Still First

Twenty-five years.  I can’t even begin to wrap my head around it.  Even after celebrating your 25 years as an active-duty soldier, the idea that we have now been married for that amount of time still boggles my mind.

Two and a half decades.  DECADES!!

Amazing, huh?

We were so damned young. On the surface of it, we really had very little going for us – neither of us had any education past high school, neither of us had spent any time living on our own.  You were a baby Private First Class in the Army, and I had a scholarship at the University.  We had potential; oh, we had such great potential.  But it was feared our plans to get married would derail a lot of that potential.

That’s what we were told.

The simultaneous facts that I was newly pregnant with Big G (surprise!) and that we hadn’t talked to our parents at length about how serious we were in our relationship probably did not help matters.

We were told by some that we wouldn’t last five years.  Some thought I would never finish school.  Some figured we would be destitute and miserable.

But you know what?  We weren’t. We aren’t.

My G, you’re still first.

All these years later, you’re still the first I want to laugh with. When I see something funny at a store, or I come across a hilarious bumper sticker on the road – you are the first one I want to tell.  I sometimes can’t wait to share the laughter with you.

You’re still the first I need to hurt with.  When our girls have gone through struggles of their own, you are the one I turn to for help.  I know you will understand that my mother’s heart is hurting, and you offer a shoulder even as your father’s heart aches too.  When the Army has offered us another “challenge,” I’ve known I could turn to you.  I know I can lean into your warmth, grow stronger, and then we can forge ahead together.  If work or friendships or other situations go sour, I know I can turn to you.  Even when you’ve been 7,000 miles away – you’ve been the first.

You’re the first I need to rejoice with, too.  When I got that interview for a dream job, or something went fabulously, ridiculously well, you’re there to share the joy. I know you feel gladness simply because I am rejoicing.  Your eyes sparkle and your smile welcomes me to share.

You’re the first I need to help me decide.  When there are big decisions about work, or family, or future, I turn to you to help bounce the ideas around.  You don’t just say what I want to hear; sometimes, in fact, you say exactly what I do not want to hear.  You say what’s real.

More than twenty-five years ago, we saw potential in each other.  We looked at our friendship, felt a spark flare up, and thought “Yeah, we can make it work.”  We wanted what was best for each other, and decided we would put each other first.

Twenty-five years ago this month, we committed to each other first.  First before friends, first before family, and quite often, first before self.

Here’s to 25 more years of “firsts”.

 

First

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This Too Shall Pass

 

The other day, I thought to myself, “This too shall pass.” But not for the reasons you might be thinking. At that precise moment, I was walking with two coworkers and we were laughing after a terrific day of teamwork and humor. We had been swamped with clients but we all pitched in and the day ended up on a wonderful high note.

We remind ourselves that hard times are temporary –

Bad day at work?
Deployment?
Hangnail?

This too shall pass.

There’s a flip side to it, however, that we sometimes lose in the day to day. Good times will pass also.

Great day with your kids?
Relationship hitting all the right notes?
Hair looks amazing?

This too shall pass.

We are told in the book of Peter that we shouldn’t “think it strange” when we are in fiery troubles, and there is great peace in remembering that the fire shall pass. But we are also told, in James, not to boast about tomorrow because the plans are not ours, but God’s.

When things are good, sometimes we forget to be thankful. We forget to take a moment and soak in the moments of joy, focusing on the well-being. We forget, until the hard times come and we have to shore up against them.

This was made abundantly clear to me over the last month or so. At work, things had been really rocky. There were some relationship issues and some other factors that made daily work very difficult. During that time, I relied on God to change things – I knew something had to give, and the difficulties wouldn’t last forever. As I told a coworker, “Something has to give.”

Something changed. Our team realigned and the difficulties were resolved. There is a lot of laughter in our group again, and we are able to provide much better service to our clients. At the same time this changed at work, things at home were really positive and happy as well.

This too shall pass, right?

Fast forward to today – work is still amazing. Home life is in a happy rhythm only slightly broken by the welcome visit by The Folks.

But my mom is in the hospital. A thousand miles from here. I believe she is getting terrific care, and I will go to her when she is ready for my help, but she is sick and I worry for her. I find myself distracted and somewhat exhausted, wondering when I should go, how I can help, and dealing with logistical details so she doesn’t have to worry about them.
And then a quiet voice reminds me, as it did during the happy laughter last week –

This too shall pass.

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(P.S.) – This did pass.  My mom is back at her house, with appropriate meds and home health care available.  And all I can do is smile.

 

Signing Out

Signing out

Yeah, that’s it.  The little thing he signed before they gave him his DD214.  The DD214 is the form that tells the entire story of his military career – and shows that the career has come to an end.

25 years and 12 days, it says.  It says he was out of the country for more than 4 years total, but it doesn’t count up all of the NTC trips, or gunneries, school, or TDY (temporary duty).  I’d say it was a good career, and certainly longer than most, and I am so, so incredibly proud of him.

Next to our marriage license and our babies’ birth certificates, this is the most momentous signature I’ve ever seen him make.  And it made me smile. And pause.

