"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown

"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Daddy Kisses

She was confused for just a moment as she tried to process what she heard. "Megan, is someone ..."

"What?" I said down the steps.

"Oh!" she slightly gasped to herself. She had answered the question in her head that she never really finished asking. "I heard C's voice but it must be the bear. I was confused."

I could hear it through the door as well but I guess I had been hearing it for long enough that night that I didn't process what she had said at first. Logan had been pressing the hand of his teddy bear that played C telling him goodnight. He had been playing it over and over again for a while now. He was laying under his covers hugging his bear, pressing the tiny hand - repeatedly.

A while after the voice had stopped I quietly opened the bedroom door and peaked in. Hugging that bear he had fallen asleep. Next to him, tucked perfectly under the covers, was his "daddy doll".

I hadn't put it there.

Nearly everyday I am amazed at the tenacity of this child. And some of you may question my using that word for a two-year-old but I mean it. His ability and determination (and that is truly what I believe it is - a determination) to hold onto his daddy overwhelms my heart. It is almost as though he is keeping C present in his life. Of course we talk about him together daily and Logan has started talking to him on the phone more and more when it works, but it is as though Logan knows he needs to keep him present.

He left his floor pillow and his cartoons in my room and quickly walked though the connecting bathroom into his room. He returned quickly walking straight to Eli in the swing and pressed something to his face. From my angle I couldn't see exactly what he was doing. Eli started laughing and Logan looked up at me grinning, proud of himself for something.

"What are you doing, buh-ga?"

He pressed something to Eli again and his belly laugh made that same smile span Logan's face. Logan walked over to me and I saw the doll in his hand. He pressed it to my face and said, "Daddy Kisses." The same proud, accomplished smile brightened his face. He had made a connection - a connection that he knew was something to be proud of.

I hugged him close to me and he pressed the doll from his face to mine. "Daddy kisses," he said again.

Every night, when it is just me, the thought that fills my heart and my prayers oh-so often is "Please, dear Lord, let these children know their father." The thought encompasses the greatest pain and hope and desperation that there is no other option but for them to know this man that loves them with more intensity than I knew was possible.

My children amaze me. I am so very thankful for their kind hearts. What has touched Logan, what allows him to still grasp and want the image of his daddy present in his life is a blessing.

I fervently believe that in this life we will be given the strength for the journey. I intensely believe that every tool, and emotion, and pillar of support that is necessary to thrive in this life will be provided for us if we look for it. Logan, my two-year-old son, is one of those pillars. The absolute innocence and goodness within him overcomes the challenges of this deployment every single day. There is nothing more beautiful at this moment than what I have seen in that child.

The little one who purposely falls asleep to the sound of his daddy's voice and tucks his "daddy doll" into bed, the same little boy who thinks to give his little brother "daddy kisses" and then to pass them to me is a gift.

Along this most difficult path, we do not walk alone, we do not hurt on our own. In the face of the greatest separation a little boy provided another gift of strength in the simplest action, in the tiniest moment with the most innocent thought - with Daddy Kisses.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Featured on Money Saving Mom

Please check out my post featured on Moneysavingmom.com.

I am very proud to be part of their site!

Featured on MoneySavingMom.com

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Below is the post:

Guest post by Megan at To Love a Soldier
I wake up to the shrill sound of that horribly annoying ring and I smile. It is 6 a.m. and he is calling. “Good afternoon! How is your day so far?” There is no noise on the other end.
“Please work, please work, please work,” I think to myself.
Then I hear it, a voice that has become all too familiar to me, “The call could not be completed. Please try again later.” I jump out of bed and begin to pull up the sheets, flatten out the comforter and smooth over the coverlet. I grab the throw pillows from the empty side of the bed when the phone rings again.
“Hello?” I say, truly asking. White noise. “Hello?” I ask again knowing there won’t be an answer.
I touch “end call” and place the remainder of the pillows in their places. I head into the bathroom, start the water and place the phone next to the shower, it rings one more time. “Hello?” I ask again.
Static. I put the phone on the hamper lid and step into the steam.
The way I see it, Military spouses have two choices when our loved one is deployed: pull up the covers over our head or smooth out the comforter. A year is a long time — and this is how long my husband will be gone from myself and our two boys. For them, for me and for him, I choose to get out of bed.
There is so much that goes into a day when you are the mother of a two-year-old and a nine-month-old and all of this becomes so much greater when your husband is in Kandahar. My focus is on these things: keeping this family strong and together and helping fellow military wives do the same.
There are many things we can do to make the time go by faster, to make the homecoming seem closer. I try to focus on what can be done and what must be done to thrive in this very special life. It can be overwhelming, it can be stressful, it can be heart-breaking; but it can be so incredibly rewarding and full of joy.
It is easy to get lost in the struggle, to become broken in the battle and to grow tired of the heart-break. But each day brings us closer and each day can make us stronger. Here is how I do it:

Wake Up!
It is quite possibly the most important step of each day along this journey. And I don’t mean wake up at 8 a.m. and lie in bed waiting for him to call and then maybe go watch TV and eat a bowl of cereal. Seriously, wake up! My number one goal is to wake up before my children because if I wake up after them my entire day changes.
You should know that I am not a morning person. I am a triple-shot-venti-give-me-as-much-espresso-as-you got-if-you-want-me-to-speak-clearly kind of person! But I cannot tell you how much better I feel each day if I am up and showered before my kids start babbling or my son sits on the potty still wearing his pj’s (forgetting that all too important step, yet again!).
And if I get to wake up to the sound of my soldier’s voice, it is already a blessed day. But if I stay in bed and wait for that phone call, I could be waiting for a long time.

Send an Email

I know, I know. How technology-dependent have we become? Well, very. And at this point, I don’t answer emails, mainly because I probably only have a couple minutes (if that) before my kiddos are up and moving like they’ve had three shots of espresso and because I don’t want people to begin to think that I will be up and ready to answer their questions at 6 a.m. every morning.
I check my email for one reason: to see if he sent me a message. If he did, he is probably frustrated with the phone system and apologizing for the call not going through (as though it is his fault at all). If he didn’t I know that his plate is even fuller than usual so I email him a few encouraging words, an “I love you” and a “stay safe” and log out.

Enter the Craziness

Yup, there’s my two-year-old, sitting on the potty, pants on, smiling. Luckily, since I have been up and showered, I catch him in time. Pants down, diaper off, M&M looming before him and I hear the babbling in the other room. I open the door and there is my 9-month-old, standing in his crib laughing at me. I wish my husband could see that smile.

Answer Emails

This is important for me because there are 18 soldiers (other than my own) who have their families depend on me to be their link to them during this deployment. Their parents, their spouses, their children, their fiancees, all have my information if they need me. I do not, for a moment, take that responsibility lightly.
I check to see if any questions have come up and I answer them quickly through an email if appropriate or a phone call depending on the time and taking into account the four different time zones there are family members in. This will bring me into perhaps one of the most important things for a Military Wife to remember…

Reach Out for Support

We cannot get through this alone. Okay fine, you can, if you want to be mediocre, if you want to just make it through and if you want to burn out somewhere down the line. But to be a strong support to my soldier, to be a good mother to our children, to take care of myself, I need to recognize that support is nothing but good.
I can only speak for the Army as far as personal experience, but there are so many incredible resources at our disposal during deployments. There are so many people who can help along the way — to do the simple things or to manage the hard things.
Every Army post has an MWR and ACS building/center that can be a major life-line for a military spouse. Use them! I cannot stress this enough. Any welcome center on a military installation can direct you to this building or center and when you enter you will find a plethora of information and people to help you to understand it. (Army OneSource is the online version).
This is also a great way to know what amazing free shows, deals and events are being offered for military families in your area. My children saw Disney on Ice: Toy Story 3 free because of information like this! You won’t know about it if you don’t reach out.

Set a Goal

Deadlines make everything go by so much faster and to have a deadline for something other than when your soldier will return home keeps your mind focused on other things. Many women run marathons, begin blogging, go back to school or volunteer.
To volunteer in the military community has been one of the most fulfilling things in my life. To support those in the same situation and to find support in them does nothing but strengthen the spirit.

