Ready for Rest and Relaxation

I’ve got the itch. It’s time for R&R. Past time, in fact, if we go by the month Hubby requested for leave. We still don’t know when it’s actually happening, but we know it’s coming soon!

We’re sort of glad that we’re getting mid-tour leave in the last half of deployment, but the long wait to see each other has been kind of killer. Now, with the time fast approaching, it’s almost all I can think about. I spend so much time thinking, planning, imagining him here. We’ve talked about our expectations for the time (I would recommend this highly to people looking to R&R coming up or even redeployment; don’t just assume you’re on the same page!), things we want to do, people he wants to visit. I’ve made to-do lists to get the house ready and shopping lists to make sure we’re stocked up and have all his favorites, and he has started thinking about foods he wants to eat so he can experience all the good stuff before going back. It’s very exciting!

A couple days ago, I was picking up some R&R-related items at the store, and I must have been looking pretty happy as I thought about his arrival – enough that one lady commented on how great my smile was! 😀

The last time we faced R&R, Hubby and I weren’t married or even dating at the time, and he stayed mostly with his family in between making visits to me and other friends. This time it’s going to be totally different. Neither of us has experienced this before, so we may not really know what to expect.

I’m just trying to keep in mind that I should expect a great time and not worry about imperfections. It won’t be perfect, there will probably be some bumps, but we can still have a wonderful time together. My only real hopes are that we have a relaxing, enjoyable visit that refreshes us and helps us make it through the last few months of deployment! Do you have any other tips for how to mentally (or emotionally, or physically) prepare yourself for R&R?

 

(R&R or mid-tour leave is a two week break during deployment. The soldier basically gets to go home – or somewhere else – and chill out with no responsibilities for a while before going back. Travel time from the deployment location to home doesn’t count, which is good since it can take anywhere from a day or two to a few weeks, but as soon as he or she arrives at home, they get 14 days until their return flight. This is pretty standard for all year-long-or-longer Army deployments. I don’t really know how to works in other branches or with shorter deployments.)

Passage of Time

I’ve been thinking about how deployment is changing my perception of time. I’m starting to realize that God’s using it to give me a whole new perspective, and I think in some ways I’m understanding God a little tiny bit better. Like I have a little more understanding of the idea of him being outside of time itself.

When I have to go a few weeks without seeing friends, I sometimes chuckle on the inside when they explain on our next meeting how much they’ve missed me, while I feel that hardly any time at all has passed. What’s the big deal? Next to having to wait a year to see my other half again, to feel him and look into his eyes… Well, let’s just say it makes all these little gaps of weeks and months feel like nothing.

I can’t really imagine what it is like for God to be outside of time, but if the (global) church is his passion, his love, his other half, so to speak, and he is separated from her for… well, a long, long time… Well, I can imagine that feeling now. She fell away from him, and he won’t be reunited with her until basically the end of this world. Like a year’s separation for me, and how impossible and horrible it seems to a normal married couple, God’s separated from his bride the church for… thousands, if not millions of years. How insignificant must other, shorter increments of time feel to Him? To me it gives new meaning to the verse that says a thousand years is like a day to the Lord.

I’m trying to apply this understanding to my prayer life. See, I’ve been getting frustrated with God for not answering my prayers. Sometimes I pray specifically for the same things for weeks on end, and sometimes I begin to lose hope that he’ll ever hear me and answer. But I have felt like he’s saying to me, “Just because I haven’t answered in a week, you think I’m not listening at all? Trust me! I hear you, and I will answer you. I will meet all your needs. Have patience.”

Sometimes, I’m afraid time won’t ever slow back down. If weeks feel like no time at all, will it still feel like nothing when Hubby is home for two weeks of R&R? Will I have trouble soaking in his presence and enjoying our time together? Will my life speed by too quickly, with this perception of time? I have hope because I’ve known women who have been through deployments with their husbands before who still ached terribly at their husbands’ absence for a week or two of training. So things must eventually return to normal. But hopefully when that happens, I’ll still be able to remember the lesson I learned. Mostly – the patience.

