Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Life as We Know It

I sat on the playground bench soaking up the sunshine and snapping pictures of my son who was smiling at me from his seat in the stroller and my daughter who was happily playing on the playground equipment. It hit me, as I made faces at my son making him laugh, that I was happy. Really happy. For the first time in a long time I had made it through a whole week of being happy.

Oh, the ironies.

For the past five months I've struggled with depression. I'd go for days not even wanting to get out of bed - doing only what was necessary to take care of the well being of my children but little more. Feeling a sadness that was overwhelming in intensity.

Maybe it was a side affect of the birth control. Maybe it was a case of the baby blues. Maybe it's the long dreary days accompanied by weather too cold for me to want to go out even on the sunny days. Maybe it was missing the close companionship of my family and friends who all live so far away. Maybe it was the utter lack of emotional support (other than that of my husband) that I have so badly needed. Maybe it was a mixture of some or all of those things.

I honestly don't know why the depression hit me so hard. I'm not sure that the reason really matters.

The fact is, the depression has been here dragging me through a vicious cycle. Making me feel so tired that I don't want to do even the most simple tasks much less keeping up with all the household duties. The neglect of the housework made me feel like a terrible wife which made me feel even more depressed. My state of constant depression, despite how understanding and supportive my amazing husband has been, has taken a toll on my marriage. I saw it but felt helpless to do anything. Which made me feel more depressed.

A little over a week ago my husband told me that he was being moved to a new unit and would be deploying sometime this summer. No matter how hard you try to prepare for this moment it still hits you like a ton of bricks. I alternated between shock, tears and denial.

The day after my husband broke the news to me I was supposed to go to a lunch for some of the other Paralegal Army Wives...I didn't want to go but my husband insisted and practically pushed me out the door.

I'm so glad he did!

I had a great time and for the first time in a long time felt like I had people that understood what I was going through and really cared. I stayed for a good two hours longer than I had intended. A few days later I got together with one of the other gals who's husband is in the unit that my husband has just been transferred to. We met at the playground and sat and chatted while our kids played. It was wonderful. She's been an Army wife for longer than I have, although she's only a couple years older than me, and has survived two deployments. Between the lunch on Saturday and the get together on Thursday, I found my spirits were greatly lifted.

On Saturday, as I sat enjoying a sunny beautiful day I realized I had made it through a whole week without the too familiar cloud of depression. Yes, I've had some tough moments - it's impossible not to when you realize that the love of your life is going to be gone for at least a year. But I'm not feeling depressed. It's nice.

I think God knows how much my husband and I need some good quality time filled with happy memories before he deploys. Life as we know it is about to change so much and we are doing what we can to get ready for it. We've been taking lots of pictures and videos to capture those precious memories. Trying to plan ahead. I'm thankful that there has been no depression to make this time more difficult! My mindset has changed so much - now, I just want to capture every moment. Each cuddle, each hug, each kiss seems so much more special. I want to remember them all. They are such precious treasures too easily taken for granted. Watching my children cuddle and play with their daddy is so bittersweet...I just want a "pause" button!

Life has already started changing...we're selling things we don't want to put in storage for a year. The kids have picked up on some of it and have become more clingy. Which makes it a little difficult at times but kind of nice for Jeremiah as they are extra cuddly with him. Sometime in late June or early July I'll be headed to Wisconsin then Tennessee then North Carolina on my own little "deployment" while my husband is deployed. It's a lot of big changes for us as a family. And, yes, I plan to keep myself busy and surrounded by family and friends but still staying in contact with other Army wives that know what I'm going through.

