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Monday, November 11, 2013

Servicemembers, Veterans, Communication

Communicate with your Veteran before it’s too late!

Have you ever thought about what it’s like in combat? For a second let’s imagine what it might have been like for your spouse in the sandbox, constantly in a heightened state of fear for his life. As things are just getting back to normal around here, Veteran’s Day next week may bring up some of those same mixed feelings.

Typical Duck Dynasty loving Americans don’t realize what we go through, let alone what our spouses choose to go through. I think many fail to realize that everyone who’s gone to combat comes home with some sort of extra baggage. Mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically — if they even come home at all. It’s not all civilians’ faults though because it’s either not a part of their lives or it’s just out of sight and out of mind. I understand we’re a very small percentage of Americans but the more Americans know, care and understand, the less all of our Veterans and service members will feel isolated and misunderstood.
What always gets me is the statistic that 22 Veterans a day commit suicide. That adds up to more deaths from suicide than were killed in action in the current war. That’s a suicide every 65 minutes. Even more astonishing, according to CNN, is that the numbers are underreported due to Veterans not registering with the VA and states not turning in accurate numbers because of lack of information. The numbers are mainly for older Veterans. Apparently 30% of the OIF & OEF service members have considered taking their own lives and 45% said they know a service member who has attempted suicide.
Steel Magnolias, I encourage you all to teach your children about Veterans Day and educate them on how things used to be and why we should cherish and respect not only our elders but especially the Veterans. Volunteer and speak up so that we do not let the cycle of unknowing civilians continue. Always try to keep positive communication going with your spouse not only for your marriage and yourself but also the well-being of your family. So many of our marriages end up in the drain because of things that are out of our control but there are many wives who don’t get to make this point or celebrate holidays with their husbands anymore and only get to visit them at national cemeteries.
Don’t let them stuff down their feelings and suck it up living in horrid silence alone. Please don’t wait until it’s too late to try and communicate. If you need a push start don’t be afraid to contact FOCUS, a local therapist, find a couples retreat or even simply go run errands together, hold hands and keep that constant feeling of support and openness there.
Don’t forget yourself in all of this. Have a glass of wine with a fellow spouse occasionally. As Steel Magnolias we have the strength to be the spouse, cheerleader, researcher, mother and health advocate these men need but the only way to prevent all of this is to simply talk.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Friends & Sister wives

Yes I said it. I have sister wives & friends. It started out as a joke but then upon looking at it more closely we’ve found slight differences. I think we all have them in one way or another. Nothing extreme or anything she’s just that supportive shoulder to lean that you click very easily with without hurtful drama; like a sister. Sometimes it can be just one and sometimes it’s a fluid cluster with wives coming and going as the Marine Corps sees fit. This Marine wife can relate to your plight more so than civilians and even your own family sometimes. So you see she’s more than just a typical friend she’s a sister wife.

Friends are great and everyone has lots of them whether they are acquaintance friends, high school facebook friends, twitter follower friends, work friends or neighbor friends. Friends might say hi and ask a rhetoric question expecting an empty answer. You & this friend don’t really have much in common but you’re cordial. A sister wife would know if something is up with you. She tries to pull you out of a funk when the guys leave for training and stops by for coffee to cheer you up every morning. A friend would ask to stop by chit-chat and leave. A sister wife knows your schedule so she drops by & doesn’t have to but will (after coffee of course) help you clean your house before the hubs gets home from out of town just because she knows you’re trying to do 1 million other things. The saying “it takes a village…” applies here but not only with kids because when you’re on the verge of emotional breakdown a sister wife will take your kids for the evening so you can run a warm bubble bath and relax before biting everyone’s heads off. If anything but having a sister wife will give you an excuse to visit your friend in Hawaii when you have to PCS to Arizona.

All of us are in this for a few years and some shorter than others so I see people’s apprehension in getting close to folks you’ll move away from eventually. Like the Marines though your support system is only as strong as those standing to your left and right beside you. Ladies being the only one in your support system is lonely and you’ll need life lines every now and then even if it’s just to vent. Regardless of the wife drama stigma out there please mix and mingle out there with some remarkable new life long Steel Magnolia sister wives.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Allie's story...

Once upon a time in a far away land a young lady named Allie was swept off her feet by a gallant and handsome young Marine by the name of Michael. She knew from the moment she saw him she was in love. Tall, dark and handsome!