More Than Just Surviving

dedI think this is one of my biggest struggles: to not only trust God with the direction of my life, but to be content and to thrive where he places me rather than just survive. It’s a struggle at all times, but it’s especially difficult during trials. Of course, most recently it has been difficult due to deployment.

I hate deployment! That’s understandable, right? My husband is gone, and not only absent from my every day life but placed in a dangerous situation! I have to miss him and fear for his safety, and most of the time I just want to go to sleep and wake up when it’s all over. I don’t want to live through this year of deployment, but I have to, so many times I have this mentality of needing to simply survive. Do what is necessary to make it through another day, and eventually it will all be over.

That’s okay. I mean, eventually I will have survived the year, Hubby will be back, and things can go back to normal. But I don’t think it’s what God wants from me.

Jeremiah 29: A Letter to the Exiles

God’s people had been carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon and were going to remain there in exile for 70 years. Of all the times to justify that survival mentality, you would think this would be a prime example. But God isn’t satisfied with that… God asks for more. I found this passage really speaks to me and where I am with this deployment… Here’s my paraphrasing:

This is what the Lord Almighty says to those He carried into deployment: “Make homes and settle down; plant gardens and work on other projects. Care for your family and friends. Don’t let yourself whither away. Seek peace and prosperity where I’ve placed you… When your time is completed, I will come to you and fulfill my good promises. For I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me with your whole heart and find me, and I will gather you from the places where I have banished you, and bring you back.”

God wants his people to know that he can be worshipped outside of the holy land just as well as inside. He is God over Babylon (deployment) just as much as he is God over Jerusalem. As one commentary says, “Real hope for the people, according to Jeremiah, lay not in some immediate relief from social and communal death, but in living through that experience as faithful people, awaiting the Lord’s ‘future with hope’."

Biblical Encouragement

People are watching us, so let’s follow Jesus’ perfect example:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

Thrive, don’t just survive. Think on God and his goodness and all the good gifts he gives. Run with endurance, don’t let yourself whither. Keep praying and pursuing God. This is how you should live, regardless of where he’s placed you and whether or not you want to be there. This is how you get the most out of life and bring God the most pleasure.

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
Phillipians 4:4-9 (The Message)

Thriving

I’m still working on it, but I’m getting better at ridding myself of that survival mentality. It’s about time, since we’re almost five months into this deployment! God is really trying to pound some lessons into me, I think…lol. And I feel like I’m finally ready to start learning rather than burying my head in the ground and waiting for it all to be over. I’m finally ready to hold up my chin and start facing things head-on, with His help. I don’t know if I’m really thriving yet, but I’m doing a little more than just surviving, so I guess that’s good.

Anyway, that’s what I’m working towards, and that’s how I want to go through the rest of this deployment. I want to do more than just survive. So there are my disjointed thoughts for the day.

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Dealing With the Big D

Deployment sucks. There’s no denying it, and, unfortunately, there’s no way to magically make it easier. It’s not so simple as one more person telling you to keep your chin up, as if, maybe after you hear it enough times something will click in your head and you’ll no longer feel down. Nope. Sorry! Not gonna happen.

I’m new to this, and I’m taking everyone else on their word and hoping that it will get better and easier. I hear the first month is the hardest. We’ll see! But in the meantime, I’ve found some comfort in some resources I found online. I’d like to share them in hopes that someone else might also enjoy them – whether you’re a spouse, parent, sibling, or friend of a deployed soldier! So, here we go, in chronological order…

Before He Leaves

1. If you are feeling a bit frazzled and trying to remember what needs to be covered before he leaves, here are a few tips from eHow.com: Finances, vehicles, holidays, and household maintenance – all important things to add to your pre-deployment to-do list. See the full article by clicking here.

2. I did not have to face the problem addressed in this article on ChristianMilitaryWives.com. However, I still found some really good advice in it, and would recommend it to you, especially if you find that your soldier is seeming more distant the closer deployment gets.