No longer a soldier, and now a vet, he takes off the uniform and puts it away today. The boots will be relegated to yard work, and I know at least one pair of the uniform pants will become a set of yard shorts.  But that’s just a costume. What happens inside when the identity of a job is changed?

No longer a military spouse, now I’m the wife of a vet.  And I started thinking a moment about the first step I made towards being a military dependent, at the ID card center at Fort Riley.  He was so serious, so proper as we waited.  There were other families with infants and small children, and there we were.  I already had some idea what I was in for, since he’d had to go to the field so soon after we got married that it took 2 months for us to live together once we said “I do”.  But waiting there, I had no idea we’d eventually be sitting in similarly uncomfortable chairs, making nervous jokes and then having to explain them to the lady helping us.  I’d never have envisioned so many years between office visits, or that we’d end up where we did after our start.

There is so much I didn’t know then, and I wonder now at what lies before us.  There is so much possibility ahead of us – so much choice.

I tell the soldiers I see at work that there is a big shift when they leave this life behind. I tell them to prepare for the psychological change.  And today, I halfway hope we’ve both been listening.

 

Filling Buckets

This week, we’ve all just been running on empty.  Full of the wrong things, maybe, as we try to just get through like we are driving to the gas station with the light on and praying the car doesn’t die.  Our tanks depleted, we’ve neglected laughter and “please” and “thank you” and just felt oh-so empty.

But starting last night, we began doing some things to fill ourselves back up.  A few years ago I read a book called “How Full Is Your Bucket” and it talks about how we can’t really do much for anyone if our buckets (our hearts) are feeling empty or worn out.  It mentions ways to fill out buckets, and ways we can help other people with their buckets as well.

It’s a great book.

The things we’ve done have been small ones, but they’ve helped a lot.  Maybe these ideas will help someone else who is running on empty and needs a little laughter, sunlight, or warmth.

I sat outside in the afternoon sun, feeling the breeze and enjoying the flowers we’ve planted.  A little Vitamin D can go a long way after a horrible long day.

We let our big boy Jack out so he could get some sun (and a good brush).  Hearing him purr and watching him hop-skip-jump to catch moths is a singular pleasure.

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My G got the last 2 pudding cups out of the fridge for us, topped them with some whipped cream, and we had dessert.  Just us.

A coworker was having a rough week and her birthday is coming up – I got to be a part of making her day really special and memorable.  Buckets – filled!

More sun, more flowers – madly thriving purple iris are the last of our beds to bloom and they make an impression that lasts.

 

This post – I love this blogger and the way she writes so much.  Today’s post was just golden.  The lady in 18F had great advice for parents of teenagers.

An apology from my boss, to all of us, for a misunderstanding.  Do you realize how rare it is for bosses to apologize for, really, anything?

Quiet laughter, good food, Lego minifigures (even though I didn’t get the Queen)…  My bucket feelss a lot more ready to take on the world now.

What can you do to fill your bucket today?   Or fill someone else’s?

 

 

 

A Little Time Away

I’ve been off Facebook for a month …

I noticed towards the end of January that it seemed I was always on my phone.  And most of that time, I was on Facebook.  Scroll, scroll, pull down to refresh…  Sometimes seeing the same posts over and over, without really reading or enjoying much of what I was seeing.  It was a habit, and it was beginning to turn into a giant time suck.

In the end, I decided that, for the month of February (both my favorite and the shortest month), I decided I would take a Facebook break.  I allowed myself to keep Facebook messenger, so if anyone wanted to contact me directly they could and vice versa.  I also allowed glimpses if my husband shared a photo or story off his own screen, and one afternoon I looked up two candidates for local office because their main websites had good information but not the details I was seeking.  I told a few friends (including cousins I only ever see on Facebook) about the project, but otherwise didn’t advertise it.

No, it wasn’t for Lent.  🙂  But it was the longest time I have voluntarily given up something I otherwise enjoy since I was pregnant and gave up chocolate and caffeine (for Sam) or caffeine (for Becky, who got ALL the chocolate).

I enjoy keeping in contact with my friends and family. I enjoy the opportunity to learn, to reach out, and to share – and Facebook is great for that.  I’ve tried Instagram (nice, but it misses the opportunity for depth), Twitter (great for news feeds and the chance to connect with people I otherwise wouldn’t), and a couple of other short-lived excursions (Google + just seemed confusing).  I keep coming back to Facebook because of its immediacy, the chance for longer conversations, and the opportunities it offers to simply say “me too”.

What did I hope to accomplish?  Well, I wanted to figure out exactly what I enjoy about Facebook.  I wanted to tamp down the habit, however, and get back to using Facebook as an occasional “check in” and update, versus the knee-jerk tic it was becoming.  I wanted to clear out people, businesses, blogs, and other things that I no longer followed. Much like the idea of tossing out any clothing not worn in a year, I wanted to see what I missed the most during this month.  Who, and what, did I really want to connect with?

On Facebook, I’d been doing the social media equivalent of sending out Christmas cards to people with whom I had only the most passing acquaintance – and the price of stamps, or my time and mental energy, was going up.

