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.

 

navy spouse

There is No Right Way to Feel

Last week I read a blog post that tugged at my heart strings. It was this piece, An Open Letter to My Husband, by Keating at High Heels and Combat Boots, and as always I was struck by her heartbreaking honesty. It also touched me because I have heard her words from so many other military spouses so many … too many times before.

“I’m a lousy military wife and for that, I’m sorry.”

She went on to share that’s she’s a lousy military wife because she can’t handle good-byes and separations and because she hates having no control over her own life, and when I read her words, I wanted nothing more than to reach through the computer screen and wrap her up in a hug. I wanted to tell her that those feelings are so normal, that we all feel that way sometimes, and that she isn’t alone in feeling like a lousy military wife because of them.

I started to comment that I hear those same words all too often from Navy spouses in Compass class, and I started to tell her all the things I tell all those spouses who for some insane reason feel like they have to suck it up, ignore their emotions, and put on a stiff upper lip in order to be a “good military spouse.” I started to share all of that with her, but I decided instead to share it with all of YOU, every military spouse who has other felt lousy because the latest hurdle the military put before you was hard and you weren’t feeling “like you should.” Spouses, hear me now. There is no right way to feel.

There is no "right" way to feel about deployment or orders or anything the military throws your way.

I want you to know that your feelings are okay.

If you feel lonely because he’s gone, that’s okay. If you feel mad at the Navy for a crappy set of orders, that’s okay.  If you are angry with the command because your sailor or soldier won’t be there for the birth of your first (or second or third) baby, that’s okay! Military spouses get put into crappy situations all the time, and NO ONE can tell you how you “should” feel about it.

So feel your emotions.

You’re sad. You’re mad. You’re lonely. Take some time to feel it. You have every right to wallow a bit. Treat yourself to a “yoga pants day.” When I’m in those moments, so sad and angry I can’t function, all I want is to wear my comfy yoga pants, eat some Doritos and beef jerky, and watch a marathon of sad movies all day long. And so I do just that, and that’s okay.

Whatever you need to do to let those emotions out, do it. Will you take a yoga pants day? Will you go knock yourself out in the gym? Will you call on all your best friends for a girls night out to forget it all for just one moment? That’s okay.

[Tweet “Feeling our emotions completely is the first step to making the best of a tough situation.”]

So you have emotions, and you’ve felt them, now what?

This is the tough part, the defining moment. How DO you get through? If you’re sad and lonely because he’s deployed, is it okay to bury yourself in your room for the entire deployment? I guess you could, but would it make you feel better? If you’re angry because he’s missing your child’s birth, should you rail about it for months to anyone who will listen? Sure, free speech and all, but will doing that change his deployment schedule?

Now that you’ve let all those emotions out, it’s time to come up with a plan. Now is when you choose your behavior and ultimately your outcome.

Will you sailor come home to a lovesick spouse who barely survived deployment, or will he come home to a strong woman who thrived, who took charge of her situation and made the very best of it?

Will your spouse miss that birth and regret forever a decision that was not his to make, or will you research other avenues like Skype or Facetime during the birth or a photographer or videographer in the delivery room?

You get to choose if you let circumstances beat you, or if you will rise above and make the circumstances work for you. You may not be in charge of a deployment schedule or orders or a host of other really tough situations you WILL be faced with as a military spouse, but you are in charge of how you get through. It’s THAT choice, that decision to rise above and to thrive no matter what they throw at you, that is, in my opinion, exactly what will define what “kind” of military spouse you will be.

I love a good “rise above” story. Please share in the comments about that time you made a choice to rise above and make a tough military situation work for YOU!

Other posts you might enjoy …

My Deployment Wall
I Freaking Miss My Husband
Tips for Surviving the First Day of Deployment

 

 

Deployment, Navy Life 101, navy spouse

12 Must-Know Questions to Ask Before He Deploys

Deployments are scary and stressful for a number of reasons, but one of the worst for me is fear of the unknown. What’s going on? Am I prepared? What am I supposed to do if something bad happens? A milspouse needs to be prepared for anything while her sailor is deployed, and the first place you can go for info is your sailor! Here are my 12 MUST KNOW Questions to Ask Before He Deploys.

12 MUST KNOW Questions to Ask BEFORE He Deploys: Get in the know before it's too late! FREE PRINTABLE!

What’s his rate/rank?

