While You’re Gone

I’ll take care of things while you’re gone.

I’ll take out the trash on Thursday mornings. I’ll fill up the gas tank. I’ll call maintenance when the water heater breaks. I’ll cook dinner for one (and a half).

I’ll match and fold her too-tight pajamas. I’ll be her audience at bath time. I’ll chase her down and wipe her nose. I’ll go down the biggest, steepest slide at the park with her.

I’ll take care of things while you’re gone, the things you take care of.

Because while you’re gone, the seasons will change. While you’re gone, the pink blossoms on our tree out front will come and go. I’ll chase the mother robin away from building a nest in the front porch light. The grass will fill in green in the bald spots in the backyard. You’ll miss the allergy season while you’re gone (lucky).

But other things will change too. While you’re gone, her feet will get bigger. While you’re gone, she’ll learn a hundred new words. She’ll feed herself with a spoon. Her hair will get longer. She’ll outgrow the clothes she’s in now. Her face will look more and more girlish.

While you’re gone, she’ll steal my phone and lock me out of it at least four dozen times. She’ll throw 100 tantrums. She’ll bonk her head on the coffee table at least once a day. She’ll pull on the doggie’s tail and play in her water bowl like it’s a kiddie pool.

And while you’re gone, she’ll only get to see you on a phone screen. She’ll hear you calling her name through a speaker. She won’t understand why you’re gone until she’s much older.

While you’re gone, you’re gonna miss her like crazy. You’ll miss the tickles and the tantrums, the teething and the toy-throwing, the walks to the park and the dirty diapers.

People don’t take those things into account when they think about deployments.

So honey, I’ll take care of her while you’re gone.

“If This Text Goes Through, I Love You” & Other Hard Things to Hear

Today I’ve been weak. It’s been the definition of “one of those days.” I’ve had ups, downs, side blinders and zig zaggies. Things that have probably bothered me for months have finally caught up to me, and I was ill prepared for their inevitable collision.

This afternoon I spent several hours at my in-laws’ house wiping up dog vomit from my weak stomached Goldendoodle and scrubbing the walls free of my brindle lab’s blood splatters from a tail wound she won’t let heal. They’re both exhausted and anxious, tired of staying in a home that isn’t theirs and missing their daddy something fierce. I want to get them home so badly, staying in Knoxville during this deployment has been so hard on them. They need their routine, their yard, their life back.

While I’m deep in that elbow grease, I receive a text from my husband that they have had a power outage on his base and the wifi isn’t working well. We played phone tag for hours and then he texted me a text I hope no one ever has to receive from someone they love and miss: “Still not working. Phone’s going to die. If this goes through, I love you.”

In a moment when I needed to speak to my companion more than anything, I couldn’t. And it feels wrong. I collapsed onto the couch, my dogs laid each of their heads in my lap, and the impulse to cry hit me like a train… But no tears came. I couldn’t cry. Is it being a mom now, I have acquired this need to stay strong despite all things colliding at once? Some kind of strange strength that is tapped into when you have a child, to protect them and yourself from unnecessary emotional interruption? I don’t know. 

Sitting there, I just pet my babies and breathed in and out. The moment I felt like I got a handle of the moment, I received a second text from my mother, saying my daughter was awake from her nap and crying and I needed to come and nurse her. Responsibility is following me everywhere I go, I can’t escape it. I want to find some closet somewhere and just sit alone in the darkness, imagining myself void of all responsibilities and tasks. Just breathe and be. Just for a minute.

Because today just took me. I got lost in it. It’s not the hardest day I’ve ever had, by any means. But I’m stressing. I miss my husband. I miss his help. I miss his positivity and light. I miss being able to vent all these things to him. Because even though I do get to talk to him sometimes, there’s always a chance the wifi will go out, or he’ll get called off to work on something, or they’ll shift his flight hours and we won’t get to talk that day. 

We have less than two weeks left of this, and I can’t help but feel disappointed in myself for not keeping it together. I was so determined to stay “OK” while he was gone. Because logic tells me that I have to learn to be fine even if he’s not here, because reality is, he won’t be here all the time in the future. I have to learn to cope and thrive, regardless of whether he’s here to help me or not. But I’m not okay, I’m not thriving. I’m mad. I’m bitter. I’m lonely. I’m failing, in my eyes.

