Saturday, November 10, 2012

deployment musings.



I like to think there are three kinds of deployment days; fast days, slow days, and bad days.

Fast days are days when I think, “Deployment isn’t so bad!” They are days when I’m busy from morning til night, and it doesn’t occur to me until I’m tucked in bed that I crossed another day off painlessly and enjoyably. They are usually days spent with family or friends, days when I relish my alone time, days when the weather is gorgeous and the birds are singing and the squirrels and deer come help me get dressed in the morning. Those are the days when people say, “How is everything?” and I respond with, “Good! This deployment is actually going by so fast!” Because on those days it feels like it. I love those days. I’m happy to report I’ve had lots and lots of those days. But not every day is a fast day.

Sometimes, every once in a while, I have a bad day, though. The kind of day that make me hate the Navy and everything that comes with being separated and generally ends in tears, a good friend’s sympathetic ear, and several glasses of wine. I had a bad day when the dog chewed the carpet down to the concrete. I had a bad day the first time R told me to expect a call and I missed both of his attempts. The bad days are less frequent now that I’m in the swing of things, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have them at all. Now they’re just more like bad afternoons instead of whole days.

Most days are slow days. Managable, monotonous, day in and day out kind of days. Slow days aren’t bad days, they are just…incomplete. Slow days are the toughest thing about deployment in my opinion because they are really hard to explain. (I’ve deleted and rewritten this paragraph like four times in my attempt.) The thing about cruise is that there is always this awareness that a part of me is missing. If I have something need to vent about, I have to suck it up and figure it out, (a very tough thing for me to do as I cope with my stress and anxiety by talking it out, or yelling, as the case may sometimes be). If I have a great day, I have to somehow convey that excitement in an email and then wait X amount of hours for a response. (Next time you’re bursting at the seams to tell someone something, go ahead and give that a try. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails faster than having to email good news to someone who is 8 time zones away.) It’s like a twilight zone where I’m married, but I’m not really married. I haven’t had a real conversation with R in months. I can count on one hand the amount of times we’ve laughed together since June. By the end of this year, I will only have spent 96 days all year with my husband. You know, that guy I married because I liked him so much I wanted to spend every day with him? I get the sense on slow days that my life is in pause while everyone else goes on living, having babies and buying houses and moving forward, while I check days off a calendar until my life gets back to normal.

I think I anticipated the bad days. And the good days are the best part. But no one really warned me about the slow days, about the limbo and the disconnect.

What I wasn’t prepared for though was how much I would need my friends and family and how awesome they’ve been in return. My military friends and family are always ready to listen and nod in agreement, immediately soothing that nagging feeling that I’m all alone in this. They are always ready with a glass of wine and a story about how they went through the same thing and encouragement about how it gets better. A lot of the difficulties of deployment are pretty universal and the advice and comfort that other spouses who have been there, done that have to offer has been priceless to me.

My non-military friends and family have been even more wonderful, considering they have no idea what deployment is like. They let me vent, check up on me, send sweet texts and emails, and generally remind me that my life isn’t really on pause, it only feels that way sometimes. They are there to pick up the slack for R since he can’t be my sounding board; they listen to me vent about work and school and Virginia drivers and long lines at the checkout in Target, (you’d be surprised how angry these makes me).

Deployment is a weird thing. It’s tough to describe and I think I finally get it when people thank military families for their sacrifices. I have sacrificed a lot. But I think I’ve gained a lot more; a lot of perspective, some invaluable soul searching time, deeper and more meaningful relationships, and a really good list of cheap wines that I’m happy to pass on!

If you’re reading  this and you’re one of those people that has let me unwind or cry it out on a bad day, or you’re one of the people who has made those fast days so wonderful, or you’re there with me in the monotony of the slow days, thank you so much. You know who you are. If you’re reading this and you know a military spouse or significant other who is getting ready for deployment, get ready to use those night and weekend minutes. And if you’re reading this and you’re sitting on a big grey ship halfway around the world hoping your little blogging wife is doing okay, then you owe a few people a big thank you upon your return for taking such good care of me. 

This are just my thoughts. Stay tuned for R's deployment musings. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

halfway!

This past weekend, our squadron celebrated our halfway point! That is a very exciting milestone in my life and now we are on the downhill side of this cruise, which makes me very happy. 

