"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.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Different Perspectives

As the blog has reached more people - in EVERY possible walk of this journey - I would like to provide outlets for those who can relate to others better. Our family is preparing for R&R - which is incredible - so I will be taking a slight break from the blog in the near future (without saying when). I would like to add a tab to the page with blogs that address the different places this life can both take us and find us. If you have a blog or know of a blog that you would like me to consider adding to this page please email it to me at toloveasoldier@gmail.com.

I am looking for:

A seasoned-wife with several deployments, and duty stations, and all kinds of hoopla under her belt. I love finding these blogs personally because they are a wonderful guide to me.

A female soldier (service member) - I know that female soldiers read this blog and I think your perspective is the hardest to find out there and as I have said before - far too often forgotten.

A girlfriend - I have experienced a deployment as a girlfriend. My husband was in Baghdad soon after we started dating. But I had a very different mindset about this life at the time. I hear ALOT from girlfriends and fiancees. I would love to have someone who blogs often that can give them that "you are not alone, you are not crazy for what you feel" perspective. The struggle to balance the civilian world and the military world that doesn't often recognize you would be very helpful to read about.

A mother of a service member - I have often said I can be married to a soldier but I could not give up my sons. I do not know how a mother carries this but I have every respect for those who do. This is not a choice for them as it is for us (whether you recognize this as a choice or not). It is not the same and too often they also are not introduced to this world as thoroughly as a spouse.

A Marine Spouse, A Navy Spouse, an AF Spouse - I can only speak for the Army life because it is all I know. I know that our struggles and joys are very similar but the language and situations are different.

An OCONUS spouse - anywhere outside the continental USA. Goodness knows I hold a little jealousy towards all of you ; ) but I would love to hear of your journey.

A Reserve/Guard Spouse - You very often do not get the same support as those of us involved in the active side do. Your sacrifice is great. This would be a wonderful way for you all to find support in one another!

A Newly Wed - I hate to tell ya, but when that ring goes onto your finger the army doesn't sprinkle fairy dust on you to make you a pro nor do they issue you your own body army to take on this life. They give you an ID card and tell you not to lose it - and don't! This life is what you make it and you will learn so much better if you watch, listen, and PAY ATTENTION! What better way than to share the little secrets you have learned in the beginning of this journey with others in the same shoes.

A Wife Undergoing or with Experience on Reintegration - I know that so often we see the end of the deployment as the finish line - and in a way it is - but in so many ways it isn't. I have never experienced this as a "wife". I know other's people's stories but I do not have personal experience as a married couple before. If you have blogged about this or would like to write a guest post please email me with info.

If there are any other categories that you would like to hear of please suggest them below and I will look for those as well! Whether you blog just for yourself or if you want to help other spouses I would love to hear from you.

Please include a short bio on you and your blog. Whatever message you want to share so readers will know a bit before they begin reading.

I will say that I want this to be inspirational and I want it to be mostly military life related. If your blog only includes some military - if you have a label that leads to that part that is fine too. Of course this journey is hard - but no one gains strength from only hearing the negative. If you have made a commitment to thrive in this life - I want to read your story and share it with others. Happy blogging!

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Heavy Load to Carry

"No, no, no, Eli" I warn and begin to laugh as his little body shakes the way it always does as he crawls away faster than any other baby could possibly move - HUGE smile on his face. His giggle trails behind him as he moves onto his next adventure. I follow behind and place him in his walker. He is so very precious and so very different from his big brother. Their personalities are so distinctly different but they work so very well as a unit. I look around the corner hearing both of their laughter and I smile back. Logan is standing on the back of the walker and my little super baby is moving him across the tile as if there isn't a giant of a two-year-old attached. Funny brothers. Funny moments. Once-in-a-lifetime kind of moments.

And then it comes. The heavy weight that I am usually so very good at shifting to a place where I can hold it better. My shoulders fight to not slump beneath the much added pressure that has just appeared there. Precious moments. Once-in-a-lifetimes moments. The giggles that will be different next week, next month, next summer. The beautiful, oh-so-blessed moments that move on to a new one as quickly as they come. My shoulders give just a bit more as the weight becomes greater.

How wonderful to know these tiny laughs, these innocent playtimes. How very blessed is a mother. How very awe-filling to be a father. How very horrible to miss it.

My shoulders straighten and my stance tightens as the weight shifts downward. The pressure leaves my shoulders and settles into my chest. My heart is now too heavy.

How difficult our burden. How great our hardship. How very heavy a load we carry.