Saying all this, I know I need to give myself grace for today, and all my hard days. But for today, while I’m still feeling this, I have to acknowledge this feeling for what it is in this moment. It sucks. I don’t ever want to get a text like that from my husband ever again.

To My Deployed Airman

My Dear Husband,

You may consider this a pity party post. Well, if wanting to acknowledge my husband for what he does for a living makes me sound like I’m whining, then welcome to the party. BYOB, freeloaders.

Dearest darling husband of mine. You’ve been an airman for over 2 years now. We spent the first 7 months of our marriage separated while you were in training. We moved across the country together. We have raised two big puppies together. We’ve made one beautiful baby girl together. I couldn’t be more proud of us and how far we’ve come in just 8 years of knowing each other.

But I talk about us too much. What I mean is, I don’t talk about you enough. You, just you. What you’ve done. Who you’ve become. For me, for our family, for this country.

You’re cringing already, I know.

Because for some reason you don’t really believe what you’re doing is that big of a deal. You kind of scoff and shrug it off when people acknowledge your sacrifice. It’s a humble response, sure. To think, when the ultimate sacrifice to one’s country is to give one’s life for it, you may think that what you’ve given isn’t nearly as significant.

What have you given? 

The freedom to choose where to live, for one. The comfort of family close by. The pleasantries of living in the South. The closeness of friends. The familiarity of home. The ease of travel. 

You’ve given up your time. You’re at the beckon call of your job anywhere anytime. You have to spend nearly half the year overseas. Giving up time with your wife, time in your house, time you could be spending seeing your daughter grow, learn, develop, laugh, say her first words and cut her first teeth.

Dinners. Parties. Holidays. Birthdays. Graduations. Weddings. Funerals. 

And yet, all of this is an easy trade off for you, for the honor of serving something larger than all of this.

Husband, you’re amazing. And I need you to know your sacrifices mean everything to me. I’m humbled and amazed by what an honorable man you are. And no matter what you say, your job is a big deal. What you’re doing is important. Who you are and what you represent is so significant. And if it were possible for me to be speechless, I would be.

Don’t shrug it off when people thank you for your service, husband. Accept it with a full heart. Know that you can take their praise and multiply it out to the thousands who have served and sacrificed before you, so that you may serve our country today, for your family in your time.

Let all your works be made in thanks to those who have gone before you, bringing hope to the land of the brave and glory to our God Almighty.

Thank you, my airman, for being the best husband you can be and the best father our little girl could ever ask for. You honor us by sharing your name with us, and we are so proud to call you our airman. I love you.

Go get em, handsome.

Love Always & Forever, Your Mollybelle

My Husband is Deployed (and It’s Not THAT Bad)

There’s a look people give me when I tell them my husband is deployed overseas. It’s a mix between surprise, pity and what-do-I-do-with-my-hands? It’s usually followed by “I can’t imagine what you must be going through,” “I could never do what you’re doing,” or the quintessentially Southern, “Bless your heart!” I’ve found that my automatic response so far has almost always been, “Oh, thank you. But you know, it’s not that bad.”

And guys, it really isn’t that bad. My husband is fortunate enough to love his military job. He’s deployed for a few short months a couple times a year, and that’s much less than many men and women in the armed forces. Not to mention he has great internet connection where he is, so we get to FaceTime often and I send him dozens of Snapchats of our adorable 4-month-old daughter.

But can we stop playing the comparing-one-milso’s-suffering-to-another game for a second? Because it’s hashtags like #deploymentssuck that have gotten me in the habit of having to reassure people that my husband may be living across the world for part of the year, but it’s not that bad.

Before you go thinking this lady must be dead inside, let me be openly honest. I used to suffer from crippling separation anxiety. The idea that when we’re married, I would be spending several months a year separated from my best friend would have sent me into a full-on panic attack just a few short years ago. There was no way I could get through life on my own, not seeing him every day. Just imagining saying goodbye was agonizing to me. I could never in a million years be a military spouse.

