"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.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

To Do Without - Closing our Commissaries

(Photo courtesy of google images)

Nothing about this will be "popular opinion". 
In fact, this time last year I would have been on the "popular opinion" side of things. Not so much today. Maybe because my family (personally) as a military family is in a different place than it was a year ago. We as a military community are in a different place than we were a year ago. Our force is changing. Our Army, our Navy, our Marines, and our Air Force must maintain their readiness without near the same funding. The challenge to work through is immense. It isn't fair. It isn't right but it is reality. 

Soldiers are going to be involuntarily separated from the Army. Soldiers and their loved ones who have served faithfully and well are being told this nation is no longer able to afford them. 

We. Are. Still. At. War. 
The Middle East is still the Middle East. China thinks it's a game to claim airspace that isn't theirs. We need our troops. We need them trained. We need them ready. We need the world to have no reason to question our strength. If there is only so much money, it needs to go to them. 

If closing our commissaries allows $1.4 billion less to be taken directly from our readiness, our national security, our ability to protect our nation and our allies ... close them. Put in exceptions for OCONUS and for isolated posts/bases, and close the rest. I can shop off-post. I can shop at Walmart, or coupon, and cook smarter. I don't think it is a sacrifice. I don't think this nation is asking me to suffer some grave injustice. At the very most, it is asking me to be inconvenienced. 

I can be inconvenienced if the soldiers I know to serve honorably, for the right reasons, with selfless hearts are better protected, better trained, and more likely to come home alive because of it. 

I listened to the news today when the anchor said that military families will be "up in arms" to their congressmen and senators over the Pentagon's proposal. I have no doubt that some will. 

I won't. 

Our military is changing. Some of it I understand, some of it makes me angry, some of it makes me incredibly sad.  I will never, never say that we are lavishly bathed in benefits that give us luxurious lives as some press choose to explain it. I think we sacrifice more than most. I think we feel a pain and a longing that most people cannot understand. I think we live a life that demands strength and resilience and gratitude. But I also think that the majority of us have hearts that bleed for not only this nation, but for the defenders of it. Most of us would give the shirt off our back and the food from our cupboards if it somehow made one soldier safer. 

This isn't the future ahead of us. This isn't something that may be asked of us someday soon. This is happening now. Our military is changing - actively changing. We have to decide what we can do without so that those who will give up to their lives do not have to. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Among Friends

I talk often about the importance of relationships in this life. I've talked about how important I think the word "relationship" is rather than just "friendship". 

You build relationships with people in this life. People you only know for a short time who take root in you. Who become a vital part of your journey. Who connect in a way that there just aren't words for. 

People who, at some point, this life will separate you from but somehow that doesn't matter. It hurts like hell and you say too many "see you soons" but somehow this short period means more than distance.

This post was supposed to be our "family time post". C isn't in harms way. There is no threat of deployment looming for us here. But, still, he is gone more than he is home certain months. At an Army post where nearly every activity is done as "couples" it is so strange to be the one whose husband is not here. It is strange to be in a place where you are the "odd" one because your spouse seems to be "always gone". (He isn't "always gone" but sometimes it sure can seem like he is).  I am grateful that he loves his new job. He has really found "his place". This change was terrifying and difficult and overwhelming and I am so thankful that we both know now that it was the right one. 

This is also the first year juggling the schedule of a kiddo on the Autism spectrum. It's demanding and tiring and humbling. 

In eight short months people have been placed in our lives that have pushed us through. In so many ways, they have walked Eli's path with us. They have seen what Autism is for him - what it is for our family. They were with me days after he was diagnosed. They have encouraged me. They have strengthened me. They have learned with me.

They have quietly waited while Eli and I fought through meltdowns. They have reminded me of my own new mantra of "no apologies" when I automatically apologized for stepping away from a conversation, or moving Eli away from their kiddos, or correcting harm done. 

Women I didn't know a year ago who have loved my children with a fierceness I would never expect.

Today, during a birthday party at a nearby ranch, one of these women convinced me to let Eli ride a horse. Eli, my nonstop, sensory-seeking, will-run-into-walls-for-stimulation kiddo, wanted to ride an animal that could crush him in an instant. "H" promised me she would walk with him, stay right beside him. She nudged me to try something that scared me for him and she promised that it would be okay. The moment Eli was on that horse you could see a change. His entire body went still. He sat there and listened to the trainer (who I later found out is currently undergoing the certification process for equine therapy to work with kiddos on the spectrum) and let her guide his feet into the stirrups. 

As they circled, H stuck right by my little giant as he quietly talked to the horse. I couldn't sit down as I slightly paced and watched his entire demeanor calm. I continually blinked back tears as I watched my good friend praise him and say the same things she has heard me say. I nearly lost it in the very beginning when - as he sat there taking everything in around him - she asked him, "Where are mommy's eyes?" - the very thing we ask when we try to bring him back into our world. 