It may sound silly, but this is good info. I once got a call from a young spouse shortly after a mail drop was announced. I get these calls a lot. Can I send this or that? Is there a specific place to drop my package off? Can I get one extra hour on the deadline? All completely normal questions. Her question?

“The phone tree caller said to write my sailor’s rate/rank and last name on the ziploc bag … what if I don’t know his rate or rank?”

Talk to your sailor and find this out. While you’re at it, ask him about his job! What do you do everyday at sea? Is that need-to-know? No, but it’s nice to ask! The more you know, right?

What’s HIS social security number?

Trust me. Your sailor’s digits are more important than yours most of the time. You’ll need to know his social security number to make appointments, pick up prescriptions, to speak to PSD, and a host of other times. After nearly twenty years with my sailor, I get a little tripped up when someone asks for MY social security number!

What do I need to know about the command?

What the official name of the command? What is a contact number, and to whom would I be speaking if I called? If I have an emergency, who should I ask for? This is a better-safe-than-sorry question. You may never need this, but why take the chance of needing info you could have easily gotten from your sailor.

How will you communicate while he’s gone?

What’s his at sea email address? (It’s different than his navy.mil address!) Will boat email work like normal email works? (NO!) Will their be mail drops or opportunities to send care packages? How will you know about them? Speaking of which …

What the heck is a phone tree, and am I on it?

The phone tree is THE WAY to get special information while the boat is gone, and the only way to get on it is through your sailor! When your Ombudsman receives a message that needs to go out to the families, a system of volunteer phone tree callers is activated to get you that message in a timely and efficient fashion, BUT if your sailor doesn’t add your name and your CORRECT contact information to the phone tree, we may not be able to contact you.

What can you tell me about patrol?

Clearly mission information is classified, and as families we are not in the “need-to-know” category. It is nice to know some general things though. Is there a general time frame of when the boat is leaving and coming home, like this month to that month? Will the boat be alert for longer than normal? (Don’t know what “alert” means? You REALLY need to ask your sailor about this!) Even if your sailor can’t share specific details with you, it’s good to have a general idea of what’s going on!

Classified? What’s that? What are OPSEC and PERSEC?

According to www.dodea.com, OPSEC (Operations Security) is the process by which we protect unclassified information that can be used against us. PERSEC (Personal Security) means keeping your own private information secure. Ask your sailor (or your Ombudsman) for more specific information about what you can or cannot share. My rule of thumb? When in doubt, don’t share it! If you have to ask if it’s okay, it probably isn’t. The less information available to the bad guys, the better, right?

Who do I call if …?

There are lots of resources for military spouses. All you have to do is make the call and ask for help, but that’s tough if you don’t know who to call, right? First and foremost, find out the name and contact info of your Ombudsman. He or she will be able to point you towards a lot of good resources. It’s also a really good idea though to ask your sailor about Fleet and Family, Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, MWR, etc. Find out what’s available to YOU!

If something bad happens, what do you want to know? How can I tell you when you’re gone?

Sigh … bad stuff happens to all of us, but send a sailor away for a patrol, and it seems like the WORST stuff happens. A death in the family, a terrible car accident, an unexpected diagnosis. Would he want to know if there was no chance of coming home? This is a tough but important conversation. While you’re at it, talk to your sailor about how that call might look. Do you know how to send a Red Cross message? Should you go to the Command or the Ombudsman first? Find out the appropriate protocol.

Who do I call when this breaks?

Because according to SubSpouse Law, as soon as your sailor leaves, everything begins to make funny noises and fall apart. Make a list of mechanics, handymen, plumbers, etc that you and your sailor trust along with their contact info. Keep it somewhere you’ll remember during a household emergency. Also, if your sailor is the handyman in the house, ask him to teach you a few tricks before he goes! You can do it! #milspousesrock

Is my name on all the right accounts in all the right ways?

You need to be able to call companies, banks, etc in the event of billing or pay issues, but if everything is in your sailor’s name only, they may not even speak to you. I’ve seen a situation when a spouse could not even make an extra payment on a loan over the phone because the account wasn’t in her name. Make sure you have access to anything and everything you’re supposed to be managing while he’s away.

Do I need a POA?

In my opinion, the answer is YES. A POA, or Power of Attorney, gives you the legal right to take care of specific situations in your sailor’s stead while he’s away, and there are lots of different things you might need it for. I personally have about five POAs, including one that allows me to obtain a new military ID card if I lose mine. Without this, getting a new card can be a nightmare (if not impossible), and if you live on base … Yeah. Check into all the POAs that are available to you and your sailor!