But then I married this airman. We spent 7 months of our first year of marriage apart while he was in training. We moved across the country, away from family, friends, everyone we knew. And guess what? It wasn’t that bad. We made it through because whether or not it’s spent in each others’ company or separated by thousands of miles, the day is still 24 hours long. The sun rises and sets, you breathe in and out and just keep on living. You find new ways to connect with people. A handwritten card, a designated Skype date each week, a phone call on the way home from work, that becomes the new normal.

Some of the best advice I’ve ever received was from a seasoned Air Force wife who told me, “It doesn’t matter if he’s at home or away, you have to learn to be okay. That means being okay when he’s deployed and you’re the only one home taking care of the kids, and being just as okay when your husband is there with you.” 

I’ve taken this advice to heart and I’m now trying to apply it to our first deployment. At night, I lay my head down on my pillow and he’s not there next to me. He hasn’t gotten to hear our daughter laugh yet. At any given moment, one of us is horribly behind the other on one of our TV shows and might accidentally slip a spoiler (I know that seems trivial, but if you’re married, you know it’s a big deal). 

But I’m choosing not to count down the days till he gets back. I’m choosing to be okay, instead. Because if I lived like that, I would go crazy. I wouldn’t be the mother I need to be if I were constantly thinking I’m not enough for our daughter. I wouldn’t be the wife I need to be if I wallowed in how upset I am that my husband isn’t here with me. It’s unfair for me to put that on him. His job is a blessing, not a curse. It’s our living, not the death of me. His sacrifice does not merit my complaint, and I strongly believe that it is my job as a military spouse to be supportive of him whether he’s sleeping in the same bed as me or on a cot in the desert.

Y’all, 1 day or 1 year, deployments suck. I won’t say they don’t. I miss doing life together. I miss his smell, I miss how he makes me eggs and bacon in the morning, and Lord knows I miss keeping up on our TV shows together. But I choose to believe it’s not that bad. I choose to be positive, for myself and my little family. Whether he is home or away, I love him the same. Sometimes the Internet cuts out in the middle of our daily FaceTime. Sometimes our daughter is melting down and all I want is another pair of hands to take her for me. And sometimes I wake up from a dream and turn towards the other side of the bed to tell him about it, to find he’s not there. 

Remarkably, through it all, I make it to tomorrow … and so does he.

My Husband Doesn’t Post About Me on Social Media (and That’s Fine With Me)

We’ve all seen the posts. The sappy, romantic, love-letter-like, nearly obsessive social media posts that significant others put out there about each other. Sometimes the “Man-crush Mondays” and “Woman-crush Wednesdays” can be almost nauseating to scroll through each week, especially if that particular person seems to want to boast about their bae what seems like every day of the week.

Annoying as these over-posters may be, I have to admit… I have caught myself feeling jealous of the women whose beaus gush and ogle over them online for everyone to see. It’s a strange female urge, I think, to feel adored, loved, even boasted about. As a gender we tend to be more openly self-conscious than men, feeling that we need the men in our lives to provide us with the self-confidence and self-worth we desire. I can’t think of any girl who wouldn’t like a boy to post a flattering selfie of her to Instagram for #wcw. It’s like an insta-ego boost.

My husband and I have been together for over 6 years, dating back to my high school days. I can count on one hand how many times he has posted anything online that was specifically aimed to admire me as his girlfriend or wife, and I have never been anyone’s #wcw. He doesn’t comment on my photos telling me how “gorgeous” or “hot” I am to him, and I don’t get the “I love you too, baby’s” whenever I post something admiring him. We’re happily married, and very much in love. So why doesn’t he want to show me off to the cyber world?

Because he doesn’t have to.

My husband doesn’t need to tell his followers he loves me, because he just does. So he doesn’t say I’m his woman-crush Wednesday. Maybe instead, he lets me have the cinnamon roll with the most icing on it first. Or massages my back when I’m having a bad ache. Or vacuums up the dog hair so I don’t have to. Or gives me a kiss on the forehead when I keep him awake with my tossing and turning at night.

He doesn’t need to tell the world about his love for me, because he already does it with his actions. You know that old saying “actions speak louder than words?” It’s not a saying for no reason.

