Sunday, May 29, 2011

All I need to know, I learned through the Marine Corps?

*In honor of Memorial Day, I would like to thank all of those who have sacrificed for our country--and also like to think their families.*

Sometimes, I look at myself 9-10 years ago (before I married into the Marine Corps) and I have a hard time remembering life as that person.  I have been aware of the plight of military members and their families for a long time, including an awareness on a personal level since the age of 16 when I was dating a young recruit at Parris Island.  But it was not until I stepped into the role of Marine Wife that I had a taste of what this life means--all that it offers, all that it gives, and all that it takes away.  The phrase, "If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued one to you," rings loud and clear.  However, without those of us holding down the fort at home, I bet the military would not have as strong of a foundation as it does.  Military families are heroes, too...allowing the brave Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen to perform their duties to our country with the comfort of knowing things on the homefront are taken care of by the ones who love us most.

Military wife life is not easy.  It's hard.  It's lonely.  It's stressful.  It's, at times, quite scary.  It has made me a stronger person.  I truly believe it has made my daughter a stronger person.  I also believe it has made my marriage stronger.  As I read Facebook posts of civilian friends who must spend a night or two without their loved ones or hear of someone upset that their husband is working a few late nights this week, I am reminded of the separations and the hardships military families face.  Who among our group would stress about a night apart?  Who among us hasn't prayed that time move by faster--that the months and years could be behind us so that we can be a family together again?  I sometimes have to ground myself--it IS all relative.  Just because WE live this life doesn't mean that EVERYONE is privy to the understanding of our experiences.  Just as I beg for others to understand OUR lives, I must be respectful of others.  I must be thankful that I have the experience and the understanding of deployments and of having a husband whose job comes first in our family.  Without these experiences which I often consider hardships, I would not have the ability to reflect and enjoy the little daily moments of so deeply.

I don't ALWAYS focus on the part of my life that is wrapped up in the Marine Corps, as I try so hard to define myself as an individual.  But, the truth of the matter is that the Marine Corps is present in every second of every day of my life--and it has played a huge role in makeing me the woman I am today.  So, I would like to take a moment to share some of my greatest lessons learned in the past 8 1/2 years of being a Marine Wife.

-- You can do many things you didn't think possible.  And, you CAN do it on your own.
--  Belongings mean little.  Carrying the memories in your head is the safest place to keep them.  (This is particularly helpful with moves...the less clutter, the fewer boxes, the better in my book.)
--  It is possible to overcome differences.  Marines (and other service members) can stand side-by-side as brothers no matter how they differ on any level.  We should take their example.
--  Related to the previous lesson, you can find friends in places you least expect them.
--  Military friendships are different than any other friendship on the planet.  You can have people come and go in your life.  You can support other military wives through a certain period of time.  You will likely be separated before you are ready--and may sometimes lose contact--but this never lessens the strength of your friendship, your bond, or the importance of your duty to each other.
--  Contrary to what some believe, serving your country is not about politics or religion or anything else...it's about something deep inside a person who has a call to do something most of us cannot comprehend.
--  You don't know the true FEELING of excitement, anxiety, nervousness, fear, joy and about 100 different emotions rolled into one until you are waiting on the bus to pull up after a deployment.
--  A hug after a deployment is the best feeling.  Ever.
--  That hug after a deployment does not make up for all the months spent apart, living separate lives and growing separately.  Reunion is great--reintegration is difficult.
--  Military kids view the world differently. 
-- Sitting in the back seat to your husband's career doesn't mean he doesn't love you.
--  It's not always easy to live in the shadow of your husband--especially when you work so hard to achieve and be your own person.  But, it's necessary...and probably worth it.
--  Homes do not have walls.  Home is where the Marine Corps takes you...and this changes quite often...and that's okay.  (It has to be.)

My list could go on and on...

But, the point is, I have become a different person--accomplishing things I didn't know possible through my Marine Wife life thus far.  Many people will complain (myself included) that marrying into the military took away opportunities and chances.  Though I do my fair share of complaining, I know without this lifestyle I would not have had the opportunity to live up to my potential...I never would have been challenged the ways I have been challenged...I never would have known the strength I had because I would never have been forced to find it.  Without the Marine Corps, I certainly would not be able to pursue a PhD while being a full-time mom and living the comfortable life that we do.  Without the Marine Corps, I wouldn't know all that I can do on my own.  I would not have met so many of the amazing men and women I have had the privilege to meet along this journey.  As I type this, I fear the coming years.  There will be moves, separations, deployments--and all of the stress that comes along with them.  But I know that I will have more of the friendships, more of the challenges, and more of the victories to build upon.  In my mind I fear what will be thrown our way, but in my heart I feel that it will only serve to strengthen us as individuals and as a family.  Semper fi!