I will never deny how incredibly challenging and painstaking this life is. We carry it every moment - some more knowing of it than others - but the most difficult aspects of this journey can never go ignored. And Goodness knows it is so easy to get lost in that. My mind had become trapped there. The weight was becoming too heavy - the incredible sadness physically affected my body. To know the absolute beauty of watching your children as children - to get to see all of the little moments that tell the beginning of their story. To witness the innocence, the absolute bliss of no worry or fear or hardship. To know those moments is life-altering. And the sadness of knowing that he does not know them is crushing - physically incapacitating at times. But still, I get to know them.

He knows he is missing moments that he will never know - that he won't get back. How horrible to carry that. How much strength must that take to knowingly give up something that you can't get back. How much absolute courage must a soldier have, how much love for something greater than any of us, how much sense of right, how much sense of duty, how much goodness must be in them - to carry that.

No matter how heavy my load - no matter how dreaded this burden - his is greater. No matter how back-breaking mine can feel, his is heavier. No matter how heart-crushing my anguish, his is deeper.

His is like no other.

His is one that only a soldier can carry.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Tears flow just as I expected. I knew this was coming, I knew exactly what it would be like, and the tears came anyway. It was just a photo - uploaded from a phone to a website like any other day. A daddy and a daughter. Anyone who didn't know any better wouldn't think anything more. A daddy held his little girl - a daddy held his little girl for the first time in nearly seven months. The same little girl he heard cry through the speaker of a phone as she entered into this world. He listened from the battlefield 7000 miles away - two years earlier. The same little girl who had just had a birthday. And he was holding her, in the Nashville airport, surrounded by so many people who have become indifferent to moments as beautiful of these - he held his little girl. And the tears continued to fall.

This wasn't my soldier. This wasn't my child. And that didn't matter. We never become numb to these moments.


I asked for it. I did. I wanted to add pictures to the page - beautiful pictures that would express what my words couldn't. And goodness did they come. A few homecomings - the joy is always incredible. I believe that everyone should see - in person - a welcome home. There is nothing more infectiously joyous than those days. The reunions truly are like nothing else in this world - but that isn't when the tears started.

It was the last link - the one that said "Farewell" - that opened the door for that. And it was not simply sadness. I don't think anyone can understand this difference if they haven't felt it. If you just saw me you may interpret it as only sadness - maybe even agony with how much the tears flowed. No - it was not sadness. There was such incredible beauty in these images - of the gear so perfectly stacked in the straightest of rows. The images of the backs of families having last pictures taken. Of the soldiers - making me want to know so badly what was going through each of their minds. And you think how many fathers do those piles of gear belong to, and mothers, and daughters, and sons, and wives and husbands. How many do they each leave behind. And you see the weapons strapped to their bodies that become their lifelines, the heavy plates that they strap across their chests, the solid helmet that makes them all look the same. And while this is common place for those who wear these items and to those who watch them march away - it isn't "common". Something common couldn't evoke such emotion - and it does for those who love a soldier - it will every single time a video is shared of a child running to hug his daddy, or when a photo shows a mother kissing her baby girl for the last time in a long time. Every single time it will bring tears to my eyes.

But please do not take this for just sadness. I am so very proud and so very grateful to those who have the strength to kiss us goodbye and put on that helmet and strap on that vest and pick up their arms. Every tear that falls is indeed heartache - but it isn't a heartache you understand unless you live this. There is blood-curdling fear. Heart-wrenching dread. Overbearing stress. Of course we hold these things. But there is a beauty in the heartache when you realize how much love we must hold - love for a man or woman who will leave us (repeatedly). Love that must and will strengthen us for the journey. Pride that will give us chills, goosebumps, put a lump in our throat in the most challenging of moments. And it isn't just our love that must fit here. We carry their love for their families while they take with them their love for this country. Our hearts hurt because they hold so much. Of course we ache. Of course I will cry - not just for my soldier but for yours too.

There is so much love. There is so much beauty. There is so much pride.

Amazing what the heart can hold.

And our hearts will hold it all.

Just When I Have a Grip ...

Army 236 / Megan 0. But who's counting, right?

Some time ago, while having coffee with a then soon-to-be spouse I told her, "Write in pencil."

I honestly think that this may possibly be the absolute worst life-style for a planner (which I am). But I cannot tell you how many of my friends are just like me. And some have given in a little bit more than me - they write things down in pencil in the planner that they cling to. Maybe they have a little more sense than me - maybe a bit more sanity. I won't give up my pen. I don't care how much I know that whatever I just wrote next to whatever date will change, and will change again, and will change - yep - let's go with at least one more time. I know that. And I will take my pen and draw a single line through whatever I wrote, and write it somewhere else, and do it again, and again. My monthly calendar pages sometimes look a bit like prison stripes. Maybe I do it to torture myself - maybe I think that just this time its gonna stay the same. This entry will not be crossed through. This time. This time is the time.