I finally realized, when it comes down to it, I would much rather have a surprise hug from behind than a boastful statement made about me on Facebook. I can easily do without him sharing that “Share if your wife is a hottie!” post, when he continues to be actively faithful in our marriage day by day.

When I was able to grasp that perspective, I realized the problem with feeling social media envy is my problem, not his. That desire to be boasted about online isn’t his responsibility to satiate, because at the end of the day, it’s just irrational envy. Based solely on my husband’s actions in our relationship, I should feel more than secure enough in myself and how he truly feels about me, without him having to broadcast it for the world to see. He put a ring on my finger. He promised before God and our families to be the best man he can be for me. He sacrifices himself daily for this country as a US Airman. What more should I feel bold enough to ask for?

So that got me thinking. All those times I sit around getting nostalgic or mushy feeling, and I have the urge to post yet another memory of us for Throwback Thursday, maybe instead I should show my love for my husband in a way that actually speaks to him. Maybe I whip up a batch of his favorite homemade cookies. Maybe I surprise him at the door after work with a big sexy make-out session. Maybe instead of posting that I’m so honored to be his wife, I actually tell him face to face.

Not only do I not need him to brag about me to others in a social media forum, he doesn’t need me to either. We can find security in the daily acts of service we make for our marriage, for each other. 

So when my husband inevitably shares that new Star Wars trailer for the third time this week, you won’t see me complain. Because I know he would rather see it in theaters on opening night with no one more than me πŸ˜‰

P.S. I in no way mean to condemn or criticize everyone who posts about their significant others online. If such words of affirmation are his/her love language, I hope you are showering them with love in this way! However, as with any topic one could choose to post about online, I feel that when it becomes excessive (in frequency or content) it can be a little too much. 

Thanks for reading!

A Year in the Land of Omaha

One year ago today, my best friend and I packed up our car and made the 900 mile drive across the country to our first new home here in Bellevue, Nebraska. 
I didn’t know anyone, we had to Google Maps our way through town for several months (still do some days), and we had to sleep on the floor for the first month until our stuff finally arrived (probably one of the best months of our marriage, hands down).

Moving is scary. Change is not always fun. Happy as I was to finally be reunited with my husband after 7 months of Air Force training, the idea of moving somewhere so unknown was difficult to swallow. Moving here was our last choice. Who wants to live in Nebraska? What even is there to do in the middle of cornland? It’s a good day’s drive from anyone I know in any direction. Truly isolated. Altogether unnerving. And for that 14 hour drive away from home, friends & comfort, Nebraska was scary.

But this is home now, and it isn’t scary. This isn’t where we fell in love but love led us here. This isn’t where family is, but we’re making a new one.

I’ve learned that big changes don’t seem so intimidating when you have someone to share them with. I’ve learned a whole new way to love and be loved by my husband. I’ve learned how to take that step of faith when God leads us to, trusting that He has always had our best interests at heart, even when it doesn’t seem to fit “our plan.”

Thinking back on my thoughts driving with Drew in the car that day, listening to Harry Potter on audiobook, watching the southeast horizon fade away behind us in the rear view mirror… How proud I am of the home we have made here, the year we have lived here, and the beautiful life that will be with us here soon.

Here’s to a great 2nd year living “The Good Life” in cornland.
“Cause we’d be so free, Happy alone, Sharing a smile, So far from home.”

July, 20–

Somehow, for every year of my significant life so far, this month – and specifically, the first week of this month – is always special to me.I say significant year because I feel like life was kind of just a really long fun amusement park ride until the teen years when all of a sudden your heart starts feeling crap and you don’t know what to do with your hair.