Monday, May 23, 2011

The Rambling Calm AFTER the Storm

Oh yeah...I remember this feeling...

I keep thinking "once X is over, things will be okay"--with "X" being a fill-in-the-blank of life happenings such as comp exams, deployments, bad days...

I've recently blogged about my efforts to come to terms with the fact that things just don't settle down.  Period.  And I need to stop looking at that supposedly greener grass on the other side.  And now, I'm in what was supposed to be the calm AFTER the storm.  And, on that point, I will digress just a bit...

That big storm that hit us a few weeks ago--utter craziness--is a great metaphor for this attempt I am making to be okay with the stress that encompasses my life right now. 

I'm sure most people have heard the phrase "the calm before the storm," to illustrate when you know something big is coming even if life is relatively quiet at that given moment.  Well, my life has been filled with calms AFTER storms.  I am usually immersed in fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants adventures between mommyhood, work, school, and military wife life.  And then, sometimes unexpectedly, things seem to slow down--and that's hard on me.  I apparently thrive on having things to do--right now.  It's when I slow down that the stress intensifies.  During the crazy times, I'm just trying to get through the minute--get done what is due here and now.  But when things slow down, my mind takes over.  Unfortunately, though, in this lifestyle, it never really stops.  So, the big exam is over (for now), but now I realize all of the things I put off preparing for that one day--like keeping the house organized, preparing other manuscripts, being the mom and wife I want to be. 

So, this calm AFTER the storm has hit me pretty hard--not to mention I am back in my hometown awaiting my mom's homecoming--which keeps getting pushed back--AND (I can't even believe I am writing this because my fear runs so deep I don't even want to dance around discussing the topic) there are people on my mom's hall who are getting the (gulp) stomach bug...and it's spreading.  I'm a wreck.  I know I need to be there (like physically, on the sick-hall) for my mom, but that fear is elevating my stress to dangerous levels!  Anyway, this "calm" is taking a toll on my sanity...just like that storm. 

Back to the actual storm: There was no calm before that thing hit our house--it had been windy, raining, thundering, etc. all day.  Schools asked parents to pick kids up early, after taking shelter for tornado warnings earlier in the day.  It was a crazy day to start off with.  And then THE part of the storm that rocked our world hit--and it was scary--the scariest weather I have ever witnessed.  So, we took shelter in our little downstairs bathroom (without windows)--all of us, including the dogs.  And, from our hideout, we could hear the storm--the wind, the hail.  It sounded like someone was shooting our house (and it looked the same once we caught a glimpse).  But, possibly the creepiest part was how it stopped. 

It just stopped. 

We sounded like we were in a war zone (which was verified by my husband who has been in such zones)...and then, nothing. 

Silence.

I was scared we were in the eye of the storm (which I'm not even sure that storm had an "eye" but after living through many hurricanes in Florida, that was my terminology).  I wouldn't release us out of the bathroom for a while--the quiet was the creepiest part of it all.

When we finally went out of the bathroom, we looked out the windows, and eventually made it out to our yard--where all of our neighbors were doing the same thing, crunching through the hail.  We could see each other through the steam rising from our damaged yards.  We all made sure everyone was okay.  (Greatest part of life in the 'burbs: your neighbors make sure you are accounted for after a natural disaster.) There was this smell in the air--I can't describe it--I'd never smelled it before.  My neighbor and I decided THAT was what creepy smells like.

But other than our crunching through the hail and our voices, there was nothing...no cars, no animals, no sounds of life.  And, as I mentioned in my previous post, WE are the LUCKY ones.  In our calm, the storm left our houses standing (though severely damaged) and our loved ones, though shook up, were safe.

So now, in my life's latest "calm" after the storm, I am living in a perpetual anxiety attack.  The exam, the semester, and so much of the craziness from the past year is over. No transition, no outlet, and I won't know if I passed that exam for another month (or more).  There was no closure.  It's sort of like the time when Buzz comes back from a deployment.  It's exciting--I'm glad he's home, just like I'm glad this chapter is over (unless I didn't pass that exam and have to do that part all over again).  It's a great milestone.  It's good.  But it's different.  Just like when he comes home, we hug, and we go home--but there's no transition, no closure or outlet for all of the stress I bottled up for the entire deployment. I guess all of this points to the fact that I don't handle stress well in the moment OR after, huh?  :P

I'm on edge; I'm shaky; I'm nervous.  There is nothing that has to be done RIGHT NOW but so much on the to-do list.  The exam is over, but the work doesn't end.  My mom's surgery is over, but the recovery is in full swing.  And, of course, Buzz is not here.  Nope.  The Marine Corps always takes him when I feel like I need him most (which, in fairness, is always, so it's not like there's ever a good time for him to be absent from our lives--but it happens so often and it always seems like a really bad time). 