A few tips …

  • Check out this 12 Questions printable to make sure you’re getting all these questions answered. Man, I love a good checklist!
  • Attend your command’s Pre-Patrol Briefing! You will get lots of great information there and likely meet and hear from Command Leadership, the Ombudsman, the FRG, and many others!
  • Click here for My Deployment Binder! Another great free printable that will help you get ready for your next deployment!
  • Enroll in a Compass class! I am a HUGE fan of Compass, and I honestly believe every Navy Spouse should take the class at least once! No matter where you are in your military life, newbie or haven’t-been-new-in-a-while, you WILL learn a lot and meet some great folks!

I know this is a lot of information to throw at you, but it’s soooo important! You NEED to prepare as best your can BEFORE your sailor is off on another patrol so ask these questions TODAY! 

Deployment, Navy Life 101

Deployment Survival Tip: Volunteer

Deployment is difficult. Missing your sailor. Solo parenting. Taking all the weight of the world on your own slim shoulders. It’s tough. I know. I’ve been there. But there are ways to survive and even thrive through a deployment, and one of my best Deployment Survival Tips is Volunteering.

The best way to get out of your deployment funk is to help someone else!

There are lots of things we can do for ourselves during deployment. Eat healthy and exercise. Ask for help. Lean on your support network. These are all great and really important, but sometimes it helps to look outside of yourself and help someone else. It gets your mind off your own problems. It allows you to add something positive to the world, and it just plain feels good to do something good! Here are a five ideas to thrive by volunteering during deployment.

{ONE} Clean out your pantry and make a donation to your local food pantry. I’m sure there are at least ten items in your pantry that you’re not going to eat or just don’t need. Look there in the back. A few cans of beans. A couple cans of tuna. Bag ’em up and give them to someone who needs them!

{TWO} Make and deliver meals for new mamas. I don’t know what it’s like at your command, but at mine (the current one and every other one EVER) there are always lots of new babies. New mamas have plenty to worry about, and sometimes preparing their own healthy meals slides to the bottom of the priority list. Help them out by preparing a few extra servings of whatever your feeding your brood and taking one more worry off their list!

{THREE} Volunteer with your FRG. Okay, raise your hand if you just rolled your eyes. Yeah, probably a lot of you, but hear me out. You don’t have to jump right into a board position or offer yourself up to chair every halfway night from here to eternity. Are you on Facebook a lot? Maybe you could help out with your FRG’s social media. Are you craft crazy? Offer to create the perfect craft for the next kids’ party. Perhaps you’d just like to gather up a few interested spouses for a coffee date … with NO kids? Volunteering with your FRG is a great way to meet new people, help out, and help you stay connected with the command when your spouse is away.

{FOUR} BE the support in your support network. Surprise a friend with a pizza. Make some “hey, are you okay?” phone calls. Plan a girls night. Offer to babysit. Choose something you wish someone would do for you and give that to someone else. It may take a little work on your part, but the payoff will make it worthwhile.

{FIVE} Volunteer anywhereWalk dogs at the Humane Society. Deliver meals to shut-ins. Serve up soup at the Salvation Army. It doesn’t really so much where you are volunteering as it matters that you are giving of yourself!

The quickest way for me to get out of a Deployment Pity Party is make myself face the fact that even though I miss my sailor, things could be worse. I have a warm home, three healthy children, food on the table, and stability in my life. Others … do not, and I also have the ability to help make a change for them. Doing just that helps me feel better no matter how deep my deployment funk is!

Deployment, navy spouse

Encouragement: You Can DO This!

Encouragement for military spouses facing deployment.

You know it’s coming ’round again. Deployment is looming. Here come the long months … of being lonely, of being alone, of being on. your. own.

But I want to tell you something you.

You can do this. No, really.  You can DO this!

Start your planning now. Get your Deployment Binder together. Fill it up with everything you could possible need while he’s away. Make your contacts. Call your Ombudsman. Put your friends on notice. The time is coming; I will need you.

Take care of him. He needs you, too. Make the Halfway Box; buy the shampoo and bodywash. Write the love letters and the love letters and the love letters. There will be days when those notes in your hand writing are what see him through. Your love on soft pink pieces of stationary.