This week is possibly my favorite week of the year in some ways. The first week of July. I started dating my hubs back when I was a starry eyed, hopelessly confused 17-year-old this week. It was the week we started hanging out alone, without our friends around. We held hands for the first time. Kissed for the first time. Our dates weren’t even real dates by conventional standards, we were so crazy broke back then we would just go on long drives around town and find beautiful places to stop and just talk for hours. I should also mention this was in the middle of the night, as it was the only time we could see each other. He worked during the day and I had an obnoxiously early curfew. So I would sneak out at around midnight and off we’d go. Those first few nights were just ours, and they were so magical. We would walk around empty parks lit only by the stars, and drive with all the windows down listening to the Kings of Leon on repeat. We’d watch thunderstorms roll in and wait till the very last second to get caught in the rain, just to get soaked in the warmth. And we had big talks. Talks that needed to be talked about. Getting all our junk and dreams out on the table. Becoming vulnerable to another person. To this day, those first few long conversations we had are some of the most significant I’ve ever had with my husband.
The 4th of July that year was the first day that he and I hung out in a group of friends, open about our relationship. It was a big step at the time. And every 4th of July since then we have tried to celebrate big. The next year we went to our favorite hill and watched the fireworks from all around town. Great photos from that one. Further up the hill, a group of dumb kids set fire to the field and we watched them all drive off leaving it to burn. We got up the hill and the fire was a good 20 feet in diameter so we knocked on every door in the huge mansion-like houses nearby and finally got one couple to call the fire department. While we waited out the situation, we had a really significant conversation with the older couple. We were complimenting them on their beautiful big house and they said something I’ll never forget. “We were just like you two, what feels like not so very long ago, though I suppose it was. The dreams you have for your future together right now? Don’t ever give up on them. Don’t let the world get to you and tell you they won’t come true. This house was our first dream, and it finally came true for us. It will for you too.”
Last year might have been my favorite so far. Hubs and I had originally planned for our wedding to be July 5, 2014. Day after our favorite holiday, and day before our official dating anniversary. It was perfect. But Air Force intervened and was like hey, you’re shipping off to Basic Training in February and if you get married now, you guys will get crazy separation pay. So we went from a 9 month engagement to a 6 week one, and got hitched in January. Hubs was then in training for 7 months that year, in Texas. I got to go see him twice – once when he graduated from Basic, and then again in San Antonio for our favorite weekend of the year. 
It was hot and crazy crowded there but such a great trip. We got to watch a huge fireworks show downtown, and everyone just walked out into the street to watch it. We ate really good food too. But the best night was the night of the 5th when we went to this really expensive steak restaurant called Bohannan’s. I’m talking, you take an elevator up to the restaurant fancy. I’m talking the waiter asks you what kind of water you’d like. I’m talking no way in a million years would we seriously be able to afford eating there again. The food was incredible. Best steak I’ve ever had in my life. I wore a really stunning red dress, pearls, and my wedding shoes. We kept getting smiles from other couples. Hubs was in his dress blues. Super romantic, just amazing. I don’t know how to not let the story run on forever so I’ll just cut to the point – someone paid for our entire check. AND THEN someone gave us a $100 gift certificate to the restaurant. AND THEN someone gave hubs a $20 in the bar after dinner. AND THEN the guard at the parking garage let us leave without having to pay for parking. All in all, it was around $400 of blessings we received that night. It was insane. I couldn’t stop crying. We were just speechless. It was so special that on the night we had always planned to get married, this crazy wonderful series of events occurred. It was simply magical.
Every year this week has been like that. A divine appointment, a significant conversation, a seriously magical moment – all memories that just compound upon each other and leave me feeling this … weird … feeling in my heart every time this week rolls around. I started to feel it last night, and I got all emotional and woke Hubs up to talk through some hard feels I was having about missing home. I bawled. Knoxville is where this week was so special for us. It’s so hard right now to not be surrounded by places and people and memories of it all. I know our future is meant to be us out here in these weird places fighting it all out. I know that. I just miss everything, every this week in our past. And it’s obviously hard not to compare and worry that this year won’t be as special as any of the ones before.
But still, I have this weird wonderful feeling in my heart this week. Every song I hear all of a sudden is telling the same story. The smells outside are making me catch odd intangible memories from years ago I didn’t know I had. I look at my husband and see not just his face but every day of our life together for the past 6 years. I see his boyish 19-year-old smile. I see the fireworks’ light flashing colors of red and blue in his eyes. I hear cicadas. I see every star in the sky. I love this country a little stronger. I appreciate his sacrifice a little more. And I feel a love unlike any I could have for another person, or place. Because it’s like the love of home – it’s not necessarily one place or one house that you miss – it’s an ever-evolving, formless sense of completion and promise. 
That’s my love for him. And it is just multiplied and magnified every year, this first week of July.