I'd appreciate advice from those who have gone through this already...and lots and lots of prayers. The full import of this is slowly starting to sink in but I don't think any of us really know the impact this will have on our please, please, please pray for us!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

They Said Thank You

*Life has been a little crazy lately so I haven't had a chance to do much in the way of writing. Here is an old (slightly edited) note that I posted on facebook a while back and wanted to share :)

September 2, 2009

I sat rocking our fussy baby girl  in the baggage claim area of the airport waiting for my husband to get the last piece of his luggage so we could go home for the short 30 hours we had. A man walked up and shook my husbands hand and even though I was to far away to hear what he was saying I could tell that he was thanking him for his service in the military. It made me proud. He had obviously seen Jeremiah and I together before the baggage started coming through for, as he was walking away, he walked past me nodded and said "Thank You." Two simple words. No smile accompanied them but there was a sincerity there; an acknowledgment of the sacrifices that I had put in as well. They are words that I will not soon forget.

"Except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it"
I come from a home where the military is well respected, as it should be. Both my parents had fathers that served. One for just a few years in the Navy and the other as career Army. Both my parents served in the Army as well (and thank goodness for it because that is where they met!). Although no one was in the service by the time I came along, I am no stranger to the ups and downs of military life. I listened with rapt attention to the stories that my mother and grandmother told and the few I could weasel out of my father. I learned very quickly that life as a soldier's wife or as a military brat, while being honorable, was not an easy lifestyle. There were good lessons to be learned...lessons that I was happy just hearing about and had no desire to experience for myself.

The truth is, I never dreamed that I would one day find myself as a soldier's wife. I'd heard enough stories to know that it demands as much, if not more, strength and sacrifice out of the family as it does out of the soldier. Especially in wartime. And yet, here I stand - a soldier's wife.

I have yet to experience having my husband deployed. That is one sacrifice that I am not looking forward to. Even knowing that my husband's MOS will more than likely put him in a green zone, there is still the fear that he could very well come back home in a box. This war is far from over and the Middle East is still proving to be a deadly place for soldiers. Despite not having to have made the deployment sacrifice, my sacrifices have already started. 

It's been nearly six months since the day that I drove away from the MEPS building where my husband was about to leave for his basic training. I still remember the tears streaming down my face as I talked to my sister over the phone; I was trying so hard to be strong when all I wanted to do was fall apart. I've spent more nights than I can keep track of up watching tv or reading a book or playing around on the internet because I didn't want to slip into an empty bed and face the tears that I knew would come. So I'd push myself to exhaustion staying up until two or even three am (being in my third trimester got me tired alot sooner than normal!) before going to bed. I made the sacrifice of learning lonely.

Spending the last trimester of my pregnancy alone was certainly no cake walk either. My sisters could both tell stories on me of the times that I called in tears of frustration between the emotions that I didn't know what to do with and the sheer exhaustion that comes with carrying around an extra 35 pounds and having no one there to help. It didn't help that I had a "slight" mouse issue (between my parents and me, we caught over 30 mice that had decided to keep me company....yuck!) which left my kitchen a constant mess. I have rarely been so thankful for anything as I was when I saw my parents pull into the driveway and knew that I would no longer be alone for (what turned out to be) the next 2 1/2 months. 

Then there was the I'm not complaining; less than four hours of hard labor (including the pushing) was perhaps God's way of saying that He knew He had put me trough an awful lot so He was going to make this a little easier for me. But, oh, how I wish Jeremiah could have been there for it. I wish I could have shared the memories of those first precious hours with him...holding her for the first time, kissing her precious face, counting her fingers and toes, watching her sleep. the 1st baby is a special something that you can never do over again. A sacrifice that we both had to make. Watching him try to figure out what to do with his hands the first time we Skyped was heartbreaking - you could see that all he wanted to do was reach out and touch his daughter.

It wasn't until his visit home that I received my first thanks. We were walking through the airport, escorting him to his departing plane and drawing tons of attention; as my dad so aptly put it - there is nothing like a man in uniform carrying a baby bundled in pink to attract attention. We had people left and right smiling and saying "thank you." Some directed it specifically at him and some at us as a family. But there was one couple that will perhaps forever stick out in my mind. It was an older couple that came over to look at the baby then they thanked Jeremiah for his service. And then, with a kind of knowing in her eye, the older lady looked at me and said "Thank you for your sacrifice." Had she been in my position? Had she also once been the wife a soldier during war time? I'll never know for sure. But somehow she knew that it wasn't just my husband making sacrifices for his country. It was that "thank you" that brought tears to my eyes.