“Don’t let your sour, bitter thoughts get in the way of your relationship with Christ or your husband.  Don’t let pre-deployment jitters get you down! You are armed with something that non-Christians do not have.  You have God on your side, ‘if God be for us, who can be against us?’ Romans 8:31
-Patti Katter

3. There are several good all-inclusive articles I found. They include advice for Pre-, During, and Post-Deployment. Twoofus.org focuses on Preparing Your Marriage for a Military Deployment with advice about things like patience, blame, and infidelity. Red Cross has an article on Deployment Tips that focuses mostly on homecoming, but it also has a really thorough checklist that will prove useful throughout the entire deployment.

I saved the best for last, though. As far as an overview of the whole process of deployment, I liked this article by Stacey the best. She touched on some things that I really was beginning to think I was alone in feeling. The truth is that, as she says, “just about any emotion you have during this time period is normal.” Reading this article really helped me remember I’m not alone, and, believe me, it’s good to have constant reminders of that fact.

“Depending on your husband’s unit, you could have months of notice before they deploy or as little as a few hours. Your first reaction could very well be shock, disbelief and a feeling of helplessness. You may have thoughts run through your head about flying off to another country and disappearing. Although this is common, it’s NOT recommended! They will find you and then not only will he be deployed, he will probably serve jail time as well and have pay and rank stripped from him.”
-Stacey – MarriedtotheArmy.com (Dealing With the Emotional Roller Coaster of Deployment)

While He’s Gone

1. I’ve already mentioned this article in my post SMW Syndrome. Check it out, if you missed it, or go straight over to Anita’s article about Super Military Wife Syndrome.

2. Your soldier deserves to come home to the real you, so take care of yourself while he’s gone. Exercise, journal, work on projects, set goals, et cetera! Read eHow’s article (this is a different article than that mentioned in the first section) for more thoughts on the subject. And, I would also recommend this Military Mama’s post called Lessons Deployment Has Taught Me. It’s okay to be sad! Finally, read quotes from other wives at ivillage.com that are, supposedly, the best 21 tips you can find!

“People are just going to say things in hopes it makes you feel better. Let them.”
Lessons Deployment Has Taught Me

3. Meanwhile, aside from keeping your body and mind cared for, your soldier is off in a distant, probably harsh, land. He (or she) is separated, not only from his spouse, but also from all of his loved ones. He is probably sleeping on a cot most nights, in a room with little in it to speak of home. He needs care, too, and don’t forget it. So, tell him frequently how you feel about him and that he is in your thoughts and prayers. Thank him for his service; express your pride. Send letters!

4. Care packages are another great thing to do for deployed soldiers. Ask your soldier (or his wife) for a list of items he would like to receive. There are lots of websites, some of which are listed below, which will give suggestions on items you might choose to send. Here’s a compiled list:

  • Foods they can’t get from the DFAC or PX
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Extra socks and underwear
  • Photos
  • Stationary
  • Stamps
  • Pictures or posters for walls, if they have any
  • Travel-sized medicines and toiletries
  • Moist towlettes/cleansing cloths
  • Reading material
  • Batteries
  • Puzzles/other games he might enjoy
  • Visit these websites for more info: How to Support…, How to Make…, How to Ship…, US Army Care…

DO NOT send any of the following:

  • Melt-able Items (Chocolate, et cetera)
  • Alcohol/Drugs
  • Pork
  • Pornography

Make sure you have your soldiers full, correct address before you mail anything! And, before you go off packing things into just any old box, check your local post office for FREE boxes. They are called flat-rate boxes, and you do not have to pay for them. Take as many as you want! They come in several sizes. No matter how much they weigh, they have a flat rate for shipping, and it’s a very good deal. You can also visit USPS.com and order 10 or 20 boxes, which they will deliver to your door for free! You will also need a customs form (2976-A) for each package, and you can get those for free at the post office or free from USPS.com. Additionally, everyone should check out THIS website which tells you how to get an entire Military Care Kit for free. It has everything you need all included.

Closing Thoughts

Once more, I want to link you to the following articles which include a few homecoming tips.

Finally, there are a few bright-sides to deployment, as outlined at Milspouse.com. Head on over there to see what they are. And I would love it if you had suggestions on additions to that list. The more bright sides we can come up with, the better! My favorite from their list is how much easier cleaning is when he’s gone. Especially with no kids, yet, to dirty things up. 🙂

 

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Block Leave

What it is – What it do!