Am I crazy?  Probably...but I'm also human.  And I need to work on finding internal calm in this stressful calm after the storms of the past few months.  I don't know how to do it.  But the first step is to stop dwelling on it here in my online outlet.  So, Step 1: stop rambling; Step 2: deep breath...here we go...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When they're talking to someone else...

It's time again to...
And nothing warms my heart like my daughter.
I'll have to keep this short and sweet, as I am studing for a big comp exam (tomorrow--EEK!).  But I think my little lady's words say it all.
Sometimes we can find out the most about our loved ones when they are talking to someone else...
We do not go to church but K has recently been very interested in learning more about God...so we talk and share.  She asks questions and I answer them--or tell her I can't--or find an answer if I can.  This has been a challenge for me as I am not the best at discussing things like religion.  My faith has always been something that is more personal than public discussion.  But I am glad to share these things with my daughter.  K tells me she believes in God and she wants everyone else to, also.  And now, every night before she goes to bed, she says a prayer.  Here are some excerpts from her prayer last night:

Dear God,

Thank you most for Mommy.  Please help her pass her exam so she can play more, have fun, and we can go to the pool.

Please help Grandma get better and walk better.

Thank you for Mommy, Daddy, Sampson, Daisy, Grandma, Grandaddy, and MeeMaw.

Thank you for keeping us safe during the storm.

Amen

*I'm so blessed*

I'm also trying to let go of the guilt I feel for my 5-year-old knowing that I need to pass an exam in order to have more free time.  I'm still hoping I am serving as a good role model and setting an example of what strong, educated women can do and of how to take advantage of the opportunities you are blessed to be given.  I also hope I will make it through this program and get a good job, so she can truly see that a good job makes for a happy mommy--who has summers and vacations to spend with the one she loves most.  :)

And I'm also happy to know how much she cherishes our family...and how compassionately she thinks of others.  I'm glad she is able to be thankful for all of our blessings.  Mommy-hood is the best.  And sometimes, we realize it most when we hear our little ones talking to someone else.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Is the grass really ever greener?

The grass is always greener on the other side.

I'm not sure how I feel about that old saying.  It's too real and it disturbs me.  I try to be a big believer in mind over matter, but sometimes my mind is working against me so that sort of defeats the purpose.  But I always think, if I can just get through this next paper, this next class, the next exam, the upcoming trip, the latest deployment, until the next raise...THEN things will be better.  But, once I pass the milestone of the minute, life is still happening.  There are still more hurdles to overcome.  There are still barriers standing in the way.

But does any of that matter?  I've written before about my quests and attempts to live in the moment.  And these things go for the good AND the not-so-good.  For example, while I keep wishing time away during the tough times, I worry about the good times being over too soon.  Vacations don't last long enough.  Days off go by too quickly--or it rains.  But does any of THAT matter?

I looked back at some pictures from not that long ago.  I've aged.  It's grad school, I'm sure of it.  I've kept my youthful glow through Marine Corps issues, moving way too often, and being a mom.  Grad school has brought on the grey and the crow's feet...and a few extra pounds.  But does any of THAT matter?  Plus, I do feel lucky that I still get carded for adult beverages and I still fit in my old clothes, even if they are a little more snug.

So, who cares if the grass is greener on the other side?  Green grass grows fast and I don't like to mow anyway.  I should embrace the grass on MY side, even if it's a little dry and brown.  And right now, while I'm uncontrollably stressing out over my upcoming comp exam, I am truly working on being thankful for the opportunity and the experience--even in the stressful moment.  I'm working to enjoy the rainy days--you can still play Princess Yahtzee and other fun stuff inside.  And those vacations have to be over eventually--otherwise they wouldn't be so amazing when you DO get them.  And I started this blog as a way to chronicle this whole grad school experience in the midst of motherhood and Marine-wife-life...so, I am using this as my outlet to say it to help make it true. 

And, on another note, we recently had family portraits done at our house.  It was so much fun!  Here's a pic of me and my old man--who doesn't let the grey or the extra pounds (well, he's lost the extra pounds on his new diet) get him down. And he enjoys every walk and every meal equally--loving them all.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, we can learn a lot from a dog!





Friday, May 13, 2011

5 Minute Friday: Deep Breath

This is my first link-up with




and what a perfect prompt for me in the here and now:  Deep Breath.