Do the "thank yous" make all the sacrifice worth it? No, not really. If one makes so many sacrifices for the glory of it or the "thank yous" they are going to become quickly discouraged. There is too much uncertainty, too many unseen challenges, too much sacrifices made and too few "thank yous" for them. But those "thank yous" that we do get, they make it easier to keep pushing on. They help remind us that we are not just making the sacrifices for our family and friends but also for the random strangers on the street...people we have never met. It's like that cool sip of water on a hot means more than we could ever say.

I have not had to make the ultimate sacrifice, and I pray that I never do. And I know that there are many military wives and families that have it harder than I do. My sacrifices are small in comparison to some. There are those that go each day knowing nothing more than that their loved one, be it husband or wife or son or daughter, is in harm's way.Some deal with their loved ones having maimed or lost limbs...or memories of a war that they wish the could forget. Some have only the memories of their fallen soldier. But we all make our sacrifices, both great and small, for our fellow countrymen.

So whenever you see a service member, be it Army or Navy or Marines or Air Force or even the Coast Guard, stop and thank them. And thank their families too. Because you never know how far that kind word, that appreciation, will go.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall I am My Mother After All!!!

I love my mother. She is a wonderful woman and a godly role model. And if I can be half as good of a woman, half as good of a mother, that she is I think I'd be doing great. She honestly is the Proverbs 31 type of woman; I can truly call her "blessed."

She is not, however, without her quirks. Movies - well, TV in general - being one of them. We still tease her about her comment during a gun battle scene in a western when she vocally pondered how many of the Indians were saved before they died (Really? It's a movie - it's fiction). But she tends to view things in a different light. Which is not, I suppose, a completely bad thing.

As a kid I was not allowed to watch The Little Mermaid. Mom very much disapproved of the message that it sent - she felt it encouraged rebellion. She even gave her "soap box" lecture to a preacher about it. We joked about it later but I never remember feeling like I was really missing out on something by not being allowed to watch it. It was just part of life with Mom.

Now, I like movies as much as the next person - especially Disney cartoons. Our movie shelf holds Bolt, Monsters Inc., Cars, Ratatouille, and even Beauty and the Beast (hey, a girl's gotta have her princess movie!) as well as a few others. Sleeping Beauty, Finding Nemo, and Toy Story (all three of them) are on the "to buy" list. I usually watch new cartoons with a mind towards possibly adding them to our collection.

Tangled was the most recent one on that list. The previews looked great - cute and funny. I heard wonderful reviews from people that had watched it. I was practically on pins and needles waiting to see it.

I couldn't have been more let down!

But I finally understood my mother's sentiments. While I was watching the movie for the pure entertainment of it, my "mommy instincts" couldn't help but kick in.

The viewer watches the movie knowing that an evil witch has stolen Rapunzel away and kept her for her own selfish intentions, raising Rapunzel as her own daughter. Rapunzel, the sweet, dutiful, trusting daughter, has no clue that the woman who raised her is not her real mother. For her 18th birthday, Rapunzel requests to go see "the floating lights" that are released every year on her birthday. Despite "Mother's" abrasive and almost cruel response Rapunzel keeps her sweet spirit. So far so good...

Now comes the problem.

Rapunzel starts to ask just one more time and "Mother" starts singing a song that makes a complete mockery of parental authority "Mother Knows Best." She goes off on all the terrible things that are out there in the world that can hurt Rapunzel and why she has her locked in an area where nothing can harm her. Honestly, as a parent, there are certain things that are not allowed; my children's safety and well-being are my responsibility and one that I take very seriously. It's something I learned from my parents. At the time I didn't always understand or agree with their decisions but now I can look back and see that they really did know best.