Leave, in the Army, is taking time off from work. Basically, it’s vacation time. You save it up and then spend it, similar to how you save and spend vacation hours at a civilian job.

Block leave is a block of time usually several weeks long when the whole unit takes leave at the same time. Block leave is usually given around holidays such as Christmas and before and after deployments. It’s supposed to be optional (after all, you’re “paying” for those days with your “vacation hours”), but usually soldiers are all but forced to take block leave because, if they don’t, the officers in charge have to come up with work for them to do and people to supervise them.

Pre-Deployment Block Leave

It has been going well for us so far! Hubby and I took a short vacation that included a lot of time in the sun. Two all-day trips to amusement parks and a day and a half at the beach! Hard to decide which part was my favorite! I think Hubby’s favorite was Six Flags Fiesta Texas, and I do have to admit that was quite a fun day. We rode the Poltergeist at least three, maybe four, times. That is my new favorite rollercoaster!

The beach was, of course, lovely. The only downside was getting stung by a jellyfish for the first time. I couldn’t believe how many jellyfish were in the water! I’d never seen anything like it! Sea World was fun, too. The sea lion show was my favorite part of that day.

I was somehow able to make it through the whole trip with very minimal burns. Hubby got to worst of the sun, but he has a nice tan to show for it now. Finally his torso skin color matches the color on his hands and neck! (Silly Army tans are even worse than farmer tans.)

To sum things up, here are some pictures from the trip!

 

block leave packingblock leave coaster

  block leave sea worldblock leave 004

block leave 027

Friday Fill-In #7

Several blogs I read are participating in this weekly meme that was created by Wife of a Sailor. She has a linky to all the blogs that are participating, so if you’re interested, head on over there!

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In

1. What is something you wished you’d learned to do earlier in life?

I wish that I had learned to make daily exercise a habit when I was younger. I never really exercised as a kid or teen. Now, I’m trying to do it, and it never seems to stick. I have to fight myself every step of the way because I’m just so un-used to it. This is one thing that, when I become a mother, I really want to help my children learn early on. Be active every day!

2. What is your biggest pet peeve with the military?

I just hate the disorganization. You’d thing the MILITARY, of all things, would be the most organized unit. Our country needs the military, right? We need them to be able to take care of certain things – quickly and efficiently. Argh! If I were running things, by golly, they would be running much more smoothly. Communication, people! Seriously!

3. What tourist attraction near you have you never seen?

Hrm, I don’t know! I haven’t seen the museums on post, for one thing. Does that count? There aren’t really any tourist attractions in central Texas – that I know of!

4. What are you avoiding doing right now?

I’m avoiding my habit of worrying. My hubby and I are leaving on vacation in a matter of hours, and we’re not finished packing, he’s still at work, and I’m due at the doctor’s office in 10 minutes! Hubby is supposed to be picking me up. So, rather than stress about that, I’m using the spare minutes to update the ol’ blog.

5. Wine, beer, or liquor?

I’m very picky about my wines. If I can find one that basically doesn’t taste alcoholic at all, I’ll take wine over anything else. But otherwise, shots are the way to go. Get it over with. 😛

How Real is Army Wives?

I started watching Army Wives while my husband was at JRTC. I’d heard a lot of good things about it, and several friends of mine regularly watch and enjoy the show. But Hubby…he’d seen bits and pieces before and had decided that he didn’t like it, so I knew I needed a chance to watch it alone. A show just for me. I finally got that chance when he was gone for a month.

The Differences

So, he left, and I watched…and watched, and watched. I watched all 3 (complete) seasons of Army Wives within the first 2-3 weeks of JRTC, and I was sad that there wasn’t more to rent from Netlix. The first episode caught my attention right off the bat. Within the first 10 minutes, a soldier proposes to a girl he’s known for only a couple days. Hey, I thought to myself, I know a couple like that. I knew I’d be able to relate to the show… and that incident was just one of the commonalities I’ve found between the show and the real thing.