Michael began to court Allie and won her affections quickly. He eventually gives her everything she'd ever dreamed of in a home of their own, a vehicle and the luxury of not working since the Marine Corps compensated them decently. She loves him deeply and is devoted and loyal to her man. Through thick and thin of the Marine Corps she stands by him as only a strong and confident Marine wife can. He i a excellent provider, generous and charming lover. They are inseparable and very much in love. Days came and went until she had his child, then another.

Fast forward a bit until right after their last child was born. Somehow their love waned and he eventually spent more time at work than at home and the communication then the relationship suffered. Blame it on work, deployments, stress, maybe undiagnosed PTSD, a midlife crisis, pride or insecurities but either way they grew distant and irritable resenting how this once flourishing relationship has turned into a shell of a marriage. She tried cooking his favorite meals, suggesting vacations, date nights and spicing up their love life. Nothing worked. Michael winced away from all of her efforts in trying to rekindle their once heated and brightly burning flame.

One day Michael told Allie he had enough of the pretending to be in love anymore and he had taken another lover. Allie cried. When her Marine he told her that their love was hollow she cried again. She suggested therapy but he said he did not want to go to counseling and that he didn't see where it could help their situation. He wanted to just part an extent.

Michael explained that he did not want to get divorced just yet because he wanted to provide medical coverage for his children. Yet he did not want to pay child support either so Allie would have to gain employment quickly to support the children. Her man wanted to bathe another woman in gifts and luxuries so he told Allie to get on her feet and fast. The once loyal and devoted wife melted and complied. Her heart was broken and she was lost. Not only did he crush her financially but emotionally this was more disasterous and cruel. She slowly began to feel as if she'd been taken on a ride and he made her feel like a fool. All of her time and energy and nights waiting for him wasted. Care packages, love notes, tears, anxiety, worrying, keeping his affairs in order, allowing him to splurge money on unncessary things that she could have saved up this entire time if she'd known he was going to drop her like yesterday's newspaper. Allie was more than hurt. The final blow came when Michael gave Allie the common courtesy of notifying her that she is not to get his pension plan and if she tried for it he'd forfeit it.

My question to you is: What would you do? The father of your children you've devoted your young adulthood to is trading you in. Despite his warnings, do you go to JAG and get child support? What about the 401k money and the other lump sum money they get when they retire? What would you do for the betterment of not only your children but all of those years of hard earned dedication to your Marine? Allie devoted years of her life to this man and in a court of law she'd be given her fair share.

This is someone's story and it's unfinished. Michael was her knight in shining armor years ago and has turned controlling, vindictive and manipulative. The ball is in his court and he let's Allie know it is HIS court. So even though Michael has let the sun set on their marriage what should Allie do? Stand and fight or let it be?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Welcome to PCSing (Military Press follow up blog)

When you’re far away from your ‘home’ and don’t know your way around, best places to visit, eat or frequent you can look at this situation either as a nuisance and wallow in the house all day or an adventure. For me I did the first when I PCS’d to the Golden State but then I slowly realized I shouldn’t waste my time in a new place. Mainly I was lonely and disconnected from my surroundings. We’d just moved and Anthony was going on sea trials and work ups away from home for weeks at a time. The kids had school to preoccupy their time and instead of me embracing my quiet time I resented it. So we bought a dog. LOL!

Wyatt Earp
Cutie pie Wyatt Earp was on the morning news broadcast and even though he was a mutt and in a shelter I couldn’t put a price on him. My husband did when he about fainted from the $400 pricetag but I instantly loved him. Wyatt was my world for the longest and then all it took was one Family Readiness Meeting to get me hyped up for the volunteering that was to come. I dove right into the event planning, meetings, training classes, organizing and being an ear to the ground to speak for the families. My FRO was fearless and motivating, she was passionate and outgoing which was just what I needed but didn’t know it at the time. She showed me a lot of what she knew about the Marine Corps & the wife lifestyle. Through her and the other ladies I got to network with within the years since being here I now realize what I have been missing out on.

I didn’t really know that California’s had some of the most beautiful beaches you’ll ever see. Or that you can go to the beach, snow and desert all in one day. There are more things to do outside than probably any other state like kayak in La Jolla Caves, scuba dive, paddleboard, visit islands, take the trains, mountain bike in Lake Tahoe, sky dive, hot air balloon, walk, hike, sun bathe, surf and boogie board just to name a few. Below are some of my new friends who I didn't go looking for per se but found me or have helped me acclimate to this crazy military life.

