire year during which he was a rear detachment commander.

So, my faith in the Army Gods has been restored somewhat. (Somewhat being the key word here.) We'll see if I'm still singing that tune at the end of the week.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I need an attitude adjustment.

I really didn't think anyone would read my blog after such a long silence. (Over months and months of feeling stuck in a so-so groundhog day, I really wasn't feeling much inspiration to write. Also, newsflash: apparently I'm a real Debbie Downer.) But there's nothing like that fun word--deployment--to make a stalled blogger start hitting the keyboard again. Those awful thoughts can only circle your mind for so long before you need to get them OUT, or else.

All of the comments on my last post didn't make be feel "better," exactly; I'm not sure "better" is in the offing for anyone preparing to send a spouse to a war zone. But they did make me feel less alone, which might be even more valuable.

I live on a military base. I'm very much an introvert so I don't have a wide social circle, but in my neighborhood and while volunteering at the USO I do meet lots of people with spouses who have/are deployed or will be deploying. With only a few exceptions, most people who hear that Spike is deploying stick solely to the positives. Like, It'll make your marriage stronger. You'll get to fall back in love all over again when he comes home. You'll have the opportunity to meet lots of amazing women who are also in your shoes and focus on sisterhood. You can write and paint more. Etc. I know all those things are true, and I know that the people saying them are offering me good advice and a perspective that I sorely need to adopt. But at this moment, it's not working.

The thing is, right now, all of those comments make me want to grind my teeth together and perhaps commit an act of violence. Not to the person encouraging me; just in general. After all, I don't want to have to fall back in love again. I didn't get married to focus on sisterhood or to write and paint; I got married to be with the man I love! I have to stop and remind myself that the following is true, as infuriating as it might be to hear: "You married him. You knew this was a possibility when you said 'I do.' And even now, in this situation, you still wouldn't think of doing anything different for even a nanosecond."

But what I remember reading somewhere once is also true: If you see a baseball flying toward your face, it doesn't hurt any less on impact just because you saw it coming. 

Anyway, I'm rambling away from my point. Here it is: It really, really, helped to read, "Deployments suck." Having that acknowledgement from others who have been there is really what I need to hear right now. And also, it's easier for me to believe encouragement from someone once she--or he--has uttered that simple statement. Hearing it from a couple good friends here on base has also helped immensely because I know I'm not the only one who doesn't always have the stomach to put a positive face things. Because of what everyone, here and online, has shared, I'm going to believe that once the goodbyes are said I'll feel more like focusing on all of the silver linings.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The "D" Word

I knew the "d" word would apply to us eventually. I guess I always assumed we'd have more warning, though. Right on the heels of Spike's 13-month rear-detachment command (during which he was at the office 60-80 hours a week, called in at nights and on weekends, unable to leave the immediate area, and only able to take 5 days of leave--can you tell I'm frustrated?) he will be transferred to a unit that is deploying. At this point we are told it will be for a year, not for 9 months. We found out two weeks ago, and we're looking at a departure within the next month to month and a half.

I'm sure everyone with a soon-to-deploy spouse is angry at something. My "something" is the fact that I practically lived with a ghost for the past year, and now my husband will be gone altogether. However irrationally, I feel that the Army asked us to put our personal plans on hold last year , and now we have to defer all of that--travel, weekend adventures, visits to see family, and heck, dinner without being interrupted by a work call--yet another year. It's like I'm watching the grains of sand in our pre-child, just-us hourglass trickle away unused. I'm tired of my husband being told that I, his wife, am not allowed to be his priority.

I know, I know, I'm hardly the only one who has experienced this sort of thing. But it's much easier to be angry than to let myself feel all of the other emotions. Shock, terror, worry, anxiety, and even anticipatory grief. If I let myself explore beyond the anger I just break down. The intensity of it scares me. I start to cry, and literally feel like my world is crumbling around the edges. I wonder how I will manage to exist for that long without Spike here. I feel as though the lights in my world are about to be turned off indefinitely. Thinking about spending more time with friends, going home to see my family, and picking up new hobbies doesn't help; not really.

That's when I realize how fortunate I was to have Spike here with me last year, no matter how hard he had to work, how tired he was when he came home, or how little freedom we had. At least I could touch him every day, kiss him at night, and know that the person whom I love most in the world was here and loved me back the same way. When I think about him leaving, I realize just how much I need him to feel whole and happy.

It really amazes me that millions of men and women have gone through this same tsunami of emotions during this decade-plus of war. I know that a majority of them had to feel the same way I do, but in most cases, you'd never know it. We're so good at putting on the "It will be hard, but I'll be all right, so don't worry about me" face. I'm already doing it myself. We don't let many people see that while we're continuing on with daily life and doing what needs to be done, there's a part of us that feels like it's hurtling toward a breakdown.

Logically, I know that I can "do this." We can "do this." Spike and I grew closer and fell more deeply in love during this challenging rear detachment command, so I know we will survive a deployment. But it's still scary as hell.