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Deployment

Surviving Hard Deployment Days

September 18, 2017

It’s so important to live your best life, no matter what curveballs the military throws at you, including deployment.  It’s why believe so strongly in thriving during deployment, something I work to achieve each time my husband is gone and something I hope to help other military spouses do as well. But let’s be real here, not every day is a “kick butt, take names, be a rockstar at life” kind of day even in the best of circumstances. When you add a deployment into the mix, there are bound to be some hard days.

I don’t talk about hard deployment days that often, not because they don’t happen or because they are not worth sharing. I’ve always tried to look on the positive side of most things, including deployment. That doesn’t really gel with detailing my bad deployment days, but I think only posting the good stuff really gives the wrong impression.

Because no matter how many cute care packages I make, the days are still lonely and the nights are even lonelier. I can tell myself that A will be home soon until I’m blue in the face, but that doesn’t do me a whole lot of good when the dog is sick in the middle of the night. It doesn’t matter how busy I am or how many people I surround myself with, my heart still aches when I remember that my favorite person in the world isn’t coming home tonight.

Hard deployment days happen to me probably more often than I would like to admit. Or at least, more often than old me would have wanted to admit. They have a way of taking even the most pulled together, confident people and turning them into big ol’ hot messes. You think that maybe you aren’t cut out for this life. You reach for the wine or the chocolate or maybe you shed a tear or two. You’re not sure you can do this whole deployment thing anymore.

But eventually it’s tomorrow and you get up and get on with it, not because you necessarily want to, but because you have to. Life doesn’t stop because you’re going through a deployment and you can’t stop because you’ve had a hard deployment day. When I remind myself of that, when I force myself to use the little kernel of inner strength I have left, when I put on my big girl panties and just get on with it, that’s when I beat the hard deployment days.

Life doesn't stop because you're going through a deployment and you can't stop because you've had a… Click To Tweet

Deployment is hard; it will always be hard and sometimes that catches up with you in a perfect you-know-what storm of awful. It happens to all of us, whether we’re on deployment #1 or deployment #21. But you can survive them and get back to thriving during deployment. In the end, you are stronger than even the hardest of deployment days. Remember that.

Do you have hard deployment days? How do you survive them?

Deployment

That Time I Killed My Husband’s Car Plus Other Deployment Screw-Ups

August 18, 2017

My husband had been gone for six months and to say I was excited about his homecoming would be an understatement. The house was clean, his favorite beer was in the fridge, the “welcome home” banner was hung. His homecoming went perfectly.

The next morning, he went out to run some errands, but ran into a bit of an issue. For some reason, his car was dead and needed a new battery.

Ok, that reason was likely because I hadn’t driven it in six months.

Fine, that reason was definitely because I hadn’t driven it in six months.

Whoops. You see, my husband drives a stick shift and I do not. So when he’s deployed, it doesn’t get driven terribly often (cough at all cough) and clearly starting it a few times a month was not enough. Lesson learned.

You see, the kicker about deployment is that life goes on and juggling it all solo sometimes means you drop a ball or two, no matter how many deployments you’ve been through. And that’s ok. None of us are perfect when our loved one is home so why should we expect to be when they are gone?

None of us are perfect when our loved one is home so why should we expect to be when they are gone? Click To Tweet

So when you do screw up (which you will eventually), what should you do? Yes, learn from it and look for ways to keep it from happening again (if that’s even possible). But the most important thing is to not beat yourself up about it! At the risk of sounding a little cliche, it happens to all of us and tomorrow is another day. You are doing the best you can.

And just to prove that you and I aren’t alone in the land of deployment screw-ups, some of my favorite fellow military spouses shared their biggest ones:

I’ve done the dead battery so many times I had to get the self charging jumper cables. Usually my screw ups are all car related! I only end up on the sides of highways during deployment. Here’s one for you: I booked a ticket to Spain before hubby found out he would not be getting leave during that port call. Luckily Delta was kind enough to give me a refund. Sigh. -Kayla from KaylaRoof.com

I also locked myself out of our car, and he had the other key on deployment! I have had lots of sick kids and emergency room visits. But perhaps the biggest mistake was when I tried to send cake in jars in a care package. They must not have sealed correctly and arrived moldy. Yuck! -Lizann from Seasoned Spouse

Does TDY count? This last time I locked my keys in the car when I brought my newborn daughter to her doctor’s appointment. Don’t worry she was not in the car, but I did have to wait outside with a colicky newborn for roadside assistance. -Kara from Foxtrot & Pennies

How does hitting one of his trucks with the other while parking in our apartment lot sound? LOL Then I also backed out of an office alley parking lot driving his truck and hooked the back bumper on the wire that holds the light pole. It was pretty scary. I had to have people help me get it unattached. – Melissa from Insure the Heroes

My husband has to head on a last minute deployment a couple years ago and he didn’t have a chance to deal with his motorcycle. So I just covered it in the garage and we both forgot about it, except it was never winterized and come spring, cost a small fortune to repair from the damage of the gas and oil left on it all season. – Kim from She Is Fierce