She knows me. She knows my children. 

No one else there could have known the significance of those few minutes. No one else could know what it took for me to let him go and to give up that control. No one else could know why a three-year-old calmly riding a horse could bring tears to his mother's eyes. 

My dear friend knew and I am so grateful we were able to share in the beauty of that together. 

We build relationships with people rapidly because we have to. Our time together is too short. This life demands so much of us. We need each other. I strongly, strongly believe people are put before us for a reason. That relationships are vital to thriving in this life. That we do not do this alone. 

I am so thankful for those placed before me. I am so thankful to be part of this community.
I am so thankful to know such incredible women. 

Meet Eli, the Little Giant. 
He's pointing at "Mommy's Eyes". So very special. Love you, H.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Builders of Bridges

I saw that someone found my blog a few days ago by googling "military girlfriend, why civilians suck".
I'm not exactly sure why google sent them to me. 

I was saying to a friend this past weekend that I have learned to be careful in my opinions and my broad judgments over the last several years. I have been humbled beyond words for the thoughts I have held strong to in the past, for the opinions I was brazen and naive enough to share. 

I was an  impatient "non-parent" who had strong beliefs on how children should behave. I know I have given harsh looks in the past, thought rude comments in my mind and sworn the awful vow of "my child will never".

God gave me an autistic child who teaches me what it is to love every single day


I was a twenty-something who strongly opposed this war, who act-u-ally verb-a-lized that a soldier could not possibly love his/her family because of what they "do to them" when they enlist. I saw no harm in saying such words, had no intense pride in our flag, and always thought - somehow in all of that thinking - that I supported the troops. 

God led me to C.


It wasn't just marrying a soldier that opened my eyes. It took much longer than the moments of those said vows. It was the patient and kind and grace-filled Army spouses that I met very early on in this journey. It was their pride, their intense, intense love for their soldiers, their absolute pain in joy that I witnessed.

It wasn't my first deployment that taught me. It wasn't my first R&R, my first military formal, my first "dependent" ID card.

It was these women who spoke without judgment. Who held their tongues until they could gracefully teach. Who smiled softly at my ignorance and showed me what it was to be selfless but fulfilled.

It wasn't until I stood beside my dearest friend as she labored without her husband there and watched her beautiful daughter enter into this life. It was witnessing that unthinkable courage, that tainted joy. 

It was the first time I knew the person the flag was at half-staff for. It was the first time I ran my fingers across the name on his uniform that was my name too knowing he might not come back to me. It was the first time I saw the most heart-searing pain in my husband's eyes when he took the hand of his friend's mother and walked her to his memorial. It was seeing my littlest little waddle into his daddy's arms a year after he left. 

It was through witnessing my spouse give all of himself for something greater than us. It was seeing the great burden he carried, knowing the great burden he carried, and suddenly understanding why he did it. It was his grace and selflessness and deep love for the people of this nation. It was intimately knowing the very beating of my soldier's heart. It was realizing that somewhere in all of this, his love for country was my love for country, his sense of service was my need to serve.

It wasn't anyone's anti-civilian words that made me strong in this life. It wasn't returned frustration that brought me to where I am. It wasn't clinging to the Army and separating myself from the rest of the world that allowed me to find joy. 

It was patience and grace, courage and understanding. 

I firmly believe that people react to the life we portray. That if we are to demand understanding and acceptance from our civilian counterparts, we must first demand that we give the same of ourselves to them. 

We can and must be kind and patient and grace-filled and open.  We must live in a way that shows the beauty in the sacrifice of this life. We cannot ask this country to recognize the sacrifice of service if we do not live in a way that serves. In a way that emulates the values we hold fast. 

I have been brought to tears again and again by the incredible questions and conversations I have received and had with civilian friends and acquaintances.
They have given me the most hope.
I have been humbled again and again by the reminder of the words and thoughts of my past that have allowed me to bite my tongue for a moment, to think before I speak. I have been blessed to see the outpouring of support and quest for knowledge and understanding from my home community. 

There is no doubt that that came from an open dialogue. From sharing this life. From sharing the journey.

I know there will always be hurtful words - I know because I have said them. I know there will be people who we think will never "get it". I know because I have been one.

For every military spouse that holds the mindset that "civilians suck", a brick is added to the wall that so often divides us. Choose whether you are a builder of walls or a builder of bridges.

Build walls and close yourself in. Build bridges and change mindsets.

I hope you choose to be a builder of bridges. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Nation of Good

Tomorrow I will take my five-year-old's hand and walk with him from his school to a gathering place for the entire district to stand and remember. 

My little giant of only three will be there as well.

Nearly every one of these children will have no memory of that day. Those old enough to "try" to remember won't recall much. They may remember parents in tears, the news on. They may remember the silence.