I deleted my Facebook app, logged off the site on my computer so it wouldn’t be so easy to just type it in (I’d have to go look up my password), and otherwise made things more difficult for myself to accidentally or habitually “click”.  The first few days were the easiest, honestly – I read a lot more books, I chatted with friends I’d intentionally reached out to, and otherwise did more in-depth communicating in ways that mattered.

The last few days have actually been the hardest, knowing the month was drawing to a close.  This is when I took the most careful stock of myself.  Which blogs and businesses did I wonder about?  Which friends’ photos did I most want to catch up on?  Who did I miss?

Here it is, March 1, and my month is over.  I logged in this morning, and looked into some of the groups I belong to.  I checked on some friends and learned of a horrible car accident with potentially life-changing results – and I saw some photos of kids who are NOT allowed to look so grown up.  I saw letters of acceptance, joyous news, and dog stories that were incredibly sweet.  I also spent some time and deleted some businesses and groups I wasn’t sure why I’d added in the first place.  I have more adding and deleting to do over the next few days, but that’s ok.

What I’ve learned over this month is that I really do enjoy the positive aspects of social media.  I like the photos, and the exchange of ideas and news and special moments.  I like the conversations.

But what I’ve also learned is that my time is valuable.  I need to fill it with things that add to my life, whether that’s reasonable and intentional use of social media – or coloring for a while, or spending time with my family, or watching my daffodils grow.  I wrote more this month than I have for a while, and I read lots of books, and I even played some games because I enjoy that, too.  I have learned that intentionally spending my time respects its value, and adds value to everything else I do.

So I’ll still see you on Facebook.  Just not all the time.

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Traditions

One of the first things that people note about the military is that there is a rich history, full of ritual and tradition. The uniforms, the medals, the salutes and ceremonies.  Ah, don’t we all just love a man in uniform, after all?

Thanks to my friend R, I have learned even more about Army tradition. There are certain colors that should be worn to balls and other formal events, depending on the type of unit (cavalry, infantry, etc). The colors of the roses that are given to the spouses (formerly always female) also mattered, as well as the numbers of the roses that were presented. R could tell you all about these things, and heaven help the unit that doesn’t keep with tradition if she is a part of it.

I’ll admit that I have enjoyed many aspects of this Army life over the years. The snappy salutes, the traffic-stopping respectful  pause when Retreat is played on post…  I love that the National Anthem is played before every movie on post, I love that there are right and wrong ways to wear uniforms, and I love the spit and polish of “what right looks like”.

However. And you probably knew that was coming, huh?

The Army has a way of making it impossible to have firm, or sometimes even repeatable family traditions of any kind. We are really good at keeping dates flexible (Christmas Day in January? Sure, why not?  Valentine’s Day date the day after “Christmas”?  Well, ok to that too.)  But sometimes it is easier or even necessary to let a day slip past and softly mourn a little bit as we just get on with life. Sometimes, the traditions we would like to keep are those that are lost the soonest.

This year, My G was home for the second Valentine’s in a row – which never, never happens. From the time we were married, he has been at Gunnery, STX, NTC in California, deployed, in Korea, on TDY (temporary duty not earlier named), in the field for something other than Gunner or STX, or simply not home because the unit had stuff going on.  We joke that the Army hates our birthdays, our anniversary, and Valentine’s especially. One memorable year on Valentine’s, he received orders to Korea that changed our entire retirement plan – so romantic.

We have had absolutely no romantic tradition, no way to consistently touch base with each other just to remember romance or even friendship. We’ve had date nights (thank God for friends who have loved our kids), we’ve had time that we’ve grabbed together when kids were at school and we had unexpected time off, we’ve had the odd lunch together. We’ve created that time – but really, no tradition at all. Not just for us.

Our Christmas traditions are always ones that can be done without my husband, without the girls’ father.  Viewing the lights, making Christmas mints, hanging stockings.  No matter what house we have or where he is, there are things that “we’ve always done” but that usually have been created by us and that include him when they can.

There’s a certain sadness to that.

This year, the thought occurred to me that we might be able to really create and keep some traditions now. This post-Army life may, depending on our individual career choices, offer more tradition than we’ve ever been able to enjoy before. It’s been a long time coming, and it feels tinged with a little bit of bittersweet.  Some family traditions are meant to be created when the children are young, so they become part of the family foundation when the kids are older or when they bring home their own families. Some family traditions seemingly build upon each other like bricks, forming safe barriers against the world outside.

But here we are, heading into a new life. Kids are older, so are we, and some things have passed their golden time. Our foundations of tradition are, perhaps, not as strong as in other families – but they are there.  And now, perhaps a little hesitantly and unsteadily, we are able to consider what we’d like for this post-Army family of ours. And what traditions we want to create, keep, and cobble together from all that we’ve seen and lived through before.

For us, the first step came this year on Valentine’s Day – or, actually, the day before. Everything is too busy the “big day,” so last year we went out to breakfast together on the 13th.  This year, we did the same. And as we made our plans, as we realized the Army was not going to be able to call him away this time (or ever again), there was a bright flicker of something besides romance in our eyes –

Hope.

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A neat little sign I hung in my work cubicle.