However, there are a lot of differences, too. If you’ve watched the show but never really been part of the Army life, you may not be aware of these:

1. FRGs – Army Wives implies that there is one FRG per post, and the woman in charge is the wife of the highest-ranking soldier – or something like that. This is not the case. FRGs are normally organized at a company level. If, for instance, there are 2 divisions on post, you’ll have about 3 brigades, 9 battalions, and 45 companies, which would mean 45  different family readiness groups. These aren’t exact numbers, but you get the idea. And these are not always headed up by the company commander’s wife, though from my understanding that’s not uncommon. I can’t speak for how FRGs in general tend to work as I’ve only been a part of one, but I can give you a little peek inside ours, and maybe some other wives can chime in with how their FRG has worked or not worked in the comments. 🙂

  • Meetings once a month include all families in the company, not just a select few.
    Our FRG meets once a month. Generally speaking, one member of each married couple in the unit is required to attend. If my husband can’t make it to the meeting and I don’t go in his stead, they can scold and/or punish him for it. Sometimes, to encourage soldiers to go to the meetings, they have been known to give them a day off from PT. Sometimes, they bribe us with food… 😀 Basically, the FRG meetings are supposed to include all married soldiers and spouses.
  • Meetings cover upcoming events and training schedules.
    Usually, the company commander or another officer goes over the schedule for the upcoming month. They’ll tell us when our soldiers are supposed to be working late, working normal shifts, or getting days off. (It’s a nice little fantasy they have since nothing ever goes according to plan.) Then, the meeting is turned over to the FRG leader, who goes over upcoming events and fundraisers, talks about how they need volunteers, et cetera. If we’re lucky, the meeting ends there and we can either eat, if they’ve brought pizza, or go home.
  • Women either try to be involved or try to stay out of it.
    In our company, I seem to see two groups of women: The “FRG Ladies” and the we-don’t-do-that-stuff Ladies. It’s a kind of strange division. I haven’t figured it out completely yet.
  • The purpose is to provide information, not take care of individuals.
    Unlike on the show Army Wives, our FRG does not organize things such as taking care of new mothers and newly widowed women. That is the job of another organization (they mentioned it recently, but I can’t recall the name of that organization). The FRG is here to make sure the families are at least as up to date as possible on the unit’s schedule – be it training schedule or deployment schedule. They relay information from the company to the families. And their secondary purpose is to provide some companionship for the ladies when the men are gone. For example, when the boys were at JRTC, our FRG meeting was held at the bowling alley. Fun! I will definitely appreciate that aspect of our FRG more once the men deploy.

2. Deployments – They are a little different, too. Yes, you can be deployed unexpectedly. But, generally speaking, you’re going to know when it’s coming. Units deploy on a schedule, so you know that if they got back at this time of year, they’re going to be deploying about the same time a year from now, unless something unexpected comes up. We’ve known that Hubby was going to be deploying this fall ever since, well, last fall. We didn’t know exactly when, but it’s not like on Army Wives where they call you up out of the blue and say, hey, you’ve leaving in 3 days. And I’m very glad it’s not like that.

3. Station – For for the rest, a lot is unfamiliar to me because the show revolves around officers and one NCO. Keep in mind that there are a lot more enlisted in the Army than officers. A lot more. (One website I checked claimed the enlisted to officer ratio is 6:1.) It didn’t fit in to the show for them to include these families – perhaps because it’s harder to show a realistic friendship between a group of wives that diverse. But there are a lot privates, privates first class, and specialists in the army who are married and who live the army life just like the rest… only different. They have less control, less stability, fewer expectations placed on them. Does anyone else feel like the show is a little TOO centered around officers?

I Love It!

As for the drama in the show, well… a show’s gotta have drama. That’s what makes it interesting and intriguing to watch! The writers/producers are trying to pick up on all the stresses that can and will happen in Army life and concentrate them on one small (very small) group of people. I think they do a grand job of it. Hopefully most of us don’t have to go through ALL of these things, but we’ll know people or know of people that do.

I can relate to Army Wives even if it doesn’t exactly represent the Army Wife Life I live on a day-to-day basis. And for that, I love it!

 

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