But I know it won't be. But I won't give up my pen.

But I didn't even have this written down - it was just in my head. A general timeframe - a general plan of how these next four months would pan out. I had planned around this general timeframe - done a lot of planning. Harmless, right?

Army: 237 ...

I swear I would have pulled the hairs from my head one at a time if it would take the pressure away that was building up inside of it. "Are you KIDDING me?" I didn't say it out loud - it wouldn't make sense to him. And it wasn't the big things that needed to get done that were hitting me - I wasn't really stressed about those. I had already thought of them - those were kind of the easy parts. It was everything else that they had covered up. The toys - the tons and tons of toys. The magazines. The "stuff" that was everywhere all of a sudden. The box after box after box of stuff that not only did we have to move, but we had to store because we probably wouldn't need them before the next move. When was that gonna be? In a year? In two? In three? Could I leave them here? That only made sense if we moved back down South. No, no, they should come ... but maybe they should stay.

And the large baby items - to hold onto them or sell them or donate them. To store or to move? Made sense to stay if we PCS'd sooner rather than later. But I didn't know! Clothes - hold onto the three sizes that were now too big for me? Or donate them. What if I needed them again? Ugh! No way. And the car - trade up to the vehicle that was better equipped for a cross country move with two toddlers and a moving trailer in tow? Wait till we made it to CO to do that? Keep the long miles off the new car? Or keep 'em off the trade? Hmmm ... Did it make sense to move thngs that may just be stored anyway or wait to move them from here for the next one? Take that crib apart one more time or just get a toddler bed when we get there. Hmmm ...

Oh no - I couldn't think straight anymore. I wasn't just stressed over the change in this move - I was overwhelmed by the unknown of the next. Seriously - what other life leaves you to stress about planning your NEXT move while completing a current one.

I swear if the Army gods were women ...

But they aren't and this is the life. And somewhere down deep - I find it. The good. This stress means this move is going to happen. This move means he's almost home. Just a few more months. We're almost there - just one step at a time. One foot after the other. I can do this. I will do this. I am doing this. One step after another. Bring it on. I got this. He's coming home.

Maybe I will go find myself a pencil.


Friday, February 18, 2011


Today I was thinking about what a soldier would look like on paper and this is where it brought me.

A Soldier's Promise ...

I cannot promise you every night of my life. I cannot promise to be beside you for every difficult moment, every trial, every hardship. In truth, I can promise you that I will not be with you for most. I will leave you at inconvenient times. I may miss the births of our children. Any special date to us may be tainted with the anniversary of the death of one of my friends. I will ask you to take over whatever life we have built together for months and years at a time. And will then crash back into that life that you have used your sweat and your tears and your heartache to keep together and try to take it back as I knew it before. I will shut you out at times because it will be the best way for me to hold it together at that moment. I will lie to you. I will tell you I don't know things when I do. I will not always tell you where I am going, when I will be back, or who I am with. I may not call you for weeks and months and you will not be able to call me. You will ask questions that I won't answer. You will know answers to questions that you will hope you never need. I will share things with my brothers that you will never understand. They will know things about me that you never will. They will be a support to me in some things that you cannot be. I will miss birthdays. I will miss anniversaries. I will have to get to know our children over and over again. I may need time to process things that seem natural to everyone else. It will seem that someone - or something - will always take precedence over you. You may lose me long before you ever thought possible. I will uproot you and ask you to re-establish our family anywhere in the world, in any season, at any time - over and over again. Sand and mud will be tracked through your halls from the boots I am too tired to take off. I will leave you when you beg me not to. I will stand at attention while you cry beside me. I will not turn my head and I will walk away. I will knowingly break your heart. And I will do it again - and again.

I cannot promise you all of me. I cannot promise that to our children. I cannot promise you much of anything.

But if you will have me, I can promise that as I march away from you it is not without sharing your heartache. I promise you that every time I break your heart I will be breaking mine. Every time that I cannot answer you I will be protecting you. Whenever you want to call and you have no number to dial I will be wanting to do the same. I will protect everything that we have created together with every fiber of my being while you do the same back at home. I will honor you in everything - every moment that we are apart and every moment that I am with you. I will fight harder and push further knowing that I do so for you. I will see the faces of our children in every life that I protect. And I will carry you with me in everything until my sandy boots once again sit just inside our door.

An Army Wife's promise ...

