Deployment, Reviews, Sponsored Posts

Surviving the Holidays during Deployment

Deployment happens. This is the Navy after all, right? And for most of us, deployment happens during the holidays. In my husband’s twenty years in the Navy we’ve missed more than half a dozen complete holiday seasons: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve (which coincidentally includes one of our kids’ birthday). Trust me when I say spending this time apart so often does not make it easier, but over the years I have learned a few strategies for Surviving the Holidays During Deployment.

Spending the holidays alone during deployment is the worst, but these tips can definitely help to make the most of this lonely situation.

Include Mom or Dad (the deployed parent) as much as possible.

Whether your service member will be gone for a few months or an entire year, include him or her as much as possible. In our family, this means Dad buys presents and cards before he leaves or sometimes makes videos for the kids to watch on Christmas morning. We make sure he has a holiday care package before he leaves and try to send him holiday videos, cards, and letters along the way.

Depending on your deployment, you might be able to email or chat on special days or even phone, Skype, or Facetime for the holidays. Make every effort to keep your deployed parent a part of the festivities.

Stick to your traditions.

I try to keep deployment as normal as possible for my kids. We all still go to work and school every day. We keep up with swim lessons and marital arts classes. Whatever we do when dad is home, we try to maintain while he’s gone.

This same rule applies to the holidays. I don’t ever want my kids to associate dad being gone with missing out on our family traditions. We still roast a big turkey on Thanksgiving, and we still chop down a ridiculously large Douglas Fir for Christmas. These are things our family ALWAYS does, and I know my sailor wouldn’t want us to skip that just because he isn’t home.

Celebrate with your family.

I am always with my family on holidays. It might be just my husband and my kids. It might be that my kids and I pack up and visit my parents or my in-laws or that they come to visit us. It might be the family that I have assembled over the years here in Washington, but no matter what I spend the holidays with family.

Try to remember the reason for the season …

Whether you are a religious person or not, I think we can all agree that the holidays should be about giving back and helping others. Serving others is a sure fire way to brighten up your day no matter how down you are feeling about missing your sailor.

There are so many ways to give back during the holidays. Donate to a food drive or a buy a warm coat for a child in need. Buy cars and dolls for Toys 4 Tots. Volunteer to serve a meal at a soup kitchen, visit a senior center, or just drop some change in the Salvation Army Bell Ringers’ cans whenever you go shopping. Every little bit counts, and every good deed will make you feel better.

And try to remember the reason for the deployment.

This one is going to be a tough pill to swallow, and I am going to ask you to dig deep here. First ask yourself why your sailor is gone in the first place. Is it a casual business trip that could have been postponed? Did he choose to miss your holiday together? No. Your sailor is serving our country, protecting our rights and freedoms, and honoring his commitment to God and country.

Now dig a little deeper and remind yourself that because your sailor is away, someone else … some other spouse … some other little child will have their mommy or daddy home this Christmas. Someone who maybe needs him or her more. Someone who didn’t have mom or dad home for Christmas last year perhaps.

This is what I tell myself in the very hardest of moments. He is gone because he made a commitment to our country, and I am here holding down the fort because I made a commitment to him.

Deployment is hard, and deployments during the holidays are the worst. But you can make it through. You can survive and even thrive while your sailor is away!

This post is sponsored by Lincoln Military Housing but as always all opinions are my own.

Surviving the Holidays During Deployment2

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Deployment

Homecoming: The Terrible, Wonderful, No Good, Very Good Day

The terrible, wonderful, no good, very good day. Every Navy wife, Navy spouse, military spouse knows the one I’m talking about … Homecoming.

If you haven’t lived it, you probably think I’ve lost it. Homecoming? Seeing your sailor for the first time in months? Wonderful and very good, yes! Terrible and no good? What the hell?!?

Let me explain.

Homecoming is not what Hollywood would have you believe ... at least not for me.

Hollywood and the media would have you believe that “Homecoming” is one single day of pretty dresses and perfect red lipstick, happy children dressed in their red, white, and blue finest, and handsome sailors striding toward their families smiling broadly as they wrap muscled arms around a wife ever so tearfully grateful to see them, hold them once again.