My God, I remember silence.

Every moment from the time the first plane hit is catalogued in my mind. Every moment. I remember my physics teacher turning off the television when we saw the black streaks falling from the windows. It took a moment for most of us to realize what those were. We all had the same look of horror when we all understood what was happening. When we realized the choice people were making. 

No one spoke.

It took hours and days and weeks to process the absolutely horror. Took our breath away to think of the firefighters and first responders walking into the blackness.

Everything about those images, those emotions, everything is still felt and known and lived. It gives me chills to think of when I heard my brother's voice on the phone after too many hours of his phone not responding. The image of our past president getting the news while reading to children.

Children who are like my littles now. Who have known war their entire life without having any true understanding of what war is

I pray that they never know a day such as this. I pray that our country forever remembers and honors and respects. I pray that they learn that good people ran into that blackness to save lives. That good people gave their lives for others. That good people stood up on September 12th and enlisted in service to this nation because that terror - that amount of hate - must never, NEVER come to our shores as it thrives beyond others. 

My children will know of this day. Some day I will sit with them and watch footage and talk and tell them what I remember. I will not leave it for just their history books and short paragraphs and political debate about what followed after. They will know from me. They will know from C. They will know that the only way to overcome evil is to live with goodness. That the best way to honor is to remember. And that when the flag is lowered on the 11th of September, we are a nation in mourning, a nation of healing, a nation of good.

A Free Wedding Dress for a Military Bride-to-Be

I have been repeatedly blown away by the kindness and want for understanding from my civilians friends and acquaintances.

Two of my mom's dearest friends contacted me with a beautiful request. These two lovely ladies recently launched a wedding planning business in my hometown of New Orleans. The focus of Down Annie Lane is to provide a Dream Wedding while staying in your "dream budget". 

Toni Ulmer (one of the owners) lost her incredible daughter a year ago this coming November. Annie - her daughter - was to be married this fall with a traditional New Orleans wedding. In honor of Annie, she and her friend Joy Gaspard took on this journey. Every year, on November 20th, they will donate a wedding dress to a Military Bride.

I cannot tell you the kindness of these two women. I am honored to know both of them and have been blessed by their understanding in this life. They have the highest regard and respect for our military families and service members.

If you know of a Military Bride-to-Be, or if you are a military Bride-to-Be, I want to hear from you!
They will be giving away a beautiful MoriLee gown that will fit sizes 8-12 (perhaps a 6 with alterations) along with a coordinating veil.

Pictures coming soon!!

If you are a Military Bride-to-Be and want a chance at this wonderful opportunity, email me at ToLoveASoldier(at)gmail(dot)com telling me your Love Story. Please include the following:
How you met your servicemember.
How long you have been together.
Where your wedding will take place.
Where you will be stationed after your wedding.
What you are most scared of and what you are most hopeful for in this life.  

If you want to nominate a friend or family member please write to me including the following:
Their love story.
Why this a deserving Bride. 
What you makes you proud of this Military Couple.

Please write this out as a story so myself and the owners can share and choose the worthy bride!
Entries will be accepted up until November 1st and the winner will be announced on November 20th.

Please share this with anyone you may know who could use this awesome gift!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Whispers - Guest Post by Erika @ Chambanachik

It is rare that I find the time to sit and write these days. Life is ... well ... life.

I asked one of my favorite bloggers to share a post with all of you. I had no idea what she was going to write about I just asked her to write. When she messaged me that she had sent her article and when she said what the topic was I took a long, deep breath.

I had no idea how she was going to talk about it and I was nervous about what may be waiting.

When I opened the file and read her words, she left me with chills. Because none of us are talking ... we don't talk about such things ... none of us are talking - we whisper. 


Late at night, we whisper.

Because the president spoke today. He stood at a podium with a lot of people scribbling notes and holding recorders. And we listened with a different kind of intensity. We've long forgotten how to listen like the rest of the country. We don't know how to be apathetic about politics anymore. We don't hear that the government is planning a strike or going to war. Instead, it's so personal that it takes our breath away. Instead, we hear the people with suits and microphones saying, "Your husband is going. Your wife is going. Your brother, your aunt, your cousin...I'm sending them."

We whisper. We worry. We wonder.

We know their job. We can rattle off acronyms a mile long, name obscure villages they've deployed to in war torn countries, and explain OPSEC and PERSEC. We're the ones that wash their uniforms, soiled with dirt and sand from the places we're scared to ask about. Some of us waited in the recruiter's office with them. Many of us sat around the kitchen table with them long after dinner was cleared away, debating pros and cons of reenlistments. They go, but we're in this with them. They go, but we grapple with the fallout at home.

