I know, today is the 18th, but I didn’t write yesterday.  I was too busy having fun with my best friend.  Time to spend with him is growing short, so I’m sure you don’t mind when I take time for him. There are ten months when he will be gone and I will have all the hours after the kids go to bed for blogging.  So, I will now write what I was going to write yesterday.

Last night was our monthly FRG meeting and it got me to thinking about the upcoming deployment.  I’ve only done  one deployment before and lets just say I failed big time.  The complete and utter failure of that deployment has me nervous about this one.  However, even though my husband hasn’t bee .. I’d say out of country, but he has been up to Canada.  So while he hasn’t been in the sandbox, he’s still been in the Army and has been gone almost as much as he’s been home.  Now, I’m not comparing a week up in Canada or months off at yet another Army school to deployment, they are two completely different things.  But he has been gone a lot so I have had some time to practice for this deployment.  I now have up my sleeve a few tricks that I am hoping will help.  And some thoughts about military deployments in general.

1) Don’t try to go it alone.  This was the main cause for my horrific failure last time.  My life was just me and Xavier, who was about two at the time.  We went to church on Sundays, Uncle Larry’s on Mondays, and that was about it.  I hadn’t set up other activities and I don’t like imposing myself on people so I never invited people over.  Just one of the quirks of how my mind works, I don’t see other people as an imposition, but I do feel as if my just being in the same vicinity of other people is an imposition on them.  Now I have added to my weekly schedule PWOC and a Bible study.  I also am working on getting over myself and making plans with other people.  I will invite people over to the house bi-weekly, if not weekly, so I will have to keep up with housework.  I will get out of the house regularly to do things that aren’t shopping, so that I don’t rely on shopping to get me out of the house.  Now, I’m gonna admit, this works over the short-term, but it’s overwhelming for me.  So I’m gonna need the help of all my wonderful friends up here to help me keep up with it over a whole deployment.  I do worry that around month six I will feel as if I’m just a big bother to others.  I will be tired of trying to find ways to have fun and connect with people.  And I worry that, even though I know better, I’m going to retreat into myself and not go out and do all the stuff I to do need to do to keep sane.  But knowing that I will need people is the reason I started building a family up here as soon as we arrived.  That’s why I didn’t church shop, but found a church that my family could become a part of and immediately began the work to make it home.  Now, as far as advice goes, don’t settle for any church, do make sure it is one that is doctrinally sound and that your family will fit into.  We went to three churches up here.  One was too far away and too big, I saw myself easily getting lost in the crowd which would not be helpful when at month six I may be trying to hide from the world.  Another was a great church, but some of the doctrines made us go hmmm.  Nothing bad, but just stuff that when taken the wrong way could lead to bad.  Then there is ACF.  It’s not the perfect church.  But not all churches can be G-Creek.  It is a good church with good doctrine and amazing people who treat us like family.  Even if you aren’t a church going person, I’d find a church family.  If you’re a Christian, it’s biblical to go to church, you should go.  If you aren’t a Christian, find a good church and go.  A good church won’t judge you for not being a Christian.  Yeah, they are going to try to get you “saved,” but because they love you and want eternal salvation for you.  It’s what we Christians do, we want to share Jesus with the rest of the world.  But a good church will also rally the troops and be there for you when you need them.  It’s our way of showing the love of God.  Now, don’t go to church trying to use the church to get stuff. Do it to build relationships with people who will be there for you when you really need them.  I also got involved in FRG.  Here’s the thing about FRG, it’s only as effective as the people who go.  I’ll admit that with all the other things in my life, I don’t always want to be a part of FRG and I don’t need it now as much as I did that first time.  But it’s the first time for a lot of the spouses up here, and their first deployment is here in Alaska.  Take separation from spouse, worry about spouse and subtract sunlight.  Life is tough up here, Alaska in number in the US for alcohol problems, drug problems, suicide and divorce  For first-timers being here isn’t going to make things easier.  At this point FRG isn’t about me, it’s about helping others who are looking for a lifeline.  I wish more people would participate.  I know it’s not perfect, but the more people who attend the better it can be.  New spouses should come to get advice, help and, if nothing else, time with other people in the same boat.  Spouses for whom deployment has become routine need to go to be the voice of experience.  Tell others what works and what doesn’t.  And even if deployment is the norm, we all need the support of others, it doesn’t hurt to have one more support group.  I also joined PWOC for the first time.  I am so glad I did.  Those will bef the ladies I’m leaning upon. Those are the ladies I will impose upon when I really need to talk to another adult.  And those are the women who I know love me enough to make sure that I don’t crawl into my shell.  There are those of you out there who will do those things and aren’t in PWOC, it’s just that the majority of the women who make up my safety net are in PWOC.