I cannot promise that I will not become frustrated when you leave me and the world seems to fall apart around me. I cannot promise that I will not curse those who sent you when the dryer breaks, and the transmission needs to be replaced, and the dog eats the couch all in the same week - most likely the week after you deploy. I cannot promise that the sand and mud that cakes my floor will not cause me to give you harsh looks and rude thoughts. I cannot promise that my heart will not be torn in twelve different ways when you march away from me. I cannot promise that I will not let my anger show when you refuse to answer questions. I cannot promise to understand why you share things with your comrades that you will not share with me. I cannot promise that there won't be times when my heartache makes its presence known before my pride can mask it. I cannot promise that I will not show my worry and my concern when it is best for you not to see it. I cannot promise to understand why you do so many of the things you do.

But I can promise that for as many tears of sadness and frustration and anger that are shed there will be double that of tears of pride. I can promise you that for every time you are away from me, I will learn to cherish the times that you are with me. In everything I will honor you and honor your sacrifice. I can promise to teach our children to do the same. I will use every moment that you are not with them to show them the amazing man that you are through my actions and my pride. I can promise that there will never be a night where you are not the subject of my final prayer and the keeper of my dreams. I promise to try to be understanding that there are many things I will never understand. I promise to keep you with me in everything and to do my best to keep grace in this life. I will be strong for you as you are strong for me and I will carry you with me in every moment until your sandy boots again sit just inside our door.

Written by: Megan Williams
© 2011, all rights reserved
Do not use without permission.

(These have also been circulating as "A Military Man's Promise" and "A Military Wife's Promise")

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Skype is a blessing. Hands down, absolutely, incredibly - a blessing.

It is.


"Oh no!" he cried out. "Where'd daddy go?" The screen had gone black. For just a few seconds we lost the picture and then he was back. "You okay?" Logan asks C now that his smiling face returned to the computer screen.

"I'm okay, buddy," C reassured him, "But I have to go in just a minute."

"Okay," Logan replied only responding to the first part of the statement. Logan began flying his small plane in the view of the camera, showing and telling C how fast it could go. Talking to him nonstop, playing constantly.

"Okay, buddy, I have to head back to work," C told him.

Un-phased, still smiling Logan says, "More, Daddy," and continues to fly his plane.

"Daddy has to go, buh-ga. Blow him kisses," I prompt him. He blows kisses at the screen.

"Bye, Buddy, I love you," C catches his kisses and blows them back. I wave and the screen turns black again.

The plane dropped onto the keyboard. Logan just stood there, bottom lip sticking out. "(Where'd) Daddy go?" he panicked. "No, Daddy go, No! Daddy please." He just points at the screen. "Please Daddy. Please. More Daddy." He sinks to the floor and continues to point to the screen, tears started to quietly show now. So much that his little mind doesn't understand yet. So much that his little mind understands already.

I am so incredibly thankful that we finally (if only for a short time) have Skype. I truly am overjoyed by it. For the boys to see C and for C to see him - for me to see him - there really are no words. I am very grateful.

But this has become a regular thing when it is time to say goodbye. And it is as though that same day that we lived (what seems like) so long ago when this little boy realized that his daddy was not here is replaying over and over again. He talks about him constantly now - which is both wonderful and painful. He wants him around for everything, asking where he is, asking why, far more often now. And that same joy that consumes every feature of his tiny face when he hears C's voice and sees his face is always wiped away when his lip quivers and he struggles to try to make it come back after it has gone.

The confusion has set back in, the temper, the heartbreak, the lack of understanding. I want so very badly to take him in my arms and help him to know that Daddy never wants to leave him, that Daddy always loves him, that Daddy misses him just as much. I want to hug every part of him that hurts, every piece of him that cannot understand why Daddy cannot play with him longer, why Daddy cannot be here when he wants him, why Daddy cannot hold him instead.

I do not want him to feel pain. I do not want him to know this heartache. I want more than anything on this earth to be able to comply when he says, "More Daddy." To take the confusion away - how difficult it must be for 2-year-old mind to handle. How horribly confusing to process what he sees and what he wants and for the two to not match up. Oh, how I wish I could wipe all that away as I hold him and wipe the tears.

But before these moments and then again later - there is so much joy. There is so much goodness in seeing his reaction when C's moving image lights up the screen. There is so much goodness when he points to Eli and tells his daddy about him. There is so much healing when he presses his little fingers to the screen to give his Daddy's hand a high-five. There is so much laughter when Logan tries to tickle C's neck and believes it when C laughs in response. There are so many blessings in those moments - so much deep, deep joy in that laughter. Such incredible goodness.

But with the joy will come the heartache. With the laughter will come the tears. And with the healing will come the breaking. And I will take them both. I know that as I hold my child while he presses his hands to a blackened screen, there will be joy again. I know that in the moment that he flies into his Daddy's arms there will be the greatest of all healings. I know that when he can touch his skin and not just his image the confusion will be as though it had never been. I know this - I know the goodness and I know the sorrow - and I will take them. I will hold them both in my arms and pull them into myself - making his joy my joy and his pain my pain. Without the heartache we cannot appreciate the joy. Without the joy we cannot get through the heartache.