And so, we whisper those questions, softly, hesitantly, late at night when the dark room disguises the fright that lines our faces. When? How long? Why? They're questions that don't have answers, but we ask them anyway. We know we aren't alone in the asking; all of our friends are asking the same ones.
Our minds flash to our babies, our houses, and all the things we would have to take charge of singlehandedly for a while. Timetables are drafted in our minds. Scenarios are imagined down to every last detail. We build up plans on words that can crumble or shift in an instant. A hand on their chest or brushed against their cheek, we say a silent prayer that we don't even know the words to but hope is heard anyway.

We know they'll go whether they agree with the fight or not. We know they'll go so the rest of us can stay safe at home. We often think about how brave they are.

But tonight, if only for a little while, we remember how brave we are, too. We're brave even if we can't speak it above a whisper sometimes.

About the Writer: 

My name is Erika.
I live in Chambana, a flat Midwestern college town-
hence the name of this blog.
I'm a mama to (almost) two, a soldier's wife, a college student,
and I love to write in between it all.
I'm an INFJ, which means I talk a lot more in this space
than I do in 'real life'.

Visit Erika at Chambanachik and enjoy her awesome blog!! 
Thank you, Erika!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

To the Junior Officer Spouses From a Fellow Officer Spouse

I spent much of my time while I was teaching, sitting after courses, listening to complaints and concerns between the spouses of different ranks. I received emails from co-leaders talking about their counterpart, not knowing that same counterpart was calling asking how to handle the other.

One of the best experiences I had the honor of participating in was sitting on a panel during the Company Commander/First Sergeant Spouses Course at our last post.

I have wanted to write about the complexities existing between the different ranks and how that intermingles with the spouses world for some time.
I'm not quite going to take that on - not yet, anyway. But I am going to speak to the Junior Officer Spouses if I might for a moment.

When I met my husband he was undergoing the transition of having been a "sergeant" to becoming a "sir". He was commissioned weeks after I had met him and no part of my life has been lived as an "enlisted spouse" but nearly half of C's career has been as an enlisted soldier. It may be the fact that my mindset was a certain way when we started this journey, it may be the mentors I have been blessed to have from every aspect of the Army, it may be that C and I had a clear discussion about what we never wanted to be when we first started this journey - whatever it is, I have seen enough harm done by spouses just entering this life to last all of C's career. If I could ask anything of those just entering this life, I would ask this:

Be humble. 
Nothing that you have done grants you special privileges or perks or recognition. Nothing about you makes you above another spouse - and definitely not above any soldier. Your spouse has been commissioned to lead his men; you haven't. Your junior enlisted spouse counterparts are undergoing the same trials, the same difficulties, the same separations, and they are doing it while trying tirelessly to make ends meet on a paycheck far below your spouse's.
You hold nothing over them. 

Enter with a servant heart. 
Your spouse has taken on one of the most selfless services anyone in this nation can undertake. Serving a nation does not sit solely with the one who wears the uniform. Serving a nation takes the heart of the entire family. If you choose to partner with your spouse in service, you lay yourself at the feet of the spouses of those who serve beside your own. Serve your families. Stand without judgment, without expectations, without price, and give what you have. Give your time. Give your talent. Give your gratitude, your understanding, your camaraderie. Whatever you can give - if you can give - give.

Be a Seeker of Knowledge.
Seek out mentors. Listen to and watch those who have been through this for over a decade. Learn from them. Ask questions. Ask opinions. Ask for help. Look to the Senior Enlisted Spouses - the wealth of experiences these incredible pillars of our community possess is more than you can process on your own. Spend time with them. Get to know them. Let them be your partners in this life. Look towards your Senior Officer Spouses and follow their lead. Pay attention to partnerships between leaders' spouses - find a strong one - and learn
Too often Senior Enlisted Spouses are disrespected by young and new Officer Spouses who think they somehow have something over those who have done this longer, been through the reality, and triumphed. Please don't ever make that mistake in thinking.
We need mentors in this life. We need strong spouses who can lead and guide and empower. You need to be that one day, but you have to learn first.

Be Present.
If you cannot volunteer in all things, try to be present whenever possible. Let people know who you are. Be open. Be honest. Be sincere in your actions.
Be graceful. Be kind.

Be Worthy of Respect.
I am going to say again, "be humble". There is a chain-of-command, a system, a code, that warrants where your spouse falls in the line of respect. His education, his training, his commission, demands a respect that must be recognized. But even with that, even with the "sir" uttered when addressed, he will have to earn the true respect of his soldiers. Great men die in defense of the leader they follow. A good soldier - a good officer - must be worthy of that respect, that honor.
You must earn the respect you wish to be given. Nothing about the rank of your spouse guarantees that or warrants it. Your actions, your choices, your words, have everything to do with how you are perceived. Live in a way that is worthy of the respect of the servants of this nation. Live in a way that is worthy of the faith of your families. Live in a way that breaks down barriers and removes walls. Live honorably. Give fully. Be worthy.