Adjust your expectations now. Know that he has to work. Know that he is tired. Know that he still loves you more than anything else in the world, but he has a job that isn’t a 9 to 5. He is a sailor. He serves in the United States Navy, and his life is committed thusly. Be honest. That level of devotion is at least a small part of the reason you fell in love so hard to begin with.

Don’t forget the little things. Hold hands; snuggle when you can. Take last night photos. Say I love you. Argue. Make-up. Argue again just so you CAN make-up. Let him know you can manage this. Let him know you got this.  All those little things … they add up to the best things.

Yes, you can do this. It is a hard life. It is painful, but it is ours. There is a certain beauty in that spouse. Left back home, shouldering the responsibilities, head held high, dreaming of the day when that sailor comes back home.

You can do this.

But when times get tough. When the days get long, longer, loneliest … just remember you are only one of a very strong breed, the military spouse. You can do this because we can all do this … together.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It’s DEPLOYMENT PREP WEEK! If you just joined us, check out our earlier posts, too! Don’t forget to click subscribe to receive these updates in your email! Tomorrow I’ll be back with a GREAT Pre-Deployment Bucket List!

My Deployment Binder

My Favorite Halfway Boxes Round-Up!

Pre-Deployment: Expectations and Reality

Pre-Deployment Bucket List: FREE PRINTABLE

deployment-prep-week

 

Deployment

My Favorite Halfway Boxes Round-Up!

It’s Day 2 of Deployment Prep Week, and today we’re talking Halfway Boxes!

ONE DOZEN of the best Halfway boxes I've EVER seen with links to the original crafter!


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So what is a Halfway Box? For us Navy gals, it a shoe box or mailer filled to the brim with letters, photos, and all kinds of goodies for our sailors to open at the midway or halfway point of a patrol. I like to think of it as on part reward for working so hard and one part “hey, remember me?” My halfway boxes are usually pretty simple. Plain box, snacks and hard candies, letters, photos, and maybe a video message from the kids and me. Nothing fancy.

But some people take Halfway Boxes to a whole new level! Click the links below each 4×4 to check out their AWESOME creativity and give them some comment love!

{FUNNY BOXES}

These boxes made me giggle at first sight! My sailor likes his plain and simple (lucky for me!), but if I was going to give it a go, I think I’d love something like these!

funny-halfway-boxes

I Love You Like … {no link found 😦 … let me know if it’s yours!}

Ohhh! Halfway There! {by Jo @ www.Jo, My Gosh!}

Wish YOU Were HERE {by Emily @ The Rich Life} (Scroll down! There are lots here, but this is my favorite!)

Balloon Pop {by Katherine @ Katherine Marie}

{ROMANTIC BOXES}

These boxes are just crazy sweet! I bet you can just feel the love pouring out when you open it! ❤

romantic-halfway-boxes

Anniversary {by Nikki97 @ militarysos.com/forums}

ChocoLOT {by Jo @ www.jomygosh.com}

FALL-ing in Love {no link 😦 … let me know if it’s yours!}

Rise and Shine {Patricia via Singing Through the Rain}

{HOLIDAY BOXES}

Sigh … the holidays. In our world, we spend a lot of them far apart, but a great holiday halfway box can send a little bit of home (and a lotta love) to wherever your sailor may be!

holiday-halfway-boxes

Valentines {by Kathryn @ Singing Through the Rain}

Halloween {by Alex @ www.munchkinsandmilitary.com}

Thanksgiving {by Jordyn @ jordyn33.tumbler.com}

Christmas {by Johnnie & Angela @ johnnieandangela.blogspot.com}

How do they do it? I have no idea! Seriously, if you saw my own halfway box creations you’d either think, “This chick sure knows how to cram some crap in a box!” or “She’s not even TRYING anymore, is she?” But since we’re going link crazy today, here are a few more with great ideas for halfway boxes.

How to Wrap the Inside of a Box – Jo, My Gosh

I Miss You a Shit Ton – JulieAnnArt (Etsy)

What to Pack in Care packages for Deployed Troops – A Semi-Delicate Balance

Come to think of it … we have a pretty special patrol coming up (last on this boat! knock on wood!). Maybe I should go buy some construction paper NOW!

I have dozens more GREAT halfway boxes pinned here so check them out if you need a little inspiration! If you’ve already created a masterpiece, I’d love to see it! Follow me on Facebook to share your creation!

If you’re just tuning in to DEPLOYMENT PREP WEEK, make sure to check out My Deployment Binder before you go, and come back tomorrow for Deployment Expectations and Reality.

deployment-prep-week