2) Have a written budget and stick to it.  You get a lot of extra money when your spouse is deployed.  It will be nice to have some of it when my husband gets home.  I’m not saying don’t enjoy yourself.  Our dollar amount for “fun” will not be going down just because there is one less person having “fun”.  I will be needing more “fun” than norma,l so it evens out.  Groceries will go down, but the amount that I “blow” will go up.  That’s okay.  But I need to write it down and then work the envelope system (thank you Dave Ramsey for the envelope system).  That way I can “blow” money on things that make me happy; Starbucks, frames for all our unframed artwork, art projects for the kids.  But there is no guilt and no explaining to my husband just where all the extra deployment dollars went because some will be left.

3) Schedule fun.  This is important for me.  I will sit at my house and do nothing and let time pass me by if I don’t make myself get out.  I will be visiting the Anchorage museum regularly, we have a membership.  I figure it will be a great place for me and the kids to go when the world is dark, frozen and lonely.  I will also be making regular pilgrimages to Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.  We may freeze our booties off watching the bears and the buffalo, but we will have fun.  And the drive is amazing.  And there are so many other fun things to do here, in the winter and in the summer.  I just need to make it happen.

4) Now, this one is just from watching other people.  Don’t go home and live life like you aren’t in the Army.  It might make for a great time during deployment, but there is re-deployment to think about.  I know it’s hard doing life without your soul mate.  And I know Alaska is tough (although this advice goes for any duty station).  But you will be needing all the tools you have put in place during the deployment to get through re-deployment.  You’ll need the babysitters you have found so that you and your hubby can have some time alone.  You’ll need the friends you have made to continue to hold you up as you deal with all the stuff your husband’s going through.  Even the easy deployments can leave scars on the men who go through them and they will be working through that.  It will not be making things easier if both of you are newly adjusting to being back.  Military life can be hard, teasing yourself by spending a year living a “normal” life just makes it harder.  Sticking to it, surrounding yourself with others who understand it, and making it work for you are your best tools to not only survive it but to make a wonderful life.

5) I shouldn’t have to say this, but this isn’t my first time around the block and I know what goes on.  While you can’t do it alone, those you surround yourself with had better be the same gender as you.  Even if it seems innocent: it’s just dinner with a co-worker, hanging with a fellow military spouse, movies with another parent.  It’s a long time without your spouse and you’re lonely.  Just don’t put yourself in a situation where things could even come close to happening.  My rule of thumb, the wife has to be there, or it is a whole group of people doing something.  Even if there are kids present, there still need to be other adults.  You don’t want to get comfortable with someone who isn’t your spouse, because when you’re comfortable lines between what’s okay and what isn’t get fuzzy.

6) Use this time as time to go to God.  Ultimately, He’s the one who will get you through this.

My last note is not about me, but about my kids.  It will be hard on them, and I love that people have donated all this stuff to help them get through this deployment.  But right now isn’t when they need it, they will need after Daddy’s gone.  Just a thought when you are planning giveaways.  The stuffed animals are awesome, but they would mean even more a month or two from now.  If the kids didn’t already have the stuff I’d hide it and save it for later.

I don’t know if that’s all I have to say, but I need to live my life now.  Plus, I’m about to cry.  I try not to let myself think this much about deployment because I get all emotional.

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