You are not above any spouse beside you. You are their equal. Their partner. 
You are fighting the same battle. 

Open your eyes, open your mind, open you heart.

Welcome to the journey, now choose the way you live it.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What I Wish My Civilian Friends Would Ask Me ... and What I Wish They Wouldn't

I get questions now and then about "how do you handle when someone says this", or "how do you stay calm when someone asks that".

I hear a lot about military spouses not having much understanding from their civilian friends and family. Unfortunately, I think very often military spouses think they have to choose between the two.

I just don't think that's the case. I think how we share this life with those outside of it has everything to do with how much they understand it. We can't ask a civilian friend to understand what we are facing or do face or have faced. That isn't fair to the friend. But we can open up, and show patience, and invite them to learn about the path we walk.

I have had such good civilian friends who have taken the time to ask the right questions and have also taken the time to read here so that they know what to not ask. These are a few of those things put in one place.


Don't ask me if I'm scared my husband won't come home. 
I have sat beside my husband as he discussed his own funeral. I know who he wants as pallbearers. I know the songs. I know the scriptures. I know how he wants to be buried.

Every time our servicemen and women board those planes, we are terrified. What they do is beyond dangerous. Soldiers die in training exercises and in war. We don't need to be reminded.

Of course I'm scared my husband won't come home. We all are. Combat or not. Army or Marines or Air Force or Navy. We are all scared.

 Don't ask me about politics.
Don't ask me what myself or my husband thinks of our president, former president, policies, cuts, anything. And, please, don't ever ask him. One of the most shocking things I have learned in this life is that some of our service members choose not to vote. I'm not saying that I do or do not agree with that but the reasoning is that they vow to defend this nation under the order of whomever this nation's people choose to elect. Whomever. 
Please don't ask me. I hate when people ask me.

Don't tell me how much you hate war. 
I don't want to hear how much you hate the war or how awful it is for us. Don't tell me it was all about oil or any other insensitive comment like that. My husband chose this. And chose it again. And again. He believes in his duty, his job, his purpose. I don't have any desire to hear anyone belittle that.

Please don't compare.

I think this is a bit of a balancing act. I have learned that some friends don't think they can tell me whatever is going on in their lives because it can't possibly "be as hard". But every one of us has a battle we are facing. Every one of us has a great challenge at one point or another in our life. Please don't ever think you can't include me in working through a hardship, or venting, or asking for prayers. That isn't what I am talking about. 

What I mean is, please don't say that you can understand how a military spouse must be feeling with a husband with boots on the ground in a war zone because your significant other travels for business a lot.
That. isn't. (and will never be). the. same. thing. 

I promise you the conversation will stop. I may even turn around and walk away. Not because I am trying to be rude, but because I am trying with everything in me to not be.

Don't tell us the war is over.
Just Don't.  

Don't tell us they won't deploy because "they are all coming home". It's an insult for anyone to tell us they know better because they "watch the news". We live this life day in and day out. It isn't just a headline or a sub-line or a news-blurb or a talking-point. This is our life. And we know better than you.

Don't ask me if I am scared of my husband.
Don't dare ask me if I am scared to have him around our children. War didn't make him a monster. He fights for these kids. He does what he does for his family.
Do not ever imply otherwise.

Ask me what my favorite part is about this life. 
Ask me where we find joy. Ask me what I am most proud of.
Ask me how you can help.
Ask if you can send anything forward. Ask how we're doing and listen.

Don't think you can't talk to me because you suddenly think you don't know how to.
Don't talk to me about the military if you don't feel comfortable. Ask me if you can come for a visit. Check in. Ask me how the weather is but please keep talking.

Know that "planning" has a different meaning for us.
Our calendars are always fluid. We can't commit to a date six months down the road and sometimes not even six days. Hell! sometimes not six hours. It isn't that we don't want to be at/in your wedding, or that family vacation, or that high-school reunion. 
We want to be part of it all.
Don't think we aren't trying. Don't think we aren't wanting to give a definite yes or no. Don't think we don't value your time and commitment and coordination. We just can't promise anything - ever.
But, please, don't stop asking and inviting. Because someday we are going to be able to make it. Sometime we are going to be able to be there. Please don't cut us out just because we have such a hard time fitting in.

We want to be part of your lives. We want you to be part of ours. If you can, come visit. We'd love to show you our world. We'd love for you to come to a welcome home - for any soldier. They are incredible to see. We'd love to show our pride and our joy and our strength. We'd love to walk through the cemetery with you and sit in silence and pray and remember our fallen.

We'd love your support, your understanding, your prayers. 
We'd love to have a conversation about what this life is and even what it isn't.
We'd love to have you as a part of the journey. 