Fade to black.

The end.

Hollywood and the media know nothing. Let me share.

Homecoming for me begins about two weeks before the proposed Big Day. It begins when I notice that the milk in my fridge will expire AFTER my sailor comes home. Unspoiled milk makes it real.

He’s coming home! He’s coming home! He’s coming home …

The list making begins in earnest. Entire household deep clean. Fantastic homecoming dress. Matching children. Happy children! Pull out the glitter, kids, we’re making homecoming signs!!!

Then the worry sets in … will he care that I haven’t lost the weight I swore I would lose when he left? Will he have lost more weight then me … AGAIN? Will he see that I cut my hair? Will he hate it? Love it? Notice?

Will he be different? Am I?

I spend 13 days of those two weeks in a panic. Is the house clean enough? Should I plan a dinner? Should I dress up or go comfortable for the inevitable hours long wait? Will it be weird seeing him again … sharing the bed, the remote …the bathroom.

The Big Day

He’s coming home today. There’s no turning back. Shower, shave, and beautify (as best I can). I decide to go comfortable but cute. I decide to let the kids dress themselves. I decide that the house is as good as its going to get, and I decide that he likes McDonald’s so that will do, too.

I decide these things because fear, self-consciousness, and LIFE have kept me too busy in the last two weeks to really spend much time shopping or tweezing or cooking more than the meals we have eaten. It’s amazing how life doesn’t stop because I want to plan the perfect homecoming.

[Tweet “It’s amazing how life doesn’t stop because I want to plan the perfect homecoming.”]

I still had to work. The kids still went to school. There were still grocery shopping trips, PTA meetings, laundry and dishes, boo-boos to kiss, bedtime stories to read, scholarship applications to proof, and homework to check.

Comfortable cute it is.

Enter Hollywood.

I am waiting anxiously. We do search a sea of faces for his. We do hug and kiss and cry and kiss some more. We do wave signs, and take him home with us …

And then the work of Homecoming begins.

He didn’t know we’d changed bedtimes. He yelled at the kids.

He didn’t know I’d rearranged the living room. He didn’t like his new seat.

He doesn’t like the new sheets; he missed the old ones.

He has grown accustomed to leading, to shouting, to people who just do what he says. I don’t “deal well” with following or being shouted at, and I’ve never been one to do as I’m told.

I missed cooking for him, but I didn’t know he’d eaten chicken every day for two months. I made chicken enchiladas on day 2.

I missed him, but I didn’t/don’t/won’t ever miss the “boat smell” that permeates the house for a few days.

I forgot how much less room there is in one bed with two people, one of whom has been sleeping in a confining rack for three months.

The kids fight for his time and attention as he adjusts to teenager huffs, toddler rambles, and four women of varying ages vying for his time.

To call it an adjustment is an understatement.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a whole lotta wonderful in those days.

Seeing his smile and the dimple in his chin that I’ve missed kissing.

Watching him read stories to the youngest and listen to teenager tales.

Sitting beside him on the couch I no longer have to sit on alone.

There is a lot of wonderful.

It’s just tempered by an equal amount of real.

 

Deployment

7 Tips for Making Boat Email More Fun

You may have read how I feel about email here … it’s a both a blessing and a bit of a frustration to me. Partially because in this fast paced world, email is sloooooow, and with “quiet times” and a not-quite-perfect system, boat email isn’t even exactly reliable. Another frustration with email comes a little more organically. It’s my sailor. He’s not exactly a wordsmith. He says (and I quote), “There’s nothing to tell! I stand watch, eat, sleep, and workout … same thing every day,” and as much as it pains me to say this … he’s right. It can be difficult for him to share much when not much is going on in his world. On the other hand, I often feel like I have nothing to say. “The kids went to school. They came home and argued. We ate dinner, and we all went to bed.” So for our next deployment we’ll be trying out some of these 7 Tips for Making Boat Email More Fun!