Make Time Everyday for Daddy

My children have so many reminders of their Daddy. We aren’t able to Skype right now, so my husband has not seen our boys in about two months. But our boys have a Hallmark book that holds his voice, video recordings of him reading stories, a doll that is a likeness of him and each has a stuffed animal with his voice telling him goodnight.
Everyday we go through pictures, watch videos, talk about him and keep him present. This may be one of the most difficult things to juggle. We are like single parents when our soldiers are away — but at the same time we aren’t.
We are constantly trying to keep our soldiers part of their children’s lives and it can be so stressful. As a friend pointed out, it can make it difficult to enjoy the moments they are missing because we are constantly videoing, snapping pictures, taking notes and trying to keep them up-to-speed.

Let Him Know About Today

Each night I email my soldier with what went on that day and what amazing things are children did. I try to describe it as best as I can for him. This is a double-edged sword: I know he wants to know these things so very much but I also know how much it hurts him to know that he is missing these moments.
My son has crawled, sat up, pulled up and began to try to walk; when my soldier left he was rolling. When he returns, my son will be running.
I tell him about myself, too: what I did, what I hoped to do the next day. I also tell him how much I love him and how proud I am. I do this each day and I will continue to.

Make Time for You

I said how important and stressful it is to keep “daddy” present everyday. But it can be so very tiring, and it is so easy to get caught up in it. So everyday, when you put your children down to sleep, when the world has slowed for a moment, take that instant and breathe.
I write to my boys or I simply sit still. It is amazing the amount of emotions that run through the body if we sit still for a moment when they are gone. And I still say to take that moment and feel it. I do not think we should wallow in our heartache but I do think we should acknowledge it. To be present in it for a time is healthy, to overcome it is empowering. To hurt when they are gone does not make us weak, but to only hurt when they are gone will make us broken.
Read a book, find a blog of a military wife who lets you know that we all feel how you feel. We all hurt how you hurt. We all fear what you fear. Be empowered by the strength that exists within the band of sisters that surround you. Reboot. Recharge. Relax! You cannot be Mommy and Daddy everyday if you don’t.
I love this life. I miss my husband but I am so very proud of him. I want our children to be proud of him, too. If they see me sulk while their daddy is away, if they grow up with that image in their head, they will only remember that. They will not remember the pride, the love and the support.
I want them to understand the importance of his job as they age. I have to set the example by my actions as they grow. What our young children think of their fathers rests on our shoulders. There is so much we should do, everyday, to make sure that image is the same thing we see.
Stay strong. Stay committed. Persevere!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hard to Breathe

I was trying not to watch the time. I had deliberately put my phone on the table three feet from my bed. Far enough away that it took a little effort to repeatedly check the time on it but close enough that I could answer it before it completed its first ring. But I knew it was late. The kind of late where nothing is on the TV except infomercials. I had read half of a five-hundred page novel. I had washed my face, washed it again, then washed my hair because I needed to do something with the time. I couldn't sleep and the reason really was dumb to me. I grabbed my phone and typed a quick email:

"I know you're okay. I really do know that. But call when you can or send an email if you can't call. I'll be checking my phone in a little bit.

I love you."

And I felt so stupid - because I know how this works. But I had a feeling in my chest that made it just a little bit harder to breathe. That feeling that could defy the migraine medication that had absorbed into my system hours earlier that should have knocked me out cold. That feeling that would go away as soon as I heard his voice or saw his email.

And I felt so stupid for feeling that and at the same time I felt stupid for feeling stupid. I know that this happens. I know that we all get those uneasy moments where something doesn't feel right. I had gotten them twice when he was in Iraq and I didn't truly breathe again until after I heard his voice. I did not know until after the deployment that those two moments were times that presented a difficulty for him. And that didn't make the feeling any better. True both of those times he had walked away - but what he walked away from made me cringe. The only two things I know about his first deployment - the only two things that I have ever heard him talk about. Only one that he still talks about from time to time. The other that he has never spoken of since the first time.

But tonight I couldn't breathe. At least it felt that way - to have to work to take a breath, to force yourself to remember to exhale. Too often I caught myself holding the air in my chest - lost in a thought, focusing on the heavy weight pressing against my throat and then I would almost choke as I pushed the air back out.

I tried to reassure myself of how well I know the process - how everything happens if something happens. Reviewing the procedures in my head - timelines, time-differences, protocol. I knew I was having a crazy moment for doing that - maybe from sleep-deprivation. I knew he was okay because none of this had happened. I knew he was okay because he just had to be okay. I knew he was okay because I just did. I knew it ...