The water pump started leaking on our Land Rover. Somehow, my husband figured out what was wrong with it when I sent him a video and told me to have it towed to the mechanic we use. Easy, right? Except that I somehow got the name or address of the shop wrong, had it towed to the wrong place and didn’t realize it until they called and tried to charge me over $1000 dollars to put my car back together when it needed a $300 water pump replacement. There was a lot of back and forth, but in the end my husband ordered the part himself, had it overnighted to me to bring to the mechanic so that we only paid for the labor. Our regular mechanic very nicely checked everything over for me for free (and replaced a hose that the guy had attached incorrectly). – Kristen from White Gloves Optional

During my husband’s 1st deployment my Mom continuously kept screwing up my husband’s e-mail address and she (she was using a common mis-spelling of his 1st name). She ended up writing this O-6 (not my husband) so much by accident that she eventually even sent him a care package and a card for Veteran’s Day. – Christine from Her Money Moves

The TDY story I have is – I traded both our cars in for one since we were moving to Germany. In the changing of stuff over to the new car I managed to forget not one but both garage door openers, I had my keys BUT! The screen door for the front door was locked and can be only unlocked from the inside and the back door had the dead bolt on and can only be unlocked… from the inside. At this point it was after the dealership closed so I couldn’t go back. So I had to break into my own house by climbing into the kitchen window over the sink, all the while hoping the MPs wouldn’t drive by (they did routine drives behind our house) and while my 2 year old and 2 month old waited in the car. – Fran from Freeborboleta

1) My daughter broke the shower handle, I panicked, and we couldn’t turn off the water!!
2) My mother thought she was helping him by washing his motorcycle gear while he was gone. It was his rain gear and was not supposed to be dried in a dryer…yep – ruined! – Kelsey from Anchored Together By Land, Air or Sea

Does trying to start the lawn-mower count? Tried for ages on the front lawn, with the kids watching and waiting. After quite some time, a passerby eventually offered to start the mower for me (no offer to mow though). Got the job done and decided I wouldn’t be doing that again, so future until the boys were big enough, paid someone to come mow. Turns out I didn’t have all the steps in the sequence. – Leanne

So join us in owning up to our biggest deployment screw-ups and share yours in the comments below!

Deployment

Cooking During Deployment

August 9, 2017
Cooking During Deployment

If there was just one thing that you can’t really understand about deployment until you ACTUALLY go through it, it’s probably how much your daily life is thrown off schedule.  Think about how much significant members of your family (spouses, parents, significant others, event children) do to keep the house running and life moving forward. Removing them doesn’t remove the need for their contributions, it just shifts them to someone else and changes the way they have to get done.  Cooking during deployment is the perfect example of that.

I’m very lucky in that my husband shoulders a significant portion of the kitchen duties. But even if he didn’t, I get used to cooking for two people and then suddenly, I’m down one whole mouth to feed.  That changes the way I shop, cook and eat.  It would be the perfect excuse to shift into college eating habits (pizza, carbs, take out), but I try not to let that happen. Instead, I really try to focus on ways to make cooking during deployment easier, more fun and less wasteful.

Tips for cooking during deployment

Make a meal plan.

One of the best ways to reduce overbuying is to plan out your meals before going to the grocery store. I do this even when my husband is home and it really keeps things on track! Each week, I sit down and plan out what I’ll eat for the next 5 days (weekends are a little more fluid) and make my grocery list accordingly.

This helps me determine what ingredients and how much of them I need to purchase. For example, if I know I’ll eat chicken two nights, I can buy a pack of two chicken breasts, rather than buying two and only needing one.

Re-package and freeze.

But don’t worry if you overbuy a little bit! You can re-package and freeze many of your groceries, especially meat. Just make sure to freeze things thoroughly and keep an eye on how long things sit in your freezer, as eventually things do go bad. This chart gives you guidelines for how long to keep different food items.

Consider buying frozen single serve fruits and veggies.

Not into portioning, repackaging and freezing fresh produce? No big deal. Most produce can be purchased with all that done for you! The frozen fruit and veggie section of the grocery store is a unsung hero for cooking during deployment. You can purchase single serving frozen produce and in just a few minutes, you’re on your way to dinner.

The best part is that freezing fruits and veggies often preserves their nutritional value, making this tip both healthy and easy!

Split bulk shopping hauls with friends.

Who doesn’t love bulk shopping? You’re talking to a recent Costco convert, but buying in bulk when you’re cooking for fewer people doesn’t always work. That’s where friends come in!  Share produce, meat or even shelf stable foods with friends (especially if they have significant others who are deployed too) is a great way to take advantage of lower prices without worrying about stuff going bad before it’s eaten.

Cut recipes in half. 

If you’re not such a fan of leftovers (cough me cough), consider taking favorite recipes and cutting them in half.  You may still have some extra, but it won’t be quite as overwhelming and you won’t have to eat the same thing at every meal for a week straight.