Sharing the day-to-day can get really boring really quick during a deployment. Check out these tips for making boat email more fun!

Share a book or TV series.

Keep a copy at home, and send one out to sea with your sailor. Commit to watching one episode or reading one chapter per week and then email each other your reactions. This may not work if you’re one of those people who “binge watch” TV. I am not! I can’t sit still that long, and luckily he wouldn’t have time out to sea.

Do you remember when?

Share a great memory. The ones that bring bring the warm and fuzzies of those sweet early days of your relationship or a special time with your kids. Ask your sailor about his/her best “memories of” as well.

Make a plan. 

Any plan! Do you have a vacation coming up? Let him share ideas while you do the internet legwork! Planning a home improvement project for off crew? What are his ideas? You can still work together even when you’re far apart. I am a quick decision maker, but Josh needs time to mull things over … which makes boat email perrrrfect for us!

Celebrate the holidays … the weird ones.

Do a quick Google search of “national day of” and see what you find. Sending out a Happy Lefties Day note is at least better than typing “school, dinner, bedtime” over and over again. If it’s really kooky you might even find some funny things to send out for a maildrop, too! *Depending on your command guidelines, adding a date to the subject line or body of the email may or may not be kosher. Check with them first.* 

Ask open-ended questions. 

If you’re looking for more than yes or no answers, make sure you’re asking more than yes or no questions! What do you think about …? How can I do …? Where should I look for …? Make sure you’re asking questions that give your sailor room to answer.

Play a game.

Ask each other trivia questions. Play Twenty Questions. Write an add-a-line story. There are lots of games you can play via email.

Play ball! 

Okay so maybe you can’t actually play a quick game of horse, but you can share scores and stats of your favorite teams. My sailor is always looking for news and sports stats for the Yankees or the Jets, and he loves when I send him articles about those players.

Emailing daily or even a few times a week can get a little tough when you’re in the midst of a dull, boring deployment. Sometimes you just have to get creative, but when you do, you might find you get some of your best, funniest emails ever!

Deployment, Navy Life 101

8 Great Boat Email Tips From the Experts: YOU!

Sometimes I feel like an old bird in the Navy world. I was already married with two babies on 9/11.  I remember when the FRG was still actually called the Wives Club, and of course, I remember when the only communication I had with my sailor during deployment was a honeygram. Fifty empty squares on a page to fill with every thought I had to share with my sailor and only six times per patrol. It wasn’t great, but we made it work.

So when I complain about boat email, I do understand that it’s better than what we used to have, buuuut it sure ain’t a heart-to-heart phone call, amiright? Boat email definitely has its issues, like not always going through or sometimes sending two or three times, but there have to be ways to make it work for you. I recently found out our shore duty orders became “just one more patrol” so I figured I wanted to make the best of it. I asked the experts (YOU GUYS!), and here are 8 Great Boat Email Tips From the Experts: YOU!

Boat email may not be entirely reliable, but it's all we've got on subs, right? Here are 8 Great Boat Email Tips From the Experts: YOU!

Do you know each other’s email addresses? It may sound silly, but make sure you know his correct boat email address before he leaves. (HINT: It’s not the same as his navy.mil address.) Also make sure he knows your current email address. I once changed emails during offcrew and forgot to share that with my sailor right away. YIKES! When email is all you’ve got, make sure you’re doing it right!

Discuss your expectations. Do you want an email every day? Is that something he is even able commit to? How often does he expect you to sit down and write to him? Make sure each of you knows what to expect.

Reader Kelly says: We also have an agreement on how often we are writing to each other and an understanding of priorities when it comes to writing- we had very different expectations starting out and had to have a good talk about it after a patrol of very few emails on his end.

Ask if there will be “quiet times” when he can’t email you and a guesstimate of time that will last. We’ve gone over 30 days with zero communication in the past, and it makes things much easier if you’re at least halfway expecting it.

Number them. Pretty much all the experts say to number your emails. Sometimes emails just don’t make it to the boat, and that can cause some interesting misunderstandings.