But I really didn't. How much time had passed?

I grabbed my phone and clicked on the envelope. Deep breath in.

"Connecting ... Checking for mail ... [Gasp] Loading 1 message"

"I'm okay. Busy. I love you. Get some sleep."

I could breathe.

That night, my mind went to a place that we never want it to go but that we all go to. Fear. Everytime it has hit me in different ways - once like a hard, violent punch to the gut. Coming on suddenly, knocking my legs out from under me, forcing me to crumble. Another time it was a nagging feeling that stayed with me for two days - it didn't hinder my activity, didn't stay in the forefront of my thought, but remained with me in everything. Something that felt like a rock in your shoe that doesn't quite distort your movement but makes each step just slightly uncomfortable.

This was not like either of those. This was not quite panic but not so little-noticed. I was having a battle within my own mind between two very different unknowns - the unknown of safety and the unknown of harm. And there was nothing that could end that battle but those words - simple, uncomplicated sentences. "I'm okay. I love you."

"I'm okay."

There are few words that are better to hear and see than those words at this time in my life. "I'm okay."

"Get some sleep."

I could breathe.

I rolled over, hugged his pillow and fell asleep with my phone in my hands.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


This is something I have been milling over since before I began this blog. And I have gone back and forth on it for several reasons. It doesn't exactly touch on what my purpose is with this blog (or so I thought). But more so, it isn't something that I have much experience with. Really I don't have any experience with part of it and that is mainly because of what part of the Army my husband is in now and has been in since I have known him. But it is something that I have always thought about, wondered about, wanted to get some perspective on. And so, I turned to a friend, who is a soldier, and asked for her opinion on the subject.

Everything is centered around "Army Wives". The title is everywhere, we claim it, we respond to it, we live it. But that title holds only one meaning that people recognize - a male soldier and a female spouse. But not all soldiers are men and not all spouses are women. They fall through the cracks. We forget them.

And we forget them in different ways. I have never met a male spouse of a female soldier who was not also a soldier himself so it is easy for me to forget. And I wonder how much harder the civilian male spouses must have it. Everything that volunteers are taught, everything that defines the Army family, everything that we say and that we think and that we organize has an underlying, un-noticed assumption of the "traditional" Army family make-up. And it must be difficult - to be a female soldier and to be a male spouse.

We forget that these women are WOMEN for a moment. We see them as soldiers, the same as we see our husbands, but maybe we forget that below the training bruises, behind the gun, inside the same uniform that the men wear they are still women. Feeling, passionate, courageous women. And the men who stand beside them, who have taken vows, who hold the same fears as any "Army Wife", who pray for the same safety to follow their wives into battle, who sacrifice, who hold a family together, who persevere until that same day when their spouses return home, go unnoticed at times.

It is not just fathers and sons and husbands who defend this nation. It is not just mothers and daughters and wives who remain behind, waiting, praying, loving, and supporting. It is mothers and daughters and wives and sisters who leave their families, who kiss their babies and know the next time they see them they will be walking, who hold back their tears and pull the courage from deep within themselves to fulfill their mission. It is fathers and sons and husbands who hold them for the last time, and raise those new babies, and love and pray and wait.

We forget them because it is easy to. We forget them because they are in the minority. It isn't right. The ease with which they go unnoticed doesn't provide an excuse.

Their sacrifice is the same. Their separation is equal. Their pride is no less than mine. Their courage is no less tested, grace no less necessary.

They enter into the battle - those who are sent forward and those who stay behind. They should not be forgotten. They should not be dismissed. Never - not for a moment.

Gratitude for the sacrifice belongs to them - to the women who serve and to the men who also know what it means to love a soldier.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Littlest Steps

Clothes have exploded around me - diaper boxes, plastic bins, hangers, and socks have taken over the boys' bedroom. I have just over an hour. One hour to sort through the piles of clothes and baby gear that has taken over this room. So many sizes - newborn to 4T. So much to refold, to relabel, to repack. I hold onto the tiniest ones, the preemie sizes, the newborns and I see the bright red letters as I pull out the next one. There it is - the one he wore that last day. "I love Dad" written on the chest. Size 0-3 months. So very small.