Then comes the next problem.

Seeing that she is not going to be allowed to get her desire, Rapunzel then deceives "Mother" into taking a journey, to get her something special, that will take her out of the vicinity for three days so that she can sneak out and go see the "floating lights" on her own. When she finally makes her escape she is conflicted by her conscience knowing what she did was wrong but still enjoying the freedom. Sound familiar? If you were raised in a Christian realm, it should ("there is pleasure in sin for a season").

Of course, in the end Rapunzel realizes that "Mother" is not really her mother and that she was kidnapped as a baby...and she might not have ever known if she hadn't rebelled. This is where I turned into my mother! I found the blatant encouragement of rebellion appalling. The viewer knowing that "Mother" was not Rapunzel's real mother makes no difference when you understand that Rapunzel didn't know, or even have a suspicion of it, at the time of her rebellion.

What difference does it make?...It's just a movie - it's fiction.

I worked with 3, 4, and 5 year olds at a daycare a couple years ago. One thing that I learned from my time there is that they LOVE to play pretend, acting out movies that they recently watched. And it builds a foundation for their attitudes. Children learn by example, repetition and imitation.

I, for one, am not going to put an example in front of my children that I don't want them to imitate and follow.

And if that makes me sound like my mother...well, I find that to be a great honor!

My mother as my Matron of Honor and Me :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Life in the Military...How it Came to Be and What Happens Next

Deployment - probably the most dreaded word in a military wife's vocabulary. Unfortunately unavoidable. And a real possibility in just a few short months. But let me go back in time a little bit...

A few years ago, shortly after our engagement, Jeremiah asked me how I would feel if he joined the military. Just the Reserves - no big deal. He was working for himself at the time and sometimes he had plenty for work and other times he had nothing. As a bachelor, it wasn't too much of an issue. As a husband it was a HUGE issue. He takes his responsibility as the provider of the home very seriously. His biggest fear is not being able to take care of his family. I love that about him. So when he asked about joining the reserves I reluctantly agreed to consider it. Long story short - he got another job offer at a sod farm that I was more comfortable with and accepted that. We moved to the Nashville area (him a few months before we got married and me right after we got married) and the military job option was no longer a serious consideration.

Fast forward about 2 years. It was Christmas time and we had recently bought a house and then found out that we were expecting our first baby. The economy had taken a turn for the worse and thus business was sparse at the sod farm. I started working at a daycare and Jeremiah was doing other odd jobs to supplement our income but we were barely making it. We had to drop our insurance (which, long story, didn't cover the baby anyways). Something need to change. Joining the military became a serious topic again - but this time Jeremiah wasn't talking Reserves. He talked to different recruiters (one in each branch of the military) and took his ASVAB at which he did well. After some deliberation, he decided that the Army was the best option for us as a family. I had some major misgivings. My mom was an "army brat" and I had heard the stories from her and my grandma. It's not an easy lifestyle and the sacrifices are not just limited to the person who wears the uniform. Even during wartime. And, despite the fact that our great country seems to be oblivious to this fact, we are a nation at war. We did a lot of praying and it seemed the harder that I prayed that God would close that door the more obvious it became that it was the direction he was pointing us in.

March 11, 2009. That date will forever be stamped in my brain. It was the day that my husband left for Basic. I felt like my heart was breaking as I told him goodbye. The next few months would be the hardest that I have ever faced. Dealing with household issues, going through my final trimester alone, my car breaking down, my Grandma dying the day after my birthday, going through childbirth without my husband there (ugh...don't ask), being a single mom...and the stress of just not knowing which comes with life in the military. Moving all the way across the country - about as far away from family as we can be and still be in the continental US. But those are all stories for another time.

