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.

When You Hate Where You Live

So here’s the thing. When my husband found out which plane he would be working with in the Air Force, there were a handful of bases we could have been stationed to. Some decent, some close to home, some meh. Nebraska was the bottom of our list. It was our last choice. And that’s where we’ve been planted.

Maybe it’s because I grew to really love the South. Maybe it’s because my family is there. Maybe it’s because I fell in love there, started my adult life there, became me there. But here just just not home to me.

I don’t like the weather, or the layout of the city, or the people. I don’t like that it’s not trendy, it’s not fun, it’s different. For goodness’ sake, we don’t have a Moe’s here…

And I could sit here for days… months… years… and continue to complain about where we’ve been stationed because I’ve decided it isn’t my home.

But that’s not what God wants from me.

He wants me to grow where I’m planted. Even if I don’t want to.

Maybe, especially if I don’t want to.

So this is my new prayer.

God I don’t like where I live. I don’t like where you have placed me. I don’t want to grow where I am planted. I confess all of these things. But my prayer is that you change my heart to love this place. My prayer is that you will make this place beautiful for me and be a place where I want to have my family. God, make this place where I want to live, make me never want to leave. Help me grow, give me water and sun, give me the nutrients and determination it takes to grow, flourish and thrive here in Omaha. Amen.


“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.

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.