Oct 24, 2016

I had a blanket for a good chunk of my childhood years.
I can't even picture it now, but I know I had one, I loved it and made sure it was with me in case of spontaneous naps or sleepovers.
Maybe I can't remember what it looked like because of that dreadful day that my family went camping at Bodega Bay.
Why does getting to the beach in Northern California require such winding roads?
I think thats where my blanket's demise began, on a highway to Bodega Bay.
For some reason I was riding with my Uncle and Aunt in their van.  Not like a cool mini-van, but one of those cargo types that are often spoken of in child abduction or murder cases.  How fitting my blankie's death was set into motion in a murder van.
So I had my blanket with me in the van, the road was winding, I puked on my blanket.  Typing this now just sounds ridiculous.  Did I really puke on my blanket?
We arrived at the campground and my vomit blanket was sequestered outside in a bag.  The plan was to wash it out when we got home or something.  Unfortunately, after my uncle and grandpa had gone clam digging one morning they saw fit to put their shovels and other clam digging stuff on or maybe in the bag of my vomit blanket.
As if a weekend of sitting in vomit wasn't already enough, the clams took the blanket over the edge that my mom wasn't going for.  My dad carried me (maybe that didn't happen for real but that's how I remember it) to a dumpster and we deposited the vomit/clam gut blanket.  I think there was a speech but I'm not sure.  That's the last I saw of my blankie.

Maybe it was the trauma of losing my beloved blanket or just the fact that cuddly blankets are awesome that blankets hold a special place in my life.  I have blankets all over the house piled in a basket, stuffed in an ottoman, or layer over the back of the couch.  And my family has also become big blankie cuddlers.  From the moment the boys were born to this day, they have always enjoyed snuggling a special blanket.  Gabe has 3 of varying sizes and purposes, Eli has an oversized twin blanket that he hauls all over the house.  Its what we do, we curl up in blankets.  We may even keep the house a little cooler just so we can still snuggle up.

The thought of taking a nap, going on a long car ride or even laying on the couch watching TV without a blanket is just unimaginable to me.  So, imagine my horror when I found my dear friend in the hospital without one.  About two weeks ago I went to the hospital to visit a friend who has been in an out of the hospital for over a month now and was transferred up to Seattle for specialized care.  I walked in to the dark room and was shocked that she was laying there in that hospital bed with no blanket!  And she had been there for 4 days.  One day, understandable, nobody had a chance yet to go home and get a blanket, but 4.  Its a crime.  She had the sandpaper hospital sheets covering her and probably one of those itchy waffle hospital blankets but NO COZY blanket.  I remember being so confused as to how someone could be in the hospital without a blankie to cuddle with.  Was her family trying to torture her?  I contemplated rushing to my local Target to pick her up something but I didn't have time to go and come back before visiting hours were over!  That night I prayed that someone in her family who was visiting the next day would remember a blanket!

Over the years I have probably purchased friends and family a few dozen blankets.  Christmas decorated blankets, cozy blankets when a friend was going to be on bed rest for a few weeks, baby blankets, you name it. I've also received some awesome blankets.  I have one that my mom and sister made for Matt and I for our 5 year anniversary, the boys have had many quilts and blankets made for them, and most recently my friend crocheted me an adult size cozy baby blanket that weighs about 20 pounds of awesome.  Apparently its an obsession of mine.

I can't put my finger on it, I don't know why, but I clearly have put more meaning into a blanket that merely warmth.

On that day that my grandma died, we saw that her time was getting close to the end.  She was laying on the bed covered with a sheet.  It was August in California after all, there isn't much need for a blanket.  I had been fine with the sheet for weeks as she was laying in her bed, but suddenly I had an overwhelming desire to cover her in a cozy blanket.  I looked to my Aunt and suggested we get grandma a blanket, and my aunt very sweetly was trying to tell me she didn't need it.  My argument was simply "but she's dying, she needs a cozy blanket".  My mom gave my Aunt a look that said "my daughter is crazy just go with it" and my aunt fetched a blanket for me to lay over my dying grandma.
I suppose she didn't really need that blanket, maybe it was just one more thing for us to wash in then end, but I needed her to have that blanket.

So I really just want to make it very clear that if I am ever in the hospital someone better make sure that I have a nice cuddley blanket there because one cannot truly heal without it.  And if I am dying, on the side of the rode or in my own bed or anywhere where a blanket can be put on me, someone better darn well grab a blanket and cover me up.