Boat email tips from the experts

And use those numbered email to your advantage in later emails! Seriously, 15 deployments in, and this tip blew my mind! Reader Hannah says, “When replying to an email from your sailor, start the paragraph with Re: #4 (for example). I cant tell you how many miscommunications this has saved my sailor and I!”

Date your emails. Or maybe don’t. Some folks said this was an OPSEC no-no. Others did it with no problem. The lesson here? Maybe talk to your Ombudsman and find out the specific rules about email at your Command.

Give ’em something to laugh about. Don’t forget to share the everyday silliness that they are missing.

Reader Danielle shares: I try to always send something happy or funny the kids did because I want him to laugh. Like when our daughter told my parents her father had a big something and I got lectured about it being time to bathe the kids separately and make sure day closes the bathroom door.

And reader Nichole adds: I always make funny comments in the subject line and base my emails off that. I also have a funny saying at the end when I put who it’s from. Such as your crazy wife, annoyed wife, loving wife etc…

Most importantly keep a good sense of humor about this better-than-honeygrams but still flawed system. 

Cartoon Character of mail is happy

Boat email is a blessing, I know. Otherwise us sub gals would have no way to talk to our sailors at all! But since it is a slightly flawed system, it helps to have tips from the experts to make the very best of it!

Deployment

My Deployment ABC’s

Please enjoy this new and improved #throwbackthursday post from
the early days of Back on Land.


Deployment sucks. Enough said. We miss our sailors. Everything breaks at once. The kids go a little nutty, and there’s just never enough wine. Amiright? But since we really have no choice in actually making it through, it’s good to have some easy strategies for getting through. How easy, you ask? Why … as easy as My Deployment ABCs!

My Deployment ABCs

A – Ask for help!  We all need it sometimes. Don’t be afraid to ask when you need it. Also help others when you can. Deployments really are a group effort!

B – Be sad! Or mad. Or a little scared. All of these emotions are normal during deployment. Take a day and feel those things; just don’t let negative emotions get the best of you. If you think they are getting the best of you, reach out for help!

C – Count your blessings!  If you’re feeling down, take a moment to count all the good things you have going for you. I have healthy kids, a husband who loves me, a nice house, a warm bed, and a full belly. I’m a very lucky girl! Some people even make lists of their blessings to look back on when they aren’t feeling so very lucky!

D – Don’t believe the rumors! It doesn’t matter if your friend tells you or the FRG president or the nice neighbor lady who “knows a guy” on the waterfront. If the information doesn’t come directly from the Ombudsman, it’s likely untrue, and believing rumors can really set you up for disappointment.

E – Eat! Okay, eat healthy! Take this time to improve your diet. And sometimes don’t eat healthy. Take a pizza and ice cream day. Sometimes a day of comfort food is just what you need.

F – FRG (Family Readiness Group) – Hanging out with a group who completely understands what you are going through can help you feel less alone! Plus sometimes there’s food … and cheap or free childcare … and maybe even prizes! That’s more than enough to get me out of the house!

G – Go outside! Get some sunshine on your face! Breathe fresh air! Take a walk a around the block or a local park! Getting a little much needed Vitamin D can vastly improve your mood!

H – Have faith!  Whether faith to you means relying on your church family or simply believing that this too shall pass and that you will make it through, it helps to believe in something!

I – I CAN DO IT! Confidence is key! Many have done it before you, and many more will do it after. Make it your purpose to rock this deployment!

J – Get a J-O-B! Working can keep you busy, will give you a place to be each day, and can help you set and reach goals (save up for a post-deployment vacay, perhaps?). Besides, the sense of satisfaction that working can give is the best! Nothing says “I can do it” like a working gal!

K – Knowledge is POWER!  Educate yourself about the Cycle of Deployment, about what services are available to you, about budgeting, about relationships … Fleet and Family and Compass are two fantastic resources!

L – Lean on your support network! These days I could write a thesis on the importance of accepting help. If it wasn’t for a great group of gals driving me places, bringing me dinner, cheering for me, and just listening to me whine lately, I don’t know what I would have done!