For more insight into this life read:
 Promises - A Soldier's Promise & An Army Wife's Promise

Monday, July 22, 2013

Strong Women

I just hung up the phone with a dear friend. Her husband just deployed so, of course, an appliance broke. The washer this time. It's Murphy's Law of Deployment but duct tape can't fix this one. 

The repair man is on his way. 

She's also pregnant, high-risk, and has a pre-school-aged kiddo (who is a sweetheart). No family near by. And she is the type of person who is always, always, helping e-v-e-r-y-one else. She's an incredible woman and her husband is an awesome soldier in this for all of the right reasons. 

This is her very first deployment and she is doing remarkably well. 

We talked about - and have often talked about - the importance of reaching out for assistance. About how we cannot be strong all the time and about how sometimes the greatest sign of strength is admitting that sometimes we need some helping hands. 

She promised me she knows and told me how hard it is to need help. I think we've all been there.

The moment my friend said anything to a fellow Army Spouse, this fellow spouse swooped in and did her laundry, cleaned her house, made her a meal with nothing - nothing - expected in return. Nothing about that is strange for this lifestyle. Nothing about that even seems "extraordinary". It is simply what we do.   

I cannot tell you how much I love our community. How incredible and beautiful and awe-inspiring the sense of service surrounding it. How we bond with one another is unlike any other. How we care for each other and support each other and demand to be allowed to help one another is indescribable. 

We live through the unthinkable and we push each other through it. We cry together, we laugh together, we sit in silence together.

We remind each other why we are here. We empower one another to pass it on. We love deeper, we respect greater, we hope fiercer. 

How great our journey can be if we reach out, if we give, if we seek to do more. How great the journey. How great the Grace. How incredible the strength given. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Giving Back

Sometime ago I asked friends what they wanted me to write about. Our family has more going on in life than I know how to process and none of it is anything I am ready to put on this blog. We keep getting glimpses of a "bigger picture" and it is scary, and saddening, and somehow almost comforting at rare times, and challenging, and really just a lot to push through. I haven't been able to write so I asked for ideas. A very good friend asked me to write about service and volunteering.

I had every intention of throwing myself into the volunteer community when we made it to this post. I was so excited when the trainer at ACS hugged me and said she would love for me to start teaching here. I can't tell you how much I really, truly love working with Army families. 

Just a week or two later we received Eli's diagnosis and I knew that my time belonged to him and to Logan and C. That our family was going to need all that we collectively could give to one another. 

Here I am not leading any choir, not teaching any classes; the only schedules I am planning are the therapies for my kiddo. I'm not sitting at a desk answering emails about FRG Leader conflicts, or what is and isn't "legal" when it comes to FRG fundraising. I'm not checking in with unit families or making a huge pot of jambalaya to share at a meeting. 

And I have to say that I'm okay with that right now. 

I do not think that every single army spouse needs to give her time in service through volunteering. I don't think that for a moment. I don't think that every one is made for it. I don't think it is the only way to survive this life. I don't think it is the only way to thrive. 

I think whether or not you choose to volunteer has everything to do with what you personally receive from it. I don't mean awards or recognition or medals. I mean what you emotionally get from it. Does it fulfill you? Does it build you up? Does it make you a better spouse, a stronger parent, a kinder person? Whatever part of your "life" that you sacrifice to serve your community, do you get it back? Does that time away from your kids allow you to be a more patient parent? Does the time away from your spouse help you to love stronger, to understand better? 

You cannot give what you don't have. You cannot give and give and give if it doesn't make you better.

Right now, for my kiddos, my family, my personal health, I have to take a step back. If I am to give all I have to my family right now - I need to give all I have.  

I hope a year from now I will have balanced it better. I hope a year from now I will be able to dive back into what I love. I hope a year from now I can give my heart back to the Army and that we'll be in a place again that my strength is found in volunteering again. 

I do miss teaching. Every Sunday at Mass when my lip curls up for just a second because I am annoyed by something that just happened that wasn't liturgically correct, or the song isn't a good choice for the readings, C leans in and whispers, "You could fix that, ya know." But right now, I am enjoying sitting in the same pew with C and Logan (with Eli either in the nursery, or clinging to me under his blanket, or trying to escape the pew to run down the aisle). 

You must know your limits. You must know where your life demands you to go. Sometimes you need to recharge, reevaluate, revamp. 

I love my community. I love what volunteering for this community has given me back. It brings me such joy.

Give what you have to give. Know what it gives you back. Service is incredible and (for me) necessary and an honor. 

When we give our joy, we always get it back. 

You have to know where you find your strength, where you find your hope. I find both, everyday, in every moment with my family. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The PCS Chronicles, Part 1 - Jackie Williams

One of the coolest things about this life is the people you meet in it. They come from every walk of life, every state - different countries, even. We each have our own histories and beliefs and backgrounds ... and college sports teams. 