And so I will continue to take them both - willingly, faithfully, knowingly. I will take them tomorrow and the next tomorrow and the next. Because eventually tomorrow will be the tomorrow - and I can carry them both until then.


About a week or so ago a new Army Wife that I have come to know well asked me for some advice. She had met an Army girlfriend recently and they instantly hit it off. This soldier's girlfriend was having a rough time understanding and processing the amount of separation there is between a soldier and his spouse and my friend asked me how she should talk to her about it. I asked her how I spoke with her about difficulties in this life and we went from there. I mainly told her to listen. Most of us just want to know that we are not alone in this, that we are not crazy for fearing what we fear and questioning what we question. We all go through it and to think that we are going through it alone is dangerous. We listen to each other and nod our heads and cry when we see the other cry because we understand whatever emotion is running through the other's heart. There is strength in the camaraderie, strength in the understanding, strength in the shared heartache.

I told her something else that I strongly believe is a vital way to communicate this life to others - especially to those who have not committed to this life yet, that aren't bound by the vows. And I say that not to scare those who love a soldier but to understand what this life is and to understand what it entails. I told my friend very bluntly, "Don't sugar-coat it." And I will say it again and again. Don't sugar-coat it. I think it is important to be positive in everything - not to be blissfully ignorant. There is a difference. Pretending that this path is just sunshine and roses does nothing to help someone who is about to enter into this life. They will be in for a rude awakening when that first month-long training hits, or a deployment is announced just when the stick gives you a "+", or you lose your ID and your soldier is at a three-day-long range. There will be no sunshine when your soldier is deployed and you live at Fort Drum and you get 20 inches of snow. No, literally, there won't be any sunshine - or roses either for that matter.

I think it is important to be real about this life and I try to convey that in what I write. I do try to be positive in almost everything - that is vital to getting through the day to day. Negativity gets us no where. I said once that I do not think we should wallow in our heartache but that I do think we should acknowledge it. To try to ignore it, to act like this life is just a beautiful walk in the park, can do nothing to strengthen us. At the same time, to spend every moment crying over it, to see only the hard side of it, to only focus on the negative, will break us. It is so important to live in the reality of it - to acknowledge that what we do is hard, that what we do is at times overwhelmingly heart-breaking, that what we face is at times unthinkable, unbearable. And I do not think that recognizing that weakens us - not even for a moment. I know that to understand the reality and to face it with an unwavering spirit will bring us strength, does give us hope, always makes the separation seem shorter.

It is easy to be blinded by the man in uniform - to fall in love with the idea of it. But when those blinded eyes regain their sight that uniform will become dozens of camo-printed pieces scattered on the floor to be packed for deployment. That shiny, decorated uniform, becomes a hanging bag lying on the floor of your closet hidden behind your clothes until he comes home. That man in a uniform becomes someone who doesn't just belong to you.

Acknowledge the reality and then live through it. Because at some point, the giant doors will open, your eyes will be blinded by the sun and then, finally, you will see him. Marching straight from the sunlight, in perfect formation wearing that uniform that you both love and despise. He will be home.

You will have lived through one reality to appreciate this one. Acknowledge the heartache. Acknowledge the difficulty. Acknowledge what it takes to get here. And then, open your arms and welcome your soldier home.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In the Dark

My husband is very good at his job. He has always been the type to get things done and then move on. But my husband is also a stickler for the rules. Goodness I cannot tell you how much that can get to me at times. While other soldiers may tell their spouses things they should not share mine keeps his lips tightly closed and often keeps me in the dark. And I understand that he believes that he should always lead by example, practice what you preach, and I love that about him - but goodness does it drive me insane at times. My husband has always been this way and I know I should be used to it by now but I don't know if that is something that anyone really gets used to. We have gone through one of those "in the dark" times recently. I know something is happening and I only know that because I know my husband and I know the way he is when he tries not to say something. And I cannot explain in an adequate way how much this gets under my skin. I do NOT like to not know things. I hate to not feel like I have control. I know, seriously, this is how it is. To all you well-seasoned military spouses out there, I know I need to let go of the reins and give up the struggle. Ok, NO, I need to stop pretending that the reins were ever in my hands. I get it, really, I do. We don't get to be in control, we don't get to have all the info (and sometimes any info), we do not get to command the mission. I get it - but I can't seem to give up the fight.

Only once has my husband ever bent the rules - and that is pushing it. Because he managed to bend the rules in a way that really wasn't even bending them. Maybe he stretched them slightly - but I don't even think it was a husband to wife thing. It was more of a rear-d commander doing what he could to help a spouse that he had great respect for.