My littlest one - Eli - began taking two or three steps at a time a little over a month ago. This child moves faster, climbs higher, and has more strength than I have ever seen in a child of his size. And his size is what gets me - because with everything that he can do (climb book shelves, swing between the slats of his crib, scale the side of his pack n' play) he is still only the size of a 6-month-old. And so I think of him as a little baby. He cuddles, he clings to his momma, he is just still so very, very sweet and so very, very small.

But really, Eli is almost a year old and C is constantly reminding me of that.

I have mentally prepared myself for when my boys see their daddy for the first time. I know Logan is going to be okay - I honestly believe he will run into his arms like no time has passed. I do not even doubt that Eli will put his arms to him once he sees Logan do so. He loves to do whatever his big brother does. He may run to C simply because he will be chasing behind Logan. I worry about my boys' reaction less and less as the days go by and as their resiliency becomes more and more apparent.

But, every day, as I begin to understand how much they have changed, as people who have not seen them in 6 months or longer comment on how big Logan has gotten and how much Eli is moving, I realize that my worry lies in C. We do not have Skype - we do not have any video communication. And I don't think that people realize that many of our troops do not get to communicate with their families in that manner. We have a satellite phone that sometimes works great and sometimes gives only 30 seconds or so of communication. So my boys have not seen their daddy's face, I have not seen my husband, in several months. And that is what I have thought about - that they haven't seen him. My focus has been so very much on my children that I have rarely considered that he hasn't seen them either.

He has not seen the several inches Logan has grown since he hugged him goodbye so long ago. He hasn't seen the two clothing sizes he has gone through in that same time period. Eli was in the tiniest clothes when he left him. He started small - in some preemie clothing - and had barely made it into the "0-3 months" size when C kissed his forehead last summer.

Eli was just beginning to roll - and C only saw it a few times. He is beginning to walk now. He is babbling, saying "uh-oh", smiling and saying "momma". We are chasing after him as he tries to chase the dog around the house or climb the chairs up to the table. This baby - while I get to see the gradual changes, the moments over a span of time - will not be the child C knows. And we don't really notice it, because everything just runs into one, everything seems gradual, subtle. But when he gets off that plane and looks for the family he left when he boarded the last one - he will see me standing beside a much bigger boy while holding onto the hand of a standing, barely-talking toddler. What will go through his mind?

I wish for a moment, I could go into his head and heart and know everything that he will feel in this moment. The joy, the relief, the confusion, the sadness because there must be so much that he will be feeling. There will be so much that he will try to process in the few short moments between when our eyes meet and when that much bigger boy leaps into his arms. I want more than anything to make it okay - to relay to him in those few short, precious moments everything that occurred between when we left him for his flight and when we will greet him after this one. I want it to not hit him in the chest and knock the breath out of him the way I so heartbreakingly know that it will. I want him to see it through my eyes - to know the tiny babbles, the sweet eyes, the quiet peace of watching his littlest son sleep. I want him to know everything and it just broke me to realize that my worry and my fear has been wholly consumed with how my boys will be.

But when it comes down to it, the moment they see him no time would have passed. He will be the same daddy, he will be the same hero, he will be the same strong hands that have held them, and loved them, and protected them. He will be the same man. He will be the same most wonderful, caring, strong man that has done nothing but loved his family.

And in the two weeks that he gets to come home to us for his R&R, he will cling onto every moment, wishing so badly that he could have known the many, many months that passed without him. And that is simply the reality - the harsh, oh-so-difficult, hard-to-even-comprehend reality.

I miss him. My heart hurts to know what his heart is carrying, what it will carry when he comes home to us, the great weight it will hold when he leaves us again.

And today I know it, today completely reaffirms what I have said before. I am not tougher than him, what I do is not harder than what he does. To live this life without him here is not more difficult than him living this life without being with us. I have gotten to watch our children grow, I have watched Eli's first year, I have heard the "momma" babbled on his little lips. I have held him and felt his hands lightly brush against my cheeks and seen his bright-eyed smile as he looks up, inches from my own face. I have known this child - our child.

With the littlest steps, he has grown up before me. With the littlest steps he will approach his daddy. With the littlest steps they will grow to know each other and with the littlest steps, we will begin again.