I have often blogged about my deep breaths (i.e. here and here...and a little bit here), so I am happy to... ready, set, go for 5 minutes on the phrase.

Right now, I am attempting to study for an upcoming comprehensive exam which determines whether or not I even have the potential to finish this PhD before Buzz's career pulls us away from here.  (Deep Breath)  I know it was a lofty goal to finish the program in 3 years, but I really want to, think I can, am trying to do it.  (Deep Breath)

But life, especially military wife life, throws us curve balls...so does marriage...so does parenthood...so does PhD school...so does the weather.  (Deep Breath)

So, I might NOT finish in 3 years.  (Deep Breath)

I might be writing my dissertation away from this place and draw this portion of this adventure out even further.  (Deep Breath)

And what makes it all the more difficult, is when those around me are struggling, too.  Like my mom, struggling to walk and be independent again.  Like my dad, whose life was turned upside down by heart surgery.  Like my 89 year old grandmother, whose amazing life continues to open new chapters for her--for us.  Like my aging dog--my best friend with 4 legs.  Like my husband, who is up to his ears with responsibility, too.  We took some collective deep breaths attempting to plan our mostly-unplanable-until-the-Marine-Corps-tells-us-what-to-do future this week.  (Deep Breath)

But all that matters...is that we are here and blessed to take those deep breaths to get us through that day, that minute, that second...together. (Deep Breath)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Say hello to my old friend, rambling insanity

The Recent Past

Yesterday:
We bought a new car to replace the one that was totaled from the storm.  Exciting--the new car smell is, but beyond that, not so much.  Another car payment...plus, we got a good deal on a new car with some dents from hail damage, so the dents stress me out--but we got so much off (along with the extremely low new car interest rate, warranty, and no maintenance for a few years--which is good since we just put new brakes, tires, battery, etc. into the totaled car) we figure we can do some paintless dent repair and still come out ahead. AHHH!  [Deep breath]

2 days ago:
I came back home from visiting my mom who is recovering from her double knee replacement, after I took her to her first post-surgery doctor's appointment.  I am so happy I was able to be a part of that.  I'm glad she is doing so well, but I hated to leave while she is still in the inpatient rehab center.  I also want to start a movement to raise awareness for the life-altering affects of arthritis and joint replacement surgery.  (My mom now has 3 artificial joints--she also had her hip replaced the year I got pregnant.)  My mom is amazing and doing better everyday.  Her strength and speed improved so much in the short time I was there.

A week ago:
I helped my mother to walk.  It's a tough thing to see such a strong person you love so much in such a helpless physical condition.  I am so proud of her progress. She is not (and never was truly) helpless.  She is so amazing.  In order to get there to see her, I had to speed through my final semester papers.  I put a lot of work and thought into them, but I always stress that it's not good enough.

10 days ago:
I won the award for excellence in graduate for my Department for this year.  Proud?  Yes, I am so honored.  But this was still a stressful situation for two reasons:  1.  I was not there to accept the award.  My name was not on the email invitation to the event.  How embarrassing!  Not my fault, but still a humiliating spin to what should be a great day.  2.  I am seriously stressing out over my comprehensive exam in research methodology which I will take next week.  How humiliating is it going to be if I fail that exam after being recognized with such an award?

15 days ago:
A hail storm totaled my (now old) car and wrecked our house.  It was scary.  I am still worried about literally continuing to pick up the pieces from that disaster.  But I am still so very thankful that we were so blessed to be safe.  My heart goes out to others whose lives were damaged (where it was just our property) by the natural disasters two weeks ago.

The Near Future

Today:
I should be studying right now.  I have a house to clean, a child to play with, dogs to walk, papers to grade, final grade reports to submit, emails to answer...  And I'm waiting on the air conditioner repair guy to come because that is broken, too (but not because of the storm--because it's the original central air unit from when the house was built, in 1988).

Tomorrow:
Buzz goes out of town for the weekend for work, leaving me with no extra help and no extra hands to get everything done and try to adequately prepare for the upcoming exam.

This weekend:
I am missing a friend's wedding (in my hometown) because I can't get away from the studying.  K has a birthday party to attend, I have study group for the exam, I must study individually for the exam, and final grades are due for the classes I teach.

A week from today:
I must take the comp exam.

8 days from today:
I hope to go home for the weekend to visit my mom.  She should be home by then.

The rest of May:
I have data to analyze for a research partner for conference presentations and articles.  I am also supposed to be working on 1-2 more papers with a professor at school.

June:
I hope to read a handful of fiction novels.