He had been called into work in the early, early morning. I had gotten used to those phone calls - as horrible as that was. It wasn't exactly getting used to the phone calls that meant that someone had been hurt or worse. That was still painful - the feeling of knowing that my husband was letting someone know something they never wanted to know always shook me in the most horrible way. That sadness never ceases. But I had finally learned how to go back to sleep when the phone calls came. Mainly because I had experienced so much of it. I knew how emotionally exhausting the days that followed were for my husband - for our family - and I knew that I would need my sleep. Understanding how important my sleep was I had taken to turning my cell phone on silent at night. If there was an emergency - the people that would need to get me knew my house number.

The sun had not come up yet when I woke confused. The house phone was ringing and it took me a few rings to process. The machine picked up and there was a click. Then the phone began ringing again. I rolled to his side of the bed and felt over the nightstand with my hand - still not opening my eyes. Finally my fingers found the phone. "Hello?" I whispered.

"Turn your cell phone on."

"Um, ok? Everything okay?" Dumb question.

"Robin is going to call." I sat straight up. Everything processed at once. He had been called in during the night, the sun was barely starting to show signs of the day beginning, and I needed to turn on my phone. What had happened to Robin's husband?

"Oh no. Is he ... ?" I couldn't say it.

"No, he isn't. Just turn on your phone. She wants to talk to you. I have to go."

I had known Robin longer than I had known a-n-y-o-n-e else at this post. I don't think you could take two people who really were like oil and water and make them somehow go together. She means a lot to my husband and I. She was going to be calling and I didn't know what had happened. Before I could think any longer on it, my cellphone lit up. I hadn't even turned the ringer on yet.

"Hello," It wasn't a question but a statement.

"Meg?" She didn't say anything else.

I took a deep breath, swallowed hard and answered. "Robin. I'm here."

There are moments when the rules are best bent. This was one of those times and my husband recognized it. I don't even think they were bent but it is the closest he has ever come to doing so and he did so at the request of the spouse. And I know that that is just one of the things that makes my husband a good man, a good leader, and a good soldier. He feels for his soldiers, for their families, for his family. And I know that the reasons I cannot know things at times are good reasons. I know that if he could tell me, if he thought it right to tell me, I would know - one way or another. And no matter how often I tell myself that it doesn't get less frustrating. It doesn't make me any more sane. Maybe it provides a little acceptance. Acceptance that this is just a part of it. That keeping such information is part of something greater than me. That keeping such information in no way means that he loves me any less, in no way means that he doesn't trust me, in no way means that he loves this country more than he loves me. He will not tell me things because the rights of his family are what he protects most.

No, he does not love this country anymore than he loves his family. He loves this country as much as he loves me. Because we are one in the same. To a soldier, this country is not just a plot of earth. Not even just the rights that were fought for. This country is of the people, by the people, for the people. We are that "of", "by", and "for" that they protect. We the people, we their hearts, we their lives. He does not love this country more than he can love his wife, his children, his family - he loves this country the same. Because I am what he sees this country to be, I am what he fights for. Our children are the rights he is willing to give his life to protect. Our children are the tomorrows he carries in his hands and guarantees for us to hold in ours. I am in the dark but it is not without that acceptance. It is not without the understanding that my darkness is just one more link in the armor of this great, great nation.

He may keep me in the dark, knowing my frustration, knowing my annoyance, but in every mission, in every assignment, in every unshared task he holds with him the promise of the coming light.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

If Ever I Cease to Love

The very first piece of jewelry my husband ever gave me was a chain bracelet with a heart charm. A darkened fleur de lis is centered on the front with the words "If ever I cease to love" engraved on the back. For those of you who are from where I am from you know what that really means. I cried when I opened the box that held this silver piece in it. I received this for Valentine's day five years ago. "If ever I cease to love" means something different for me than you may think. This phrase is synonymous with the city of my birth - a city that I love more than you may understand unless you have lived here. This bracelet came out in a popular jewelry artist's first collection after Hurricane Katrina. My husband knew that when I fell in love with him I would have to leave my home behind. This life would not allow for us to remain here no matter how much I may have wanted that. And so, while in Baghdad he ordered this bracelet and sent it to me. "If ever I cease to love..."

Panic - absolute panic ripped through me. "Where is it?!" I kept thinking to myself. I had my watch on - I never took one off without taking off the other. I tore the room apart, ran down the steps and started searching everywhere I had been. Then I started searching the rooms I hadn't been in because I wasn't thinking clearly anymore. My best friend jumped into the car with me next searching the seats, the shopping bags. I started calling the last place I had it on - they hadn't seen it but would look. She started the car (as I was a bit too distraught to drive) and we pulled into the parking lot to search the ground. It wasn't there.