Oct 21, 2016

Today was a very rough one for my boys.
It is hard as a mom to look into the face of your children and see them challenged, in pain, or hurting.
And today was one of those days where I was forced to look into their dark eyes that filled with pain and suffering and screaming of injustice.
Truly hard.

Gabe woke up, went to school, came home, showered and was in a jammie onesie watching tv curled up with a blanket by 3pm.  
How horrible is a life when you are snuggled up by 3pm with no cares in the world?
I asked him to vacuum the stairs, all 16 of them.
The strength it required to pull himself up from the couch and his tv show, was almost unbearable to witness.  
And the stairs, those treacherous stairs that were covered in the dirt from HIS shoes that he chose to wear in the house even though we have a no shoes in the house rule.
The crying, whining and pain that was in his eyes left me speechless.
Oh what a difficult life.

Equally pained today was Eli.
Same start...school, then workout at the gym, home, shower, jammies by 4:15.
He too was snuggled up on a different couch, in front of a different tv (wouldn't want to have to share or agree on a show) with a pillow and blanket just suffering through a Friday.
Then his day came crashing in on him when I asked him to help move the couch 10 feet away so I could vacuum under it.
He actually said "I just got home and now I have to move the couch".

Oh the woes of two boys who tragically had to endure vacuuming the stairs and moving a couch.  Life is so unfair.

At this moment today I'm confident these little boys would crumble under the weight of real adversity. 
I resisted the urge to smack them with a firm dose of reality and instead rolled my eyes and prayed "Lord, open their little eyes so they can see how completely ridiculous they are and maybe God, if you are feeling it,  give them a nice sharp pain in the gut, maybe one that brings them to their knees in pain for just one minute or maybe two so they can see what real adversity is"

Their complaints were so ridiculous I didn't even have the urge to argue with them or explain how completely stupid their whining was, I just looked at those rascals and said "dinner is on your own tonight, I'm meeting your dad in town and we're going on a date". 

Mama, out.


Oct 8, 2016

Advice for New Military Wives

Over the past few years my path has crossed with a number of women who were engaged or newly married to a service-member.  I listen intently to their excitement and concerns, and try desperately to keep the thoughts that race through my head from coming out of my mouth.  It is rare that someone actually wants to hear "you need to" and "you have to" in a long list of unsolicited advice, so I try my best to wait until the door opens to share the lessons I have learned after serving for 20 years as an Army wife.

Sometimes I go through a mental list of things I want to tell these new spouses if I have the opportunity.  Today, I decided to write them down here so I can remember when/if I have a chance to bestow my wisdom upon a newly minted military wife.

1.  Not Home Sweet Home.
You will not like everywhere you live but it is your role as a military wife to make it your new home.
Start with making your house a home, a place that feels warm and inviting even if the street you live on or town you live in is just the opposite.  Then find little gems in your area.  Beautiful parks, beaches, walks, coffee shops, pubs...whatever.  And when you live in the worse place ever that truly doesn't have any redeeming qualities within the city limits...GET OUT!  I'm not talking about requesting a change of station, I'm talking about day trips out of town.  Even in the worse places that I have lived, there was some place worth going within 2 hours away.
Don't complain about where you live, complaining is poison to your own mind and to others.  I'm not saying you should pretend you like it, but just don't dwell on it.  Frustration and anger over your duty station will put up road blocks for your ability to find joy in the place you have been planted.
Your husband has a great desire to see that smile on your face, for you to be happy with where he has moved your family.  Even if it really isn't his choice, it is on his shoulders.  I have witnessed first hand the stress and frustration of a soldier who felt that he had failed his wife because the Army chose to station them somewhere that she wasn't happy with.  This is completely unfair and you should honor your husband and his service by making the best of where you live.
You never know the place might just surprise you.  And if you live it well, you will cry when you leave it.

2.  Going Home.
In a manner you have two homes.  Your home is equally where you currently reside and where you came from.  Sometimes things will get tough and you will want to go back to the home you started from.  That's ok, but it will not always be practical to do so and in today's times of deployments and training schedules at some point you are going to have to toughen up and figure out how to stay.  You are no longer a child in your parent's house, you have a home of your own and have to learn to weather the storms there.  Sometimes going home offers a refreshing re-connection with family at the same time as disconnecting you from your current life.  Consider how your husband feels when you run home instead of running to him.