M – Make friends! You don’t have to do this alone! Make friends who support you and know what you are going through! Deployment is not a one-man endeavor!

N – NAKED! (Just kidding! Just wanted to see if you were paying attention! lol) NEEDS! Make sure you are meeting not only your children’s or your pets needs, but also you own! Make sure you are eating right, getting sleep, and getting a little “me” time as necessary. This lifestyle isn’t the easiest, but you don’t have to be a martyr! Take care of yourself!

O – Oxygen … Okay, I’m reaching with this one, but what I mean by “oxygen” is just breathe!  Sometimes we all need to step back from a situation, whether it’s scary or sad or frustrating, and just breathe. Give yourself that moment before you proceed.

P – Prepare! Prepare! Prepare! Be like Santa and make your lists and check them twice! Make sure home, finances, ID cards, powers of attorney, etc are all taken care of BEFORE your sailor leaves!

Q – Ask Questions!  Chances are if you are wondering, someone else is, too. Your Ombudsman is a great resource! FRG meetings and Pre-Deployment Briefings are also great places to get answers!

R – Reach out! Don’t isolate yourself! Call, email, Skype, or visit family! Make friends! Join a play group! Take a class! You aren’t alone in this situation so there is no reason to be alone in your daily life! 🙂

S – Shhhh!!! Make sure you keep deployment specifics (dates, etc) quiet for our sailors’ safety and our own! No one needs to know that you are home alone, right? Safety first!

T – Talk about the other stuff! If you’re feeling sad, lonely, or scared, talk it out. Maybe you just need a shoulder to cry on, or maybe you need more professional help. It’s all there for you. (See letter A!:) )

U – Up! As in keep your chin UP! Sometimes simply choosing to keep your chin up, wear a smile, and have a good attitude is the perfect start to a good day. (Fake it till you make it, right?)

V – Volunteer! Helping others is a great way to lift your spirits!

W – WAH! Sometimes you just need a good old-fashioned ugly cry.

X – Exercise! It’s good for you! It releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. WIN!

Y – Yapas in keep it shut! 🙂 Following safe OPSEC and PERSEC practices make ALL OUT LIVES safer.

Z – Zzzzzzzz …. Get plenty of sleep. We all know we work best when we are rested. Deployment is NO TIME to let yourself get depleted.

So there you have! That’s easy enough, right? Maybe not … deployment isn’t ever going to be EASY, but we can all take steps to make it better! We have to survive,
but we can all choose to THRIVE!

Do you have deployment advice to share or tips or tricks to add to the list? Let’s hear ’em!

Want to read more helpful deployment tips? Check out these posts!

5 Reasons ALL Navy Spouses NEED Compass

My Deployment Binder

5 Milspouses You NEED in Your Network

Deployment, marriage, navy spouse

Happy Anniversary Wherever You Are

Fifteen years, fifteen deployments, and another anniversary spent alone. I wish you were here. I wish we could toast to this achievement together. I wish I could hold you in my arms and whisper I love you in your ear, but I am here, and you are wherever you are.

DIGIDREAMGRAFIX.COM
DIGIDREAMGRAFIX.COM

You are wherever you are, and I am here … in the home we’ve built in Washington, in a rented house with the very best shady yard. I’m sitting here on the couch we picked in one crazy couch-sitting marathon afternoon in a too busy Ikea. Under a blanket you gave to me at Christmas because you know I love soft, cozy things.

You are wherever you, surrounded by shipmates, and I am here with the kids. Three beautiful daughters who never cease to amaze, inspire, and frustrate me. Our greatest achievements. So lucky.

You are wherever you are, and I am so proud that you are there. You are a fine Navy Chief, one of the best, and I hold my head high today because the man I married serves this country so proudly.

You are wherever you, and I am holding down the fort as always. Checking homework. Kissing boo-boos. Folding laundry (occasionally). I’ll keep things going, keep that ball rolling until you get home to push it with me.