There were a lot of things that happened that I just didn't understand. But God used them to show us that HE was in control. Ft. Lewis (aka Joint Base Lewis-McChord/JBLM), WA has turned out to be an incredible duty station. Faith Baptist Church in Tacoma has helped us grow stronger both spiritually and in our marriage. It has not been an easy year but definitely a worth while one. I'm amazed at what all God has done.

Last week my husband told me that there is an 85% chance that he will deploy by the end of this year. It means more changes as I decide what to do during his deployment. And, even though my husband's MOS will put him in a "green zone," we are still at war. There are no guarantees. It means a year of playing both mother and father. A year of begging God for my husband's safe return.

But I was recently reminded that there are no surprises with God. Even in this, He knows and has His hand in it. And He has my family in the hollow of His hand. Nothing can touch us without His permission. Nothing. That is both awesome and humbling. But sometimes He allows us to go through things that are difficult. Things that test our faith; our strength. Things that test our peace.

That is what I struggle with the most. I have faith. I have strength. But peace? I tend to be anxious - I'm just not a patient person. Once I know something is going to happen I just want to get it over with. In one of those very difficult times God gave me this passage:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 6-7

It has become my mantra, if you will. And when I focus on it and the knowledge that God is in control I find peace - a peace the truly does pass all understanding. Even my own. It allows me to make requests of God but then to leave it in His very capable hands.

I still find it difficult to wait for His perfect timing but I'm getting better...I think!

So now we wait. And do our best to prepare mentally and emotionally for what comes next.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Crackers in my Slipper and a Penny in my Shoe: Life with My Children

"Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face; you kind of want to be fully committed" (Eat Pray Love) As a mother of two not only did I find the quote hysterical I can also testify to the truth of it! I sometimes feel like I have "Mommy" tattooed on my face in the form of dark circles under my eyes. Last week was a hectic week around the Hix household. Certainly not one for the semi-committed! Or unprepared.

Ana cut four teeth in a weeks time period (and is working on at least two more!). I've never been so thankful to see teeth come through. I noticed that they were working on coming through three weeks ago - the day after I had committed myself to doing away with the pacifier once an for all. Whoever said that it only takes a couple days to get a child over the pacifier addiction has never met my daughter; it took almost three weeks for her to get back to her normal sleep schedule! During which time Trenton has been sick and/or going through a growth spurt.

Needless to say, I've been a bit tired.

Children turn your world upside down - they change the way you live, the way you think, the way you view everything.

Two years ago I didn't have to check my slipper before putting it on for fear of stepping on a peanut butter cheese cracker. I didn't have to remember to put the lid on the nuts concerned that if I didn't they would get spilled all over the floor. Spur of the moments dates were much easier to do because we didn't have to worry about nap time or bed time. I never to worry about baby spitting up in my hair and down my back. I didn't have toys spread from one side of the room to the other in a nearly solid sheet. I didn't feel like locking myself in a room because of an inconsolable or cranky baby.

Two years ago I didn't have a daughter run up squealing "mommy" as she wrapped her arms around me. I didn't have a son whose whole face lit up when I did something so simple as make eye contact with him. I didn't have a daughter pucker up with her little tongue sticking out for a kiss. I didn't get to hear her say "I love you." I didn't get to get all excited over each new little thing that they are doing. I didn't get to see the world through my children's eyes. I didn't get to laugh at their cute antics. I didn't get to listen to my babies giggles. I didn't get to snuggle them close and watch them as they slept.

Two years ago I didn't have the stress of being a parent.

Two years ago I didn't have the joys of being a mommy.

So yes, you might want to be sure you are ready for the commitment of having your world turned upside down...sometimes I even joke about wanting to give my children away after a particularly stressful day (or week). But there are blessings in it - so many things that I am thankful for.

And if the giggles and kisses and snuggles come at the price of having cheerios on the floor and pennies in my shoes - well, I'll take it!!!

My sweet boy
Ana loving on her baby brother!

Giving baby "Trenty" kisses