2.  Embrace your military life.
You chose this man knowing he was in the military or maybe choosing together for him to join, so you must love him quite a bit.  No good will come from pushing back against the military lifestyle.  Bring it in, learn the customs, meet the people, spend time trying to understand the acronyms and intricacies of your husband's job.  Sometimes people ignore the thing they hate as some type of a defense mechanisms.  That may work for a minute or two, but it will not serve you well.  I'm not suggesting that you join all the clubs, but it is wise to become a student of your spouse's branch of service.  PCS's can be fun.  It is sad to leave the place you have come to call home but there is so much excitement in moving.  Look ahead at all the great things about the new place, join online communities in the new place to get ideas about where to live and shop and play.

3.  Yes, he will miss the big events.
I was speaking to a new Army wife a few months ago and she said "my biggest fear is that he will miss important events like holidays and birthdays".  I couldn't hold my tongue, I blurted out "oh he will, he most definitely will".  He may even miss births, deaths, family vacations... He will definitely miss the appliances breaking, the car battery dying, the tornado passing through town, medical tests and diagnosis.  He'll miss the day you thought you just simply couldn't do it for one more moment.  He'll miss the time you literally crumbled on to the floor in despair and the day you found out you were going to be an Aunty.  He will miss it.  You will survive.  You should do your best to just make the best of it.  My sister in law was without family or close friends on one Christmas morning while her husband was deployed.  She charged up her iPad and FaceTimed her husband as she opened all the gifts for both herself and him.  She said it was actually a very good Christmas considering her husband was fighting a war in Afghanistan.  It can be done.  You can still have joy in the holidays and celebrations without your husband, if you choose to find that joy.

4.  Tear Down the Wall.
You might think all of your good friends, your real friends are back "home".  If you subscribe to that, you will miss some of the greatest blessings.  When I first got married I remembered being sad that I wouldn't ever go to a wedding or baby shower again because surely I wouldn't know anyone well enough or care about anyone enough to do those things.  I was so wrong.  I met my very best friend in a town I hated, in a land far away from home.  A few months after I met her I was at her wedding and a few years later I was also there for the birth of her daughter.  I've traveled thousands of miles to meet up with friends I have gathered along the journey.  And I've had friends travel thousands of miles to meet up with me.
Maybe you can do this alone, you don't need the fellow wives around you but why would you want to?  Ask for help, the person who gives it may need a hand later and you can return the favor.  Find a community.  A mom's group, bible study, a job, a volunteer opportunity.  Find your people and be open to them finding you.  Let women who have a little more experience in the military life speak into your life.
I can't count the lessons I have learned from the many many women who have shared their lessons learned with me.  From prepping for packers to working the different systems of the Army.  Someone has likely gone down that road and it is awesome to learn from others' mistakes or sucesses..

5.  You Serve.
I was speaking to a young college student last week about Army life.  She was talking about all the glamorous things that the Army brings...travel, the man in uniform, adventure... I was quick to warn her that being a military wife is so much more.

As a military wife you have a different uniform, but you are serving right beside your spouse.  Think of it like this, there are a ton of shiny ribbons on your husband's dress uniform.  He earned them.   He worked his way up in rank, completed the school, deployed  to the war zone,  and served in a manner that earned him awards.  If you fold back the uniform and look behind all those awards and ribbons, you'll find a bunch of gold and silver clasps. Army wife, Navy wife, Marine wife, Air Force wife, YOU are the pin that holds that medal to the uniform.  You are the one that holds the family together.  You are the reason he can go and do his job without worrying about what kind of mayhem is underway at home because you have the important job of keeping things together.  This is not a job to enter into lightly.  It is hard.  It is lonely.  It seems thankless.  It will wear you down.  But you can and you should do it well.

At the end of our Army journey Matt stood before the crowd of 50 people who came to honor him in his retirement and spoke these words: 
"As I tested the open sky and cloudy days, as I traveled the globe, on days I was lonely, sad or nervously awaiting the take-off, through the pain of loss and the happiness of life, smiling in the sun and splashing in the waves of love, Clarissa has carried me through it all..she was my PAR (pilot speak for Precision Approach Radar) when I needed guidance, she supported me in all endeavors, dragged my butt to more countries than I can count.  And I wouldn't have wanted to take with journey with anyone else.  It is not only me that is retiring, it us the both of us.."

Matt knew that I loved the life he was providing for our family, I made a home wherever we lived, that I could weather the storm while he was gone, and he could count on me standing firm in my faith, in my love for him, and in our commitment to service of this country and because he knew that of me, he could serve well.

I write this not to brag about how well I may have taken the journey of the military life, I write this because I want new spouses understand how vital the role of a military spouse is in the success of the soldier's life and career.