You are wherever you are, and I wonder what that’s like. Alone today is tough for me here, but I can’t imagine it there. All alone in a crowd of sailors. Will you skip our day all together? Pretend it’s another day. Will you think of me when you drift off to sleep?

You are wherever you, and I can only dream of celebrating. If you were here, would we have dinner somewhere special? Would we sneak away for the weekend? Would we finally renew our vows as we have planned and waited for so many years.

You are wherever you are, and I miss you so completely. When you’re gone, I am half. I don’t breathe as well. My heart feels missing. On bad days I have no one to console me, and on good days, I have no one to share news with, and on everyday I drift off to sleep sleep hugging your pillow and praying for your safe return.

You are wherever are, but wherever that is, I know that you are loving me, and I am loving you as always. Since Orlando, since St. Marys, since long before May 22, 2000, and for so many years to come.

Dear Josh, I love you so much wherever you are.

sailorandme

To my best friend. The naysayers said we’d never make it five years. Let’s make it fifty just to piss ’em off. I love you so very much more than the world could ever know.
xoxo, Me

 

Deployment, navy spouse

I LOVE and HATE Boat Email

I have a love-hate relationship with email on the boat.

I love that we have SOME means of communication while the boat is deployed. I love the very idea that technology allows me send love and encouragement and random daily updates to the bottom of the sea. I love that it also allows my sailor to send that same love and encouragement and random “I only got 3 hours of sleep last night” emails back to me. Thanks for sending that one again, babe.

But the list of things I hate about boat email is long.

I LOVE and HATE Boat Email

I hate that I never know if he’s getting ALL of my emails until he doesn’t get one.

I number them in the subject line so he can tell, but I never know until he says, “I think I may have missed #8 because #9 made no sense at all.” Meanwhile I’ve just written #14. 

I hate that for weeks during every patrol communication is completely one-sided.

It feels like I’m talking into a void. Not to myself exactly, but to someone and no one at the same time because I never know if he’s getting them, and he can’t even tell me if he’s not. Even though I’m pretty sure he gets them and even though I know how much each one means to him, it’s hard, and I hate it. And sometimes I just don’t.

I hate how during those quiet periods my mind plays tricks on me.

Why isn’t he writing? Why haven’t I heard from him? Is he okay? Is he mad at me? Did he not catch the snark in my last email and think I was serious? Rationally I know what’s going on. Rationally I understand the mission. Rational is an abstract term when you haven’t seen or even heard from the other half of your heart in weeks or months.

I hate that emotion is impossible read in an email.

What did he mean by that? Was he being rude or funny? Is he just tired or is he really that down? Is he really having a good patrol and getting things done, or is he just putting on a brave face? It sucks. My guy isn’t exactly a poet. He tries, but sometimes I’m just not sure how to take his emails. And it works both ways. I’m a writer and still sometimes I can’t get it across just right.

I hate when a fellow boat spouse posts to Facebook …

My Love-Hate Relationship With Boat Email2

Because I didn’t get email that day. And because I know I’m not the only one reading that feeling happy for her and sad and lonely for me. And to be honest maybe not as happy for her as I should be because dammit I WANT AN EMAIL, TOO!!!

I hate when I do get email, and I’m so happy I want to shout it out to the world! But I can’t …

Because it’s one of this OPSEC/PERSEC things and even more so because I know how it feels to be the one who didn’t get email. Instead I’ll just read it to myself, to the kids, over and over. Maybe I’ll print it, too, so I have something I can hold. Maybe, if I’m being honest, I’ll sleep with it under my pillow and carry it in my purse for a while.

Don’t get me wrong. I am so thankful for every email I get. I remember the days of honeygrams. I remember cramming 40 or 50 little squares with all the words I could squeeze just to ultimately say “I love you. I miss you. I’m okay. Come home soon!”. I remember spacing them out so he’d get one every other week and have something to look forward to, and I remember sharing them with his mom so she could send her love, too, and hating that I had to share my precious 50 squares with someone else, anyone else.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this. I love that we even have email, but I hate that for months that’s all that we have …