3 Oct

I love icons and use them in my life.  Images that represent whole histories, a small mark that indicates a promise, even gestures which embody philosophies.  Perhaps because I’m a visual learner, so these self-applied icons serve as a mnemonic for remembering valuable lessons from my past.  I don’t have to conjure up entire stories, conversations, or experiences, I only have to glance at a small figurine on my desk.  A magnet on my refrigerator.  It is interesting to me, though, that I do not employ icons in the religious sense, as for instance a Catholic would.  I actually find most renderings of Christian events and people to be distracting and inaccurate.  As a child I visited often a monastery inside of which were stained glass windows that bore no depictions of people or Christian symbolism, instead they were an abstract combination of shades of blue that filled the sanctuary with a kaleidoscope of color.  The windows themselves were like a kaleidoscope.  I liked that a lot.  Even as a child pictures of Jesus were odd to me.  I remember at age six asking Jesus if he really looked like one particularly famous rendering of the LORD my parents kept in our living room, and feeling satisfied that Jesus had told me definitely “no”.   The only painting of God I’ve ever enjoyed is William Blake’s “Ancient of Days”.




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Carving Out the Time

2 Oct

I’m writing again.  Today, right now, I certainly am, and tomorrow I hope to again, and then again the next day.  I’m feeling pushed to write from within and without myself these days, and I keep thinking of really good reasons not to.  I’m too busy, for one thing.  Young G is 3.75 years old, and the New Guy is six months old.  We just moved to a new state and I’m not finished decorating yet.  Also, I don’t really feel like I have my brain back from almost five years ago before conceiving my first-born.  This year I’ve begun to read again, though (really, truly read — and finish — books of all kinds).  I’ve read books about writing, but mostly books by really fabulous writers.  Then I was asked by a longtime friend to assist her in writing a book.  So many fabulous words getting thrown around and bounced inside my brainspace and nary a one of them coming from my fingertips. Every time I try to inspire my friend — my client — to write something I feel guilty for not taking my own advice.  

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Determining Worth

23 May

A year was too long.  Six months were tough, but after that point the mind and heart begin to go places from which they cannot easily return.  This past weekend was Memorial Day, and I remember with great respect all those who have surrendered their life for the liberties we cherish.  The risking of one’s life is noble, but the year-long prison-camp lifestyle risks one’s soul, and I’m not sure that’s worth it.

I understood my husband’s desire to deploy. It was a mixture of duty and pride stemming from his military upbringing, military college, and being the only man in his family without a combat patch. I knew he’d never live with himself if he didn’t go, and I’d live the rest of my life with a self-emasculated man (which is arguably no man at all). Regardless, I dreaded the separation. He owed a debt of gratitude to the legacy that had raised him, and a true debt of service to the Army who funded his dental school, but it wasn’t worth his life (to me). I need him, for me, by my side, in my life, for my benefit. So every day I sighed with relief that he had made it one day closer to coming home.

Before my HD returned I decided I would force myself to accept that his deployment was worth it. I would convince myself to believe it. My route to this end was to say his sense of duty and honor were part of what made him the man Young G and I depended on. His love for us was inseparable from his integrity as a soldier. And so on.

A friend helped me realize that may e my HD needed to hear me say, “it’s worth it,” because maybe he doubted that. My friend said this would only be effective, though, if I believed it. My husband felt regret as he watched Young G grow from a nursing baby to an iPad-wielding toddler, and had missed the transition. My friend helped me plan a memory book detailing month-by-month of the year-long deployment, and in it I tracked the changes of our son. In one sitting he could absorb his boy’s development and see how positive his life was. This gift came from my heart and with it I convinced myself that my husband’s deployment was nothing to regret.

Then he returned and was altered. We had made it through sniper bullets and bomb blasts and were left in marriage counseling. On the very Father’s Day night I presented him with the memory book with my letter telling him “thank you; it was worth it,”he became viciously angry with me, shouting profanity and calling names. The next month he explained to a therapist that he wanted to be alone, because he couldn’t feel love, compassion, or even sympathy for me.

The night of the argument I paced the yard, cigarette in hand, planning my future with the possibility that my husband no longer loved me. Could I stay married to someone with such disdain for me? Then, as he blankly spoke to the counselor — with as much emotion as if he were reading an eye-chart — I wept. I wept because my perfectly good marriage was collapsing for no good reason. My crying didn’t even annoy him.

I had sacrificed my love, life, and future because of pride? Fuck that! I wept with disbelief and felt abandoned. He wasn’t dead. He was just gone. Like shattered crystal, my belief that any of this could be worth it was irreparably destroyed. For the life of me, Young G, and then the Littlest One I’d just conceived, the answer was “hell no! It’s not worth it”. What would I say, “at least our family was destroyed by him defending the country we love!”?

We don’t speak of these things now, though. That was merely my personal horror, terror, and nightmare. He didn’t leave me, he didn’t die, our family is happy and bigger and stronger now. He loves his memory book and we speak with pride about his service. But I’ll never forget looking that demon in the eye and the destruction it promised. I get a cold chill remembering that sense of abandonment, and in that moment I would have paid back every dime to have my husband love me.

All’s well that ends well, they say.