We went home - me defeated while she was trying to remain hopeful. And then, it hit me. I looked at her and her face was the same. When we had left the store the bags on my wrist had gotten caught and I yanked at them a bit. As we were walking out the door, another woman came in. I heard her say, "Oh!" as I got into the car. We both watched her as she picked something up off the ground and as she went into the store to show her friend. It was one of those times that something seems so insignificant as it happens but your brains saves it for whatever reason. To torture me, perhaps. It was so very clear now - now that I knew my wrist was bare.

When I told my husband I was heartbroken. This bracelet meant more to me than I think I even understood before it was gone and my carelessness, my lack of vigilance, had caused it to separate from me permanently.

Early February my husband called me upset. He had planned to buy the same bracelet for me for this Valentine's Day (five years from the first time) but, because of the increase in the prices of precious metals, it was nearly three times the price he purchased it for.

"I was going to get it but..." he trailed off.

"But you knew I would be even more upset if you did," I finished for him.

My heart was broken again.

Yesterday I went into the store to make sure that the new price was not a mistake. It wasn't. As I just began to explain the situation the tears started falling and I excused myself. The little I got out was, "My husband gave it to me while he was in Iraq. I lost it while he's in Afghanistan." I couldn't explain any further - to say it like that weakened every part of me as I said each word. I didn't like how that sounded - I didn't mean to say it like that. I didn't know I would be that upset. I darted from the store embarrassed by my tears.

The sales girl tracked me down as I was heading back to my car with a card in her hand. It was the gallery manager's information. She asked my name and said to call on Monday and talk to her. When I began to walk away she touched my arm and said, "Please thank your husband for me." She meant it.

I almost didn't answer the phone. I usually don't answer numbers that I do not recognize and just wait for a voicemail. But for whatever reason today I picked up the phone. "Mrs Williams?" a voice I didn't know said. It was the gallery manager. "This may be strange but you weren't by any chance in the store yesterday?" I hadn't left my phone number. She found me to apologize and to offer the bracelet at the lower price. She repeatedly said "I am so very sorry." Her kindness and sincerity brought tears to my eyes (yet again). While I can't be sure, I am almost positive I heard the tear-filled tremor in her voice as well.

The kindness in people at times can be absolutely beautiful, pure, and good. She didn't have to track down my number and call me. She didn't have to talk to me two days before she expected my call. She didn't need to offer something that meant so very much to me at a price well below the retail. And I honestly didn't think it would matter as much as it does. She will never know how much that meant to me.

There is good in people. There is kindness. There is support. There is gratitude. To go above and beyond for another. It gives me strength in the weakest moments.

If ever I cease to love ...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

First Sight

"Ugh!" I said out loud as I washed my face. It was so very small but I could feel it - the kind of pimple that you just KNOW is going to be a bad one before it has really even started to form.

"Seriously?" I thought to myself. I pulled the tube out of the cabinet and dotted the green goop onto that one spot. Then I felt another spot that maybe, just maybe was thinking about forming another one so I dotted there too. And then another. And then eventually I squeezed the green mask into my fingers and covered my entire face.

"RRRRRIIIIIINNNNNNNGGGGGG!!!" I grabbed the wet towel and wiped the grossness from my hands. I passed from the bathroom to my bedroom, scooped the phone up off the bed and tried to not press it against the drying putty on my face.

"Hey!" I hadn't expected his call tonight. His schedule had been growing fuller by the day and he had warned me that he would not be calling until later tomorrow.

"Hey ... you sound surprised." Well, duh, I was surprised. Why is it that the times he says he won't call always seem to be the times that he does? And the times that I am expecting a call always seem to be the times that the phone never rings? "Weird question," he continued. "Do you remember my Skype user name?"

"No Way!" I blurted out. "No Way!" I repeated over and over again in my head. Is it possible to be mentally telling yourself to not get your hopes up (and to really think that you have a grip on it) while having your heart race in absolute anticipation at the same time?

"Way!" he said making fun of my response. "Look up my username and email it to me. I will be on in a minute."

Of course this would be the time I would look like I had green frosting caking my face. To wash it off or to keep it on? Why was I taking time to think about this? "Make a decision, Megan!" Was I talking to myself now? Surely I could still think straight. I soak the washcloth in warm water and rush back to my laptop.

"Hey!" I heard his voice but I couldn't see him. The screen was a black box where his image should be. This was NOT happening. In half-an-instant my exploding heart thudded to a stop.

"I can't see you," I moaned. There it was that "don't get your hopes up" that hadn't been able to reason with the racing of my heart seconds earlier.