I wouldn’t suggest trying to cut a meal for a family of four or more down into a single serving. That’s too much math and it can really mess up the taste of the finished product. Look for recipes designed for two or three people and cut those down; a great one is my hummus chicken recipe.

Repurpose leftovers. 

But even if you make too much, you don’t necessarily have to eat exactly the same meal multiple nights in a row. Look for ways to reinvent your leftovers a bit so dinner is new each night.

For example, I like roasting a chicken for dinner, but can’t eat an entire chicken at once! So I eat enough for dinner and save the rest for later in the week, knowing I can turn it into burritos, quesadillas or chicken salad.

Make it fun. 

Cooking dinner is a very social event in my house. My husband and I chat while we prep meals and we enjoy eating dinner together.  So when it’s just me, things can feel a bit lonely.  But there are a few ways to make things a bit more fun!

Turing on some fun music, trying new recipes or even inviting over a friend or two for dinner help make cooking seem less like a chore and more like my husband is home again.

How do you handle cooking during deployment? What are your best tips for making it easier and more fun?

Deployment

When You’re The One Leaving

July 13, 2017

The bags were packed and it was time to go. The hug was a little extra long and there were more than a few tears shed because this was the day my husband left for deployment. In some ways, it was an exact repeat of the scene that played out eight months ago when he left the first time this year. But in one huge way, it was very different.

The bags were mine. I was the one getting on the plane first.

You see, in a super weird turn of events, I had a work trip booked for the exact same day as A’s departure. It was certainly not my first choice, knowing how hard it would be for me to walk away from him sooner than I “had to”, but there was no way around it.

Military spouses have to watch a lot of leaving, between deployments, trainings and people around us moving, it becomes part of our lifestyle. And while we do our own share of leaving our homes, friends and family multiple time during our spouse’s career, it’s not often that we leave at the start of a deployment.

And now I completely understand why.

Y’all, I was an epic disaster leading up to leaving and an even bigger one once the front door shut behind me. I honestly don’t know how my husband does it. But once I got to the airport, I gained a little bit of insight into something he’d told me for years.

“It’s easier to be the one leaving.”

All this time, I was convinced he told me that so that I wouldn’t worry about him being sad (believe me, I’m covering down on it for the both of us). But once I got swept up in the hustle and bustle of the airport, I found myself (grudgingly) realizing that he may be right.

The enemy of a military spouse staring down a deployment is time. Time to think, time alone, time to worry. The more time you have, the more time you allow yourself to wallow in being sad, in missing him or her, in dreading how slowly the months ahead will pass. And don’t get me wrong, some wallowing is good! It’s what ice cream and the Hallmark Channel were invented for.

But when you’re the one staying behind, you can have too much time to wallow, which I think actually makes things worse.

As hard as leaving first was, I think it actually turned out to be a bit of a good thing. It was kind of like ripping the Band-Aid off. Yes, it hurt, but the pain was sharp and there was a bit of relief in it not being drawn out. I didn’t have time to mope. I couldn’t wander around the house being sad. I had places to go, planes to catch.

I was the one leaving.

Deployment Goals

Deployment Goals

June 26, 2017

And the deployment monster strikes again. Yup, just like that, the fastest four months in history are over and we’re starting the next deployment. This one hit especially hard, perhaps because it came up so fast, but I’m not going to let that derail me for the next few months. I want to be productive while A is gone and have come up with some deployment goals to help keep me motivated.

I’ve written before about the importance of deployment goals and how to write good ones and this go around is no exception. I’m very checklist-oriented and being able to cross things off my list makes it feel like time goes by faster.

Run 100 miles.

This is probably my most ambitious goal only because it’s really hot here and will be for most of the deployment. But I miss running and want to get it back in my routine.  It works out to just be a few miles a week, which is a good starting point after taking way too long off.

Finish decorating the entryway.

I painted the entryway the last time A was gone, but progress has completely stalled during the time he was home. All that’s missing is a new light fixture and the art for the walls. I need to finish it while he’s gone!

Catch up on scrapbooking.

Oh gosh, I am so far behind on this that it’s not even funny. You see, I started the tradition of creating a scrapbook for each year of my relationship with A and, despite enjoying it immensely, I have fallen off significantly. By the time he gets home, I’d like to be caught up.

Try 4 new recipes.

Raise your hand if you feel like you get stuck in a rut when it comes to dinner. Yeah, me too. I’m going to use this deployment to find a few new recipes to add to my dinner schedule. If you have any that you love, definitely leave them in the comments for me!

Do something out of my comfort zone.

This is probably the biggest deployment goal for me and it applies to my personal life as well as my professional life. I want to try new things while A is gone: add video into my business plan, travel by myself, maybe treat myself to something I wouldn’t ordinarily allow. I want to try it all!

If you’re going through a deployment (or any other separation), have you set your goals yet? If so, tell me one in the comments so we can keep each other motivated.