July:
Buzz is gone most of the month for work.  Depending on whether or not I pass the comp next week, I will either be retaking that exam or taking my final comp exam in my substantive area in late July/early August.  My dissertation proposal will be due soon--hopefully in August because that will mean I passed both exams on the first try.  AHHHH!  [Another deep breath]

The Not-Far-Enough-Away, Yet Too Far Away
and Fraught with Worry Future
What will happen at this time next year?  Buzz will likely be off to Missouri for about 6 months.  But what about K and me?  Where will we be?  I don't want her to have to go to 2 schools in 1 year if we can help it.  Will we sell our house?  Will I be done with my PhD (yeah right)?  Will I have a job?  If I get a job, will it be close to Buzz's next duty station (which we will not find out about until he is done in Missouri)?  What curve ball with the Marine Corps throw at us this time?  There's always a curve ball.  I'm a planner.  But I can't be in military wife life.  And now that I am ready to start a career of my own, it's even harder.  Not to mention my daughter and her well-being is involved--and the #1 priority.  I don't know what to do--because I don't know what will be happening.  I'm worried and nervous.  I'm scared.  The only certainty is that Buzz will deploy again--my least favorite certainty.  The rest is up in the air.  I don't do well with up in the air--this is my family, my life.  [Oh yeah, more deep breaths...]

The Right Now
I am doing another double-dip link-up (hope no one minds) to pour my heart out (above) and share my song for the week (below) which describes just how I feel about this whole mess of a situation.  I want time to blog more (I want to do a lot of things more, like play with K more often and for longer, read fiction, watch movies...), but my roller coaster of a busy life, with military, motherhood, work, school, natural disasters, and other family responsibilities thrown in, has put me on leave most of the time.  But I love these two link-ups.  So, I think the song below nicely sums up how I am feeling right now.  I WANT to do all of these things (well, I don't WANT to take exams, but I have a strong desire to finish my PhD, so that goes along with it) but I feel like time is constantly beating me over the head--especially when everything seems to happen all at once.  So, I do think I'm out of my mind BUT tomorrow's just another day, and (as a defense mechanism, I have decided) I don't believe in time. 

Head over to
to pour your heart out and read some other great blogs

AND

Check out
for links to the best dance party in blog-land and to add YOUR song!


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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rollin' with the punches!

I'm linking up again with
for "What's your song?" 
Hop on over, check out some other great songs, and add your own!

I'll do my best to keep my rambling words short and sweet.  (I'm FINALLY able to visit my mom.  I'm at my parents now and K and I are getting ready to run to the rehab center for a lunch visit.  Yay!)


I've often feel like I don't quite fit in.  When I say often, I mean most of my life...especially once I entered military wife life.  I never felt like I really fit in, mostly because of the whole grad school thing.  And I never really feel like I totally fit in with the grad school crowd, mostly because of the whole military life thing--and the fact that I am a wife and mother.  And herein lies the significance of this song...

Jimmy Buffett is my FAVORITE singer/songwriter...and in the top ranks of my favorite authors, as well.  I am such a fan that we took K (at 4 years old) to a concert last year.  We got some mean-mugs and other people thought it was cool, but regardless that was an experience I wanted to make sure she experienced.  Hopefully it will be a good story when she's older.  :)  Anyway, I digress...

This is one of my favorite Buffett songs, both because I like the sound and the words have personal meaning for me.  Sometimes, when you don't fit in, you just have to roll with the punches, play all of your hunches, and make the best of whatever comes your way...plow straight ahead, come what may!  Lately, I've felt at least a little less out of place in school.  And I attribute that to just pushing on through--and a bunch of cliches come to mind, too:  if you can't beat them, join them; fake it til you make it!


(sorry for the massive size of this the YouTube video...I am experiencing some minor technical difficulties and playlist.com did not have this one.)

Enjoy!  And have a great weekend!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lost/Wanted Poster

LOST:  My Schedule

May be found under the name
of its alter-ego, Routine.

Enemy of sleep deprivation, higher-than-usual anxiety,
confusion,
and procrastination, brought about by
family issues
(including parental surgeries, husband's job responsibilities, and 5-year-olds),
tv, big news, movies, good music,
the potential to hang out with friends, Facebook,
planting flowers, playing with the dogs, blogging,
picking up pieces of siding out of the yard after a hail storm,
and anything else that can tear one away
from her
required school work.

Last seen, uh, a while ago.

Needed immediately in order to ensure proper bedtimes,
mornings (afternoons and evenings) without meltdowns,
completion of papers, completion of mandatory grading,
and successful studying for (and hopefully passing of) comp exams...
and preparing for (and hopefully passing of) one dissertation proposal.

If found, please return. 

I'm sorry,
but no reward can be issued
other than the return of what sanity I HAD left
before the disappearance.

Thank you.