In the past six years of my life, I have been shipping care packages overseas — a lot of them. Between two deployments, being stationed overseas, a few adopted soldiers and a school supply project in Iraq, I have shipped well over 400 boxes. I have never had a box lost or horribly damaged. That’s a blessing.
When I ship boxes, I pack them myself and I use a system I’ve developed over the years. It’s not rocket science. You also learn with time to choose items you can easily fit into flat rate boxes. I’ve never even used a mail store, such as a UPS Store, until recently.
I suppose I know a lot about sleep.
Sleep habits were the topic of a research project I did in my final semester of graduate school. My test subject for the project was someone who was struggling with chronic insomnia, and my job as a social worker was to find answers that would help her out with minimal amount of intervention. The real goal of the study was to address bad habits and see if medication could be avoided all together.
First, we went over her medical history. She was in good health, and her doctor had ruled out anything medical that would cause the insomnia. Basically, she was struggling with environmental factors that were causing her to have a hard time falling asleep and difficulty staying asleep when she finally passed out from exhaustion.
You’ve heard the old saying “What can go wrong will go wrong.” That’s the philosophy on which Murphy’s Law is built. I am not one to harp on the negative, but sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. Murphy’s Law is something that we can almost always count on happening in military life.
These unfortunate events are all tongue-in-cheek and are meant to make you laugh. Hopefully they will also drum up for you some comfort. It’s always nice to know you are not alone in the absurdity that life seems to hand us (and military life gets a double dose of the absurd).
When I faced deployment the first time I felt like a deer caught in the headlights. I was paralyzed. It was an internal paralysis. I think I looked put together on the outside, but I was falling apart daily on the inside.
I am a proud woman. I do not like to share my weaknesses and my pain with others. My stoicism is both a benefit and a liability to me. It’s a benefit because I am very careful with whom I share my vulnerability. It is a liability because sometimes I need to let my family and friends know that I am not faring well. They need to know I need encouragement and that I may not be able to reciprocate that support for a little while.
Here are a few things I wish I would have had the courage to say during my son’s first deployment. I hope this helps another parent or spouse articulate their deep feelings so others can understand what they are going through. Change the words to match your own situation, and let others in your life know what you are going through and what you need. You might just be surprised at the amount of support you do have.
They say “you are what you eat,” and there is some truth to that. We are also what we project in the lines of our attitude. Your attitude affects your actions, as well as your mental and physical health. It can feel like an uphill battle sometimes when you are facing deployments, PCSing and other difficulties of military life, but there are strategies you can use to keep that chin lifted high and to keep that attitude working for you instead of against you.
Time off work is a wonderful thing, but it can sneak up on you if you’re not careful. My brother recently came home on leave after almost two years of training as an Air Force air traffic controller. It’s funny watching him experience the same trials and tribulations that I used to go through while I was on leave.
Thirty days of paid vacation each year is one of the great perks of being in the military, assuming you ever actually get the time to use it. The problem is, especially for young service members, coming home means coming back to all the things you left behind. Your friends are still doing the same things, your family wants to spend every waking moment with you and sometimes it feels like you never left at all.
This isn’t always a good thing.
Television, movies, magazines and tabloids all take their fair share of shots at mothers in law. We are depicted as overbearing, nosey, interfering, unbearable and sometimes just plain old mean. I am blessed to be mother-in-law to a wonderful young woman who stole my son’s heart, married him and is now taking wonderful care of my first grandchild. She also is an Army wife and has been through deployments and PCSing to Germany.
We have a very close relationship that stems from mutual respect, love and healthy family boundaries. I was an Army wife myself once, so I have a little bit of an advantage on how to encourage her. Blue Star mothers-in-law have a very special job supporting the family. Below are a few suggestions on how you can support your soldier’s spouse.
In a time of war, stress is inescapable for military families.
There are also less visible stresses such as frequent PCSing and all that it entails — saying good-bye to friends, making new friends, new schools, new communities and sometimes even whole new cultures when we go overseas.
Stress is here to stay in military life. But you don’t have to succumb to the fallout of living in a stressful lifestyle. Here are some quick tips on how to let some stress go before it gets the best of you:
Take a slow deep breath and exhale slowly. Repeat five times. The practice of breathing deep is used in a lot of relaxation techniques because it works. The focus is removed from the stress source to the act of breathing. Also taking a deep breath gets more oxygen to the brain and induces a relaxing effect. See More
I have long held the belief and practice that keeping healthy during difficult times like deployment is the best way to manage stress. Exercise and fitness was one way I was able to manage stress while my son was deployed and my husband was away in training. That year, in particular, I learned the benefits of regular exercise and a focus on health and wellness. It gave me the upper hand in dealing with intense stress.
Below are a few pointers from what I learned during that time. These are life lessons that I carry with me to this day.
The thought of reintegration is a sweet one. Knowing your military member is back from a war zone can do wonders for easing a parent’s mind.
Perhaps you’re exhaling for what feels like the first time in months. Even though reintegration is a wonderful and much anticipated time for military families, there are a few things that every Blue Star parent should bear in mind.