Big Bear Lake
Through trial and error (error being Onyx-Paul Mitchell base salon made me look like Dora the Explorer) I found my favorite hair stylist Jessica who lives on Camp Pendleton (& you can find her on FB under Hair by Jessica) & has a sweet Southern disposition and is simply amazing. I would rather go to her to wash and style my hair than to do it myself she’s so reasonable. Everyone knows that stylists can see better in the back than we can when we’re doing our hair. I can’t say enough about her and her attention to detail. If there’s an issue with your style from someone else or otherwise she’s always ready and willing to resolve the issue for you.

Nate is another amazing person we unexpectedly met when looking for a new vehicle. For those of you who doubt me check out Jimmy Johnson Chevrolet because he and the rest of the team went the extra mile to assure our satisfaction with our new buy. He was around our age so it didn’t seem as if he was ‘selling us’ something and it wasn’t such a stiff transaction. We didn’t have us sit in there for 24 straight hours bored to tears and we appreciated his honestly and professionalism. I do know where I’ll be going to purchase from now on.

Ashlyn Strempel I met while going through the L.E.S.(Leadership Education Seminar) she was a quiet, think before you speak type of lady and we hit it off pretty quickly when we both volunteered to be involved with the organization that following seminar. I've learned alot about her and know that her knowledge and skills are the most current and proficient than any other realtor around. Military folks looking to use their VA home loans she’s the person who has the latest training for the newest information and laws that will help you understand your benefits and rights as a consumer. Not only is she a really good friend of mine that I would vouch for any day of the week but she’s always been the kind of person who stands by her word which is a huge asset in her line of work. For those looking for the best home locations in and around the Southern California areas check her out.

Never again will I sell myself short on my surroundings and I encourage you all to get out there, make some mistakes and seize the day, get lost and have fun finding your way back home. Learn something new about the Marine Corps or your new city every chance you get and take LOTS of pictures! :)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Making it all work...latest edited Military Press article...

Over the weekend I realized something I wanted to share what I think we sometimes let slip in the back of our minds. Ourselves.

Reluctantly I got my hair cut & styled by a friend. I had been meaning to do it weeks ago but I hadn’t had enough time, my house was a mess, I've had a million Girl Scout things to do, the dogs needed a bath & my husband could just cut it right? I kept making excuses until one Friday there was no more running. I was on her block at a meeting & she said I’ll cut it then. Crap. Okay fine. I did & after she was done I felt like a whole new person! Like I’d been pulled off the street and given a total hair makeover. I almost didn’t recognize the face on the hair! I felt girly, alive, frisky & fun. This face needed makeup! But my hair was amazing and I loved it. We all know how a good haircut can make us feel and I couldn’t fathom why I didn’t do it sooner so I could have felt like this before!  By the way thank you Jessica!!!! :P

Does it seem as if there aren’t enough hours in the day? Are you procrastinating on dieting, working out, spring cleaning, gardening, ect? Well today’s the day I hope you make that to-do list have more checks on it! Get it done. Be motivated and just do it! (ha ha that was not intended to be funny but I couldn’t help but think of Nike when I reread it)

Sometimes your feelings get in the way of your to-do list which is understandable. Say you’re at the beginning of a deployment or in the middle of a deployment in a routine and in both cases there’s a complete lack of energy or stamina to do anything let alone something for yourself. It’s typically mundane tasks, go with the flow and wherever the day takes you. I understand.

Yet I encourage you ladies to do something for yourself out of the ordinary to break the routine. We often times pour ourselves into the kids & especially our husbands but try not to forget you. Save up and splurge on a Burke Williams massage, have someone watch your kids so you can relax & read a book on the beach or get that haircut you’ve always wanted. Whatever it is have fun & embrace the moment.

Friday, February 10, 2012

....Happy Birthday Daddy!

This is one of those times where it feels like even though there’s so much on my plate as a Marine wife, mother, Girl Scout junkie, podiatrist, confidant, doctor, consoler, grief counselor, nurse, chocolate and wine expert, carpool, soon to be homeschool mom, multi-tasker, chef, artist, couch potato writer and veterinarian that I have to stop for a minute and realize the date for a second. 

So my sister had a dream about daddy.  It was pretty cool so I hope she doesn’t get mad at me for writing about it but she said she’d dreamt but what felt real that she’d gone over to visit momma and was just sitting at the kitchen table chit chatting when dad just gingerly walked out of the bedroom clear as day.  After she picked up her jaw she asked him, “What are YOU doing here?! You’re supposed to be dead.”  He basically told her that she was right and that he was okay. 