"I can see you," he said back - trying to keep his voice calm as he processed my own sadness. I half-smile - at least glad for that.

I have not seen my husband's face in over four months.

Correction: I had not seen my husband's face in over four months. ; )

"I SEE you!" the words burst from my mouth before my eyes could truly process. Of course my eyes couldn't process it - I couldn't see. There were too many tears pouring from behind my lids. "I see you. I see you. I see you!" I could not say anything else. He laughed.

Seeing his head cock back and his mouth widen and his teeth shine while my ears heard the same laugh I have only heard over the past several months took my breath away.

I could see him. I could see the smile that I so deeply miss and see his eyes brighten and his face glow as he felt the same thing I felt. We could see each other. Without any reasoning I pressed my fingers to the screen. I could see him.

And it may seem trite - to become so overwhelmingly emotional over something so basic, so natural. To be able to the see the love of your life. To be able to see a laugh that for so long had to be remembered from past laughs as it could only be heard. To see his laughter.

To see the joy. To see the hope. To see the complete object of one's affection, one's life, one's world.

To see a laugh.

It's like first sight.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Finding Me

Emails have been coming in since the Moneysavingmom.com feature and one of them triggered something that I meant to write about so long ago and got distracted (which I often do). I am very thankful that the story (and conversation that was sparked by it) of one person's struggle in this life helped to remind me of this.

I was going down the list of past friends, mentors, inspirational wives with a dear, dear friend of mine. When I asked how one of the kindest, quietly supportive senior wives we had worked with was doing her face changed.

"Oh, Meg, you don't know?" she look at me confused. This was not my post anymore, not my current Army home but one I still held close to my heart. The confusion on my face answered her question.

What happened doesn't matter. Her life was changed in a way that none of us ever want and I nearly slammed the brakes in heartache for her. She is kind, she is generous, she is the classiest of Army women and I am very proud to have learned from her.

She said one thing to my good friend after the path of her long army life changed course that has stayed with both of us:

"Do not lose who you are."

This life can be overwhelming, this life can be consuming, but it is not all that exists for us.

I am fully and completely submerged in the Army Life - I love it, it strengthens me, it is truly a BIG part of who I am. But it is not the only part of who I am. It is very easy to make our entire life about our soldiers, about their jobs, about this lifestyle. And I say repeatedly to be involved in it, to be active in it, to thrive in it. And I think that in saying those things it may lead women to believe that this must be their every moment, their every breath, every thought. That this part of life is the only part of life.

It isn't.

I will be the first to say that I struggle with this because I love this life. I believe that we all have a path that has been set before us - that we try to tweak and force to go another way at times - but that is our path. I have said before that I never expected this life for myself; I never had half-a-thought that my life would be what it is now. In truth, I had a very different picture in mind. My point is that I believe that the women who choose to take on this life, who choose to truly, completely, and passionately put their hearts into loving a soldier, are meant to do so. And so to not lose yourself in it is difficult - because this is my life. I am married to a soldier.

I have battled, within myself, trying to find the balance. I thought that by taking on this life I had to lose the life I "thought" was meant for me. I was resistant. I was closed-off. I decided that I would not accept this life anywhere beyond my husband. And in Erasing the Line I talk about when I realized that that was not something I, personally, could continue to do.

"Do not lose who you are."

Was I losing myself? The thought would not leave me. Because, if anything, from the time I had that lightbulb moment years ago when I suddenly found my "purpose" in this life I have never felt more like "me". I have never felt more defined, more complete, more understood than from that day forward.

Before that "ah-ha" instant I had been mourning who I had "wanted" to be. I thought that my hard work always focused on a single plan (a well-thought-out, eye-on-the-prize, I-know-who-I'm-gonna-be plan) had hit a dead-end. When I received that punch-to-the-gut some time ago I finally understood that who I am fits. Who I am has a part in this community - who I am is not solely this community but is a part of it. Who I am does not hide behind who he is.

Who he is is a part of who I am just as much as who I am is a part of him. I am dedicated to this life because I believe that I was brought here for a purpose. I serve in this life because it was in that single moment of recognition that "who I am" came back to me.

I haven't lost myself in this life. I had been lost - wallowing in what "was supposed to be".

But still, the thought that kept trying to overpower the certainty that I feel in my choice was questioning the "what-if". What if this life is not my life after a decade or two of commitment? In losing this life will I lose me again?

I cannot live today fearful of what might be tomorrow. What good can come from that? I will never be productive, never find a purpose in anything if I live in fear of what may come. So, "Do not worry about tomorrow." Live today.

I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and I am an (Army) wife. No matter what tomorrow brings, I will always find me in it.

"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself." - Matthew 6:34

Find Erasing the Line HERE