The bonds we make are strong, quickly set, and carry through from one post to another. They are even strong enough to bring LSU and BAMA fans together. 

Jackie has been confused as my "sister" for reasons neither of us can really understand. I guess we are both short. And high-pitched. And a bit hyper. But she is die-hard Ala-bama and I am heart-breakingly for LSU. 

No idea where the confusion comes from. 

Sometimes the Army listens when we tell them where we want to go. 


But more often they laugh, point, laugh some more, and then put you somewhere totally different. Jackie has just undergone her latest PCS to a place ... ummmm ... not anywhere near the top of their "wish list". I asked her to share the journey and this is where it starts. Thanks, "sister", and GEAUX TIGERS!! 

The PCS Chronicles: 
The laughs, sighs and tears of pcsing with two boys cross 1, 200 miles.

We are the 'other' Williams family (almost) formerly of Ft Carson hitting the road with our two boys, Lil Man who is dapper and eager to start kindergarten this Fall, and Lil Guy, our toddler who loves the word 'no' and believes he's already 'fourt.' In our first six years of marriage, the mister and I have lived in four different states, nearly half of the time separated by 5, 000 miles or more. Between Lil Warriors, The Little Gym, swim lessons and playdates, I squeezed in a few volunteer hours [she's being VERY modest here], a few photo sessions and a home-based business that helps keep every other aspect of our life organized.

Six months ago, it was cold in Colorado and the mister emailed me a spreadsheet with 25 different assignments to be ranked and submitted back to HRC before Thanksgiving. So I did what I do best, research. I researched schools. I researched housing. I researched kid-friendly activities. I researched ease of travel because we have three sets of grandparents and an auntie and an uncle who 'need' to hang out with their boys. And then I prayed.

We compared our lists and the mister submitted them, after having me recheck the order three times. And then we prayed. And we waited.

The first week of December came and went and no assignment as promised. The second week came and went and still no assignment. Then came December 17th, the day of the Installation Holiday Volunteer Social and the first day of the mister's holiday leave. And the day he received his next assignment, a nomivated position, one only the top 15% of candidates are selected for, one that definitely will look great on his records. Too bad the location nor assignment was #21 of 25 on our list.

It took 45 minutes for the mister to wrap his around it. It took 15 minutes for it to sink in for me and then I was ready to start planning our next move.

These last six months have had their highs, their lows and their sideway moments. I have waited, sometimes fearfully, sometimes anxiously, for the Army to throw us a curve ball. But here we are in temporary lodging and nearly ready to watch the mountains grow smaller in our rearview mirrors as we head 1, 200 miles southeast.

Thanks for sharing, Jackie!! 
Have you ever received an assignment that you just weren't expecting? How did you handle it? Was it better than you thought?

Be sure to check back for Part 2 of The PCS Chronicles. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Doesn't Feel Right

Over the weekend and on Memorial Day I saw status after status talking about our troops. There was a comment posted that may or may not have been directed at my post for that weekend which read: 

Every Memorial Day, people take the time to thank C and I for his service to this nation. The sentiment is beyond kind but that is not what this day is. This day - this weekend - is a time to remember the fallen, to remember their families.It is a day to mourn. A day to remember. A day to be grateful for the men and women who GAVE THEIR LIVES for your freedom, for your comfort. We celebrate them and mourn them. We are humbled by their incomparable selflessness - their complete sacrifice.

This weekend is a time to remember the dead. To name the fallen. To remember those they left behind - because there isn't a moment that they forget.


Below it I posted the photo that belongs to my friend of her husband's grave. When I asked Tiffany if I could use her photo, I told her I wanted to share it to show what Memorial Day is truly all about. In her gracious, gracious manner, she told me absolutely. 

The comment that I read talked about how of course Service-members should be thanked on this day and any day. That there are few days more appropriate to do so. I can understand that thinking - in total. 

Few know what it is to lose a friend in war. Fewer know what it is to lose a family member to war. 

I will never tell a person that it is wrong to thank our troops. 


But I can tell you that when you thank C on Memorial Day, he thinks of the soldiers he has buried. He thinks of the families he held. He thinks of the ones who didn't come back. He thinks about the children who are fatherless and motherless. The widows and widowers. But, above all, his mind and heart go to the ones who cannot be thanked. 

He doesn't think about his buddies who made it home. He thinks about the ones who didn't. 

I think about Nick's mom when she squeezed my hand at his memorial. 


On Tuesday I was driving to bring Eli to his ABA therapy about an hour from post. Along the interstate I noticed a large office building had put out hundreds and hundreds of full-size American flags. Perfectly lined up, a sea of red, white, and blue. It was a beautiful and humbling sight. A few seconds later I saw the large banner: 

Thank You, Veterans. 
Happy Memorial Day!