It was pretty neat to hear & I wish I could have one like that.  Just to know that he looked real good and he is okay ‘from the horse’s mouth’ would comfort my heart and it did as she told me her story.  As I write this I sit in his old one pocket t-shirt that’s worn from the days he used to put in cigarette packs or tissue and stretch out the pockets.  When I first got this shirt from mom I only wanted it and some of his socks mainly because it was his we worn the same size (I used to use them all the time anyways) but it also smelled like him which was a HUGE plus but that almost killed and comforted me at the same time.  It’s his birthday today and it is a good day to reflect again on him and how he helped shape me. 

I would’ve never known how to fish or seen someone go into the water to catch a catfish if not for mom & daddy. 

I was spoiled rotten because I was the baby (no matter what my sister says)

I would’ve never realized how important family is without mom & dad because after Sammy, Cassie and Granny Little died everyone kind of clung closer to one another and I didn’t realize why but now that dad’s gone I do.  Life is precious and limited.

I never realized how alike I am to him and mom because without my sister-in-law, Kathie, my sisters and momma’s memories of my childhood I often overlook that we’re all different ages but are bonded together in more ways than one by the two of them raising us.

The list can go on and on…..

Time heals wounds.  Whoever said that is full of shit…lol. No not really but about half right.  I agree that it heals your heart by easing your grief but your mind is a whole other ocean of emotions.  When I sit back and think about the time that has come and gone since my dad has passed I think about the birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, life changes and everything that has occurred without him.  Sitting here now I still want to call mom and ask for dad to tell him happy birthday!  We’d all go over and hand him lottery tickets or money or food but can’t anymore.  That gets me every time. 

Hell he would have never guessed the price of a gallon of gas or anything else these days or that McCain would lose and we have the president we do.  Jokingly and sarcastically maybe but never in a million years would he have thought it would have came true. Ha! 

He would have loved to see my sister kick cancers ass considering he passed away from it.  Everything simultaneously was smashed together 3 years ago today; her diagnosis, daddy’s illness and then passing which was incredibly hard on all of us but no one more than my sister.  That’s enough stress to make anyone crumble but like always she showed grace, strength, and still is amazingly inspiring through it all. 

He would have been worried and excited to know I moved across the country.  He always had high hopes for me but we never thought I’d leave Texas ever!  He’d be surprised at how 3 years could completely change a persons’ life for the better.  I wish he could see my house, how my Chevy truck is still kickin’, how these ‘hippies and gold rush folks’ out here do more than surf and smoke pot all day like most Texans think and that they do have decent bar-b-que here.  I wish he could see my Wyatt Earp and Cody they love momma and I know daddy would have reluctantly loved them too. 

He would have never guessed my momma would have gotten on an airplane and lived to tell the tale and several times at that!!  She got on her first one to come and visit me in California and has been on the move ever since.  She’s accomplished so much and come a long way to even retire from her job.  She misses her best friend and companion of 40+ years and to know a love of that magnitude then to let it go has to be the hardest thing a woman ever has to do.  Their fights, bickering, pinched butts, loving glances, sarcastic daggering glances, nicknames like “big butt” and the joking back and forth of their relationship balanced out the serious and not so serious times. 

We have such a huge family and it has gone through some definite changes since daddy passed some for the good and not so good.  I think we all miss his presence and the taken for granted conversations the most.  The daily numerous phone calls to just check on us and funny voicemails we all knew what he’d say, “hey crystal, this is your daddy…” lol. I knew his voice like the back of my hand but every voice mail was the same it made me laugh then but cry now.  I wish I could hear that voice again.  I think we all miss sitting and talkin’ for a long time about nothing.  Anything would do from the latest neighbor gossip, snoody distant relatives, the weather from present to past, his family, our family including the crazy ones; nothing was off limits to a good conversation.  He’d tell you what he really thought then what he thought others would think would be politically correct so if someone asked you could just quote the watered down version. LOL!  

I think we all really miss that the most and like I said time heals the grief but I doubt it will ever suppress the memories in our mind.  

Happy Birthday spike! 

New you?!

It's been too long....Happy New Year! I hope everyone is enjoying there's!

New Year, new you?!

So how has the New Year treated everyone? Same old same old or new and exciting?!
Have you begun a daily routine of walking in the mornings or switched cereal brands? Has anyone tried Zumba fitness or the Brazil Butt Lift?! I’ve heard amazing things for both of those things. Don’t knock it til you try it but yes I think the Butt Lift one should maybe have a different name. LOL.