There are all kinds of traditions with halfway celebrations. They vary from squadron to squadron, but usually they involve getting dressed up and they guys doing something to treat us. I mean, we've made it through four and half months of sleeping alone and communicating almost entirely with email. We've earned a little recognition. And boy, did we get it. 

We chose to celebrate halfway with a spa day and a fancy dinner at the Founder's Inn, a hotel and spa in Virginia Beach. (Consequently, it's also on my school's campus. It felt wonderful to drive to school for a massage rather than class.) I got a fabulous massage and relaxed with champagne and a dip in the hot tub with some of the other spouses. We all got ready at the spa then headed over to the restaurant for dinner. 

When we walked in, the table was set up with a red rose and a bottle of wine at each of our place settings. The wine is a late harvest Zinfandel called Liquid Love. I suppose since our sailors can't be here in person, Liquid Love is the next best thing. (And isn't wine always the next best thing?) Our first round of drinks was on the guys. Someone sent them the wine and beer list from the resturant and they chose our individual drinks. R ordered me a pinot grigio, which I love. It was fun to see how well the guys knew their spouses drink orders. We also each got a handwritten letter from our spouse, which, needless to say, got me all teared up. 

After we all got settled, one of the girls announced that the guys had prepared a little dinner game for us to play. Now, here's what you need to know about cruise to understand the premise of this game. While the guys are gone, it's some kind of cruise tradition to grow a mustache. I'm not sure why, maybe its their way of sticking it to the man or something, but it's what they do. The problem is that there are, in my humble opinion, only a few men who can pull off a mustache and still look sexy. Rhett Butler, Tom Sellak, once in a while Johnny Depp... Mostly everyone else tends to look like the kinds of people you see in police sketches on the news. (No offense, Mom! Dad looks super handsome!) Well, some of our guys grew themselves some mustaches and our little halfway game was Guess That 'Stache. We were given a very close up of a mustache and a list of all the officers in the squadron and we had to match them up. Some of the guys (and girls) wore fake mustaches, which made things tougher. 

Well, I was pretty convinced that my hubby was a fake 'stacher and I bragged confidently about how I was SO SURE I knew which one was R. 



This is the 'stache I was convinced belonged to the man whose face I have been staring at for the last nine years. 



This is the 'stache I looked and and thought, "Ew, gross. I feel sorry for the poor girl who has to kiss that guy. Blech." 

I think you can see where this is headed. 

After dinner, the results were revealed and sure enough, I was quite wrong. The good news is that so was almost everyone else. (Except our one husband in the Spouse's Club. Sure enough, he was able to sift through the facial hair and pick out his wife from the bunch. I think he had an unfair advantage...) 


This is the face of a man who left in June looking handsome and clean shaven and now appears to be the other half of the Super Mario Brothers. I mean, I'm not saying it looks terrible, but let's be real, I'm not exactly saying it looks good either. (I teased him plenty about this mustache, which I had no idea he was even growing. I may have used the words Amber Alert more than once...) 

Suffice to say, those pre-ordered drinks came in handy once the full face shots of our husbands (and wives!) with four and a half months of glorious facial hair got revealed. 

After our game of Ew Gross! Is That My Husband? Why Does He Look Like An '80's Cop!? Guess That 'Stache, we enjoyed an evening of catching up and yummy food. 


Here's our fabulous group, minus a few who couldn't be there. It was a great day, from the massage to dinner. It's a lot of fun to be able to celebrate being halfway done with cruise with people who are just as excited as I am. There are more posts to be written about how awesome these folks are and how lucky I am to be in a squadron like this.  

Those mustachioed men (and women) also had a little surprise from us. A couple months ago, we took a group picture to send out to the boat for them to unveil at halfway. Now, I may be biased, but I believe our halfway picture is pretty much the best. 

 Amanda Hedgepeth Photography

Thanks to a group with a good sense of humor and little creativity, we sent this picture out to our sailors. I think it's pretty clear why we're so awesome... (We're all fully clothed behind those signs. Just don't tell that to the people slowing down in their cars to stare.) 

I haven't talked much about deployment, and believe me, there's a lot to say. Halfway is a great time to regroup and evaluate. Stay tuned for my thoughts on cruise so far.