Operation Dancing in the Dark

22 May

I’m probably being dramatic here, but hear me out. Ever since my second son was born, instead of feeling eager to recount my birth story I have been itching to bounce back into activity. His birth literally corresponded with the first days of spring here in Central PA, so regardless of the state of my maternity I would be chomping at the bit for some exercise. Add to this all the stasis that occurred while nine-months pregnant in a 30-degree March, and I’m seriously going crazy.

When I entered the hospital, I was 173 pounds and the trees were bare as December. Forty-eight hours later I was discharged — 12 pounds lighter, 8 of which were my angelic infant son — and all the leaves were peeking out and the flowering trees had burst into bloom. It was practically over-night that we went from chilly winter to sunny spring. My pregnancy was ended and life was all new, especially for the Littlest.

“Can’t start a fire without a spark”

My spark has been traveling along a lengthy fuse, one that has stretched across the last two years. All feelings of permanence ceased when my husband deployed, and my sense of progress became frozen in time. When he returned we were tasked with the sad process of healing, and a time to convalesce never feels like moving forward, but rather catching up. The months we spent restoring our relationship overlapped with my new pregnancy, which in turn overlapped with a brutal Pennsylvania winter. I couldn’t really ignore time, any more, though, because years had in fact passed as was evidenced by my mid-thrirties body: pregnancy was biologically intended for the twenty-year-old mother!

Everything is new and changing in my external world, again, like it has continuously for about three four years or more. I’m not anxious for change; I’m anxious for action, like Bruce Springsteen said. Something that happens inside of me and transcends my schedule. I want to rediscover Myself; she’s gotten a little lost. Well, maybe I put her aside. I had to focus a lot of energy on the needs of others (and also focusing on my more basic needs), and have missed out on good books, learning new things… I even wear the exact same make up every single day. This doesn’t mean I’m not going to pour myself into the Littlest One like I did for Young G. No. My boys deserve a vibrant mommy, though. Not a sad-sap chubby mommy who can’t drag herself out of bed at the same time every day!

Operation Dancing in the Dark does starts with exercise, and regaining my fitness (because this leads to better sleep, better energy, increased ability to keep a schedule, and more enjoyment of life’s activities), but it’s not entirely about loosing my baby-weight. I just equated my sluggishness with the heaviness I felt every time I walked up stairs. This is also about less screen-time. More writing and reading. Who knows what else a spark can ignite.


More to Come

20 Nov

My husband’s deployment was the hardest year of my life — outranking two divorces in my childhood, the murder of a friend, and the cumulative effects of post-graduate depression — and yet it’s the hardest for me to write about because I don’t feel unique.  My husband blogs from his perspective, books have been written, wives military-wide have experienced this for over a decade, every previous generation has war-stories, and even a young teenage girl has published a memoir of her painful fourteen-months without her mother.  I don’t know how my experiences stand out amongst them all, especially when so many war-wives (even most of the ones I know) had it “worse”: their husbands engaged in combat, or divorced them afterwards, leaving them as true single-moms.  

My year of loneliness, single-motherhood, cynicism, and grief seems sometimes to only be unique (and interesting) to me.  

Regardless, I can’t shake the desire to write. 

He deployed from our military home in Hawaii in April of 2011, and was gone for 355 days. Our son was 15 months when he left, and two years, three months when he returned.  We packed up our home ourselves and put it all into storage, shipped my Volkswagen back east, and with only as much as I could fly with my son and I traveled the East coast from family to family for the entire year.  My son has been on 19 planes and 11 of those he and I flew solo! Lots of ladies go home during a deployment, though.  

It’s hard to know where to start, because the beginning seems to keep reaching further and further back.  Did it begin the day he left?  The day we found out he’d go?  Or perhaps the story begins when we fell in love?  More than likely the story begins with his own childhood as an Army brat.  Our whole story matters, though, because it wouldn’t have ended as well as it did if we didn’t have the foundation we find ourselves on.  Truthfully, without this deployment we would have never known just how strong a foundation that is.  Stress and anxiety threatened us (the unit “Us”) to a breaking point, but grace and humility healed us.

We both are forever changed, but thanks be to God we have changed together and not apart. Some of this I’ve already written about, but there is more to come.

Civil War of Red and Blue

15 Sep

I wish politics weren’t so divisive in my generation.

There are some people I know (Facebook contacts, I guess) who are so against whichever party they oppose, that they revile anyone who supports them. Their thought process sounds something like: if you are against Candidate A you must therefore support Candidate B. Or even more frustrating, if you are supportive of Party A then you must necessarily support Candidate A. The latter assumption is the most prominent, and my greatest pet peeve (probably because I hate being labeled).

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Freedom Isn’t Free

10 Sep

By the time the HD finally returned home from Afghanistan, I felt defeated.  I was entirely overwrought.  For two weeks his flight schedule home fluctuated and changed.  Every day we heard something different from the day before about which flight he’d be on, what day he’d return, and at what time.  At last, twenty-four hours before his expected arrival, he called me to tell me he’d checked his bags for the final, 20 hour flight.  I received the phone call on the play ground, watching my Young G play with a friend, and did not expect my husband’s words, “I got kicked off my flight.”  At first I thought I was misunderstanding some guy-lingo, but when he repeated himself, it struck me how defeated he sounded.

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