Did you implement ‘no television during dinner’ or less sweets for everyone? How about a commitment to save more money this year or blow all your savings to redecorate your house? Do you secretly want to attend a hoarders/extreme couponers/chocoholics anonymous classes maybe?

I know I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off for a while now. 2012 for us has been fast and furious so far and shows no signs of slowing down. I swear the teachers pile it on after the holidays for these kids. Do they not know that it is Girl Scout cookie time and also kids-spreading-around-the-flu-season?! I do not have the time or brain capacity to sit here and make a mission project or create a dress for Colonial Day! Thank you very much, maybe next time. Sorry I’m done venting. LOL

For some wives even though we may want so many new changes or experiences from the New Year sometimes the Marine Corps thinks differently and they’re deploying or training to deploy or have duty or needed for long hours at work. No kiss at midnight? No one to help you do all the chores and tasks I mentioned above? Don’t feel alone. LOL! To cook or not to cook dinner that is the question!

And for some husbands’ their past will linger over into New Years for unknown years to come. A lot of what our guys experience and live through whether combat or non-combat related can affect them in such a way that they have so much stress and anxiety it affects their everyday lives which in turn affect yours. There isn’t anything you can do to make them forget or change what they feel other than help them realize they will be able to get through it with your support. Keep in mind everyone has different degrees of severity when talking about PTS & PTSD so everyone is a bit different in what they can handle and what they can’t so sometimes talking to an outside person puts all of this into perspective and can give new options and techniques as to how to cope.

A guy got into an argument with his wife over a military picture that was laying around and it brought back memories of that day it was taken. He didn’t remember he brought out the picture or that he was the one who left it out. For some reason at that moment when he caught a glimpse of it he just was mad. He had never talked to his wife about his adventures and experiences within the service so the words he spoke weren’t to her he was talking through her. He took his memories and anger out on the wife and she ended up different shades of blue, purple and red on her face, arms and body. He choked her until her lips were purple and she almost had no fight left in her.

For some reason as her life was literally slipping away in his hands he let up abruptly as if snapping back to reality at just the right moment. The whole story is horrific and saddening but the cops were called and it was a case of simple domestic violence for civilians but for those of us with men who have PTSD it’s that. In this instance the wife left him and only because he refused treatment for his PTSD and without it he is almost guaranteed it will happen again & there are children involved so as a mother she cannot risk it. She continues to ask him to seek counseling for their marriage and the PTSD.

Some of these stories we’ve all heard about recently on the news are more mild and some more severe than others. I’m not saying it is okay for men to hit and abuse women but the shoes have been on many military families without always knowing what the real trigger that set him off was. It isn’t as simple as ok throw him in jail and he’ll be better. Ladies you’re the commander in chief even if they don’t realize it so encourage your husband by helping him get help for himself and for your family and do it sooner rather than later.

Regardless of whether you seek professional help or not there still might be set backs and lapses with varying degrees depending on stress levels and anxiety of each situation in his and your day to day routine. Nightmares, night sweats, getting punched or choked in your sleep? Is there a big social event coming up, parents/in-laws in town, fireworks show, rambunctious kids, too much noise and artillery bombing in the distance? It might not be a great day for your household. This really sucks when arty decides to do their bombing over a consistent time. You may not be able to plan for outings or strolls down the street to see the sunset. Even driving may be too much to handle because he gets such bad road rage just going to the commissary down the block. Roles in the marriage may shift gradually or abruptly so this is where your training and Semper-gumbyness comes in. As crazy as everything may seem when it all boils down to it you love this man and without question back his decisions within the Marine Corps.

I just wish more people would talk amongst themselves or go to a VVSD Family Night and share their stories so it’s not such a mystery that is some secret that no one speaks about. There is always strength in numbers so if someone was to share a story and others have experienced the same thing it’s a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. You’re not crazy yeah!

Some days can be better than others so look forward to those and don’t look back. Sometimes you have to make plans to not plan and live day to day and hopefully eventually you’ll be able to plan that trip to the Grand Canyon, Dollywood or the white sandy beaches of Florida together.

You are not alone in your own anxieties and insecurities about the future and what it will hold. This is a New Year though so we can look forward to a new day every day and it not being the same as the one before that is for sure! And for some of us maybe a little Zumba or chocolate in between…