On Monday I saw the facebook posts "Remember to Thank a Vet!" "Grateful to those who fight for our freedom." "Proud to love a soldier." 

I am immensely grateful for every Veteran of this nation. More than I have words for. I am proud and blessed to love C. 

But when you thank him on the day when he remembers the ones who didn't come home ... when you thank me on the day my heart breaks for their families, for our friends, for their children ... 

I am not saying it is wrong. 

I'm not. 

But - for me - it does not feel right. 

Memorial Day is not Veterans' Day. 

They are not the same. 

Thank a veteran at any time - take a day to send cards, packages, encouragement at anytime. Remember the fallen every day.

Do not wait for the day that we remember the dead to think of the living. There isn't a day that the living do not carry the dead. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Honor Them This Memorial Day

Every Memorial Day, people take the time to thank C and I for his service to this nation. The sentiment is beyond kind but that is not what this day is. This day - this weekend - is a time to remember the fallen, to remember their families. It is a day to mourn. A day to remember. A day to be grateful for the men and women who GAVE THEIR LIVES for your freedom, for your comfort. We celebrate them and mourn them. We are humbled by their incomparable selflessness - their complete sacrifice.

This weekend is a time to remember the dead. To name the fallen. To remember those they left behind - because there isn't a moment that they forget.


Who do you Honor today?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Future at Peace

Transition is hard. 

I feel like I have been in mourning since early December. 

Part of me loves this post. It's beautiful. This town is beyond lovely; the people are incredibly kind. C actually got to take Logan to play golf the other day. He was actually home before the sun set - and that's normal here - to not work all hours of the day and night. To have dinner with your family.

I haven't seen a single military vehicle. Not one. I haven't heard artillery in the distance or taps played through the night sky. No cannon has woken me up (unwelcomed) at 0600. I'm not sure which way to face when the flag is lowered at retreat because I'm not sure where it flies. I can't hear it played by my house.

I see different uniforms every single day from different countries, hear the accents, see other nations' flags waving on houses. There is a "kangaroo crossing" sign at the crosswalk in front of an Aussie's house that makes me smirk when I drive by. 

There aren't any multi-cam uniforms around this post - no one coming or going. I don't see welcome home banners along the post gates. People here don't fear the doorbell. There are no red flags marking ranges in use. The "hospital" doesn't have a near set rotation of births based on deployment cycles. 

I have never lived in this world before. 

When those planes hit the towers over a decade ago, C already owned his sets of BDU's. He had already sworn a vow. He'd been to boot camp and been through the training and prepared for war during a time of peace. 

When he was commissioned and swore his new oath, our world was a very different place.

My entire military journey here has been during a time of war. 

You would think there would be a comfort in that - a deep breath at least. You would think that. 

Transition is hard. 

Days from now, weeks from now, months from now, I have friends whose loved ones will be boarding planes to continue this fight. We will be in two entirely different parts of this journey - both incredibly real - existing at the exact same time. Them living in the world still torn by war, us beginning the steps of a military at peace. 

I do not know how to put into words how that tugs at the deepest parts of my heart. 

I feel hopeful while at the very same time guilt-filled. I do not know how to wrap my mind around a military not at war. I do not know how to not worry about the path that lies ahead. 

I am fearful of what will happen as this transition begins. Fearful of what will be left for these heroes when the military adjusts for a nation at rest. Fearful of how a generation of war-time soldiers will find their place in a country that hasn't known the same thing. 

For my generation of military spouses - this is all we have known. This is all we have lived. 

I haven't been able to write because I haven't been able to process. 

That isn't true. I have understood. I knew what this post would be. I knew it. I knew when we left Carson that we would - most likely - be stepping away from everything we have ever lived. I knew that.  

I haven't been able to write because I just didn't know where to find the purpose in it. 

For more and more of us, our lives will change. Not today, not tomorrow ... maybe not even this year. Our futures will no longer be twelve-months-on, twelve-months-(maybe)-off. Some of us will begin the steps to exit this journey - to step back after giving more than most. The Army will be changing, shifting, shrinking. Our expectations will adjust, the way we think and feel and hope will change as the world around us does. 

It's going to be hard and scary and confusing. We will take the steps towards a time of peace while so much of who we are still lives during a time of war. 

We are still at war. 

Someday soldiers will have time to breathe, time to hold their children, time to mourn. 

I don't know how to focus my mind on the path ahead of us while my heart stays with those still fighting the battle behind. For a time, perhaps I must be torn. Living in a time of war mindful of a future at peace.

I don't know when it will be less strange to me that there aren't helicopters flying right over my house. I don't know when I won't miss hearing the "sounds of freedom" echoing through the mountains. I don't know when it won't be strange to not see a signal flare light up the sky in the dead of night. 

I don't know when that will ever not be my "normal". 

But I am ready to learn with you.