Saturday, December 22, 2012

Deployed During The Holidays

(picture published on article page of Blog Bridge)

Deployed During The Holidays

My publishing credit: credited as “Guest Blogger” “Christina”

Published by Blog Brigade of Military OneSource on December 22, 2012, in HolidaysMilitary Life by Guest Blog.

Blogger Biography: Christina is a proud war bride, military “dependent,” writer and volunteer. She met her husband while working two jobs to pay her student loans and stay afloat. He stuck with her despite the long and crazy hours away from each other and so began her experience with the military. Scrapping the wedding for a long and dangerous deployment, she fully embraced being a military spouse. Christina reaches out to all available networks to learn and take advantage of what the military has to offer its family. Learning the ropes is tough, but she knows she has help.

He always seems to be gone at the holidays. Even when he was here, travel killed at least two days, and then the recovery and cleaning or laundry took another two. So we ended up staying home more often than not. Let me describe to you what our past holiday seasons have looked like and what I do when he’s gone.

As a joke, my mother bought me a table top silver tree for which I have found tiny ornaments. That goes on an outdoor “bar style” table we keep inside. I cover the base with ancient towels from my grandmother. The holiday scene depicted is a bit more horror than jolly, but it helps us to remember that traditions and meanings change through times and experience. If we do exchange presents, they are piled near the tree on the table, on the bar stools and on the floor beneath. If he is gone, I get the care package together and take a picture of the open box with the tree. Every year we debate getting a life size tree, but now this tiny one and its joke are part of our tradition. Not to mention it’s easier for me to set up and decorate alone.

Presents are usually opened after dinner while we relax, if we are home and together, that is. If he isn’t home, he and I don’t exchange gifts. But I always buy him something little, usually silly, and wrap it. One year he was able to send me a card.

I like holiday music. He can’t stand hearing the same song sung the same way repeated over and over again. Matter of fact, when he is gone, he likes that he can’t hear one song playing every moment of the day. So our compromise is a wide and varied selection of holiday music from traditional to gospel, to chant to punk, to country to selections from all over the world. The music can be on when I am signing my cards that will go overseas to our troops, to the hospitals nursing our wounded, and to our family and friends. When he is not here and we have no family close enough, it’s on 24/7 to drown out the loneliness.

When we met I had never seen the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It just was not my type of humor, but he loves it. He will call and I can tell him where I am in the movie and he can quote the next few lines. When he is gone, watching it is a way for me to connect across the hundreds of miles between us.

He grew up with ham and turkey. I grew up with turkey or steak. So if he is home we decide on the meat. If it’s turkey, the newest tradition is to deep fry it outside, regardless of how cold it is. Sides include pierogies, kapusta, collard greens, sweet potatoes with brown sugar, deviled eggs, squash with butter and salad. Breakfast varies; we usually splurge on cinnamon rolls and get a start on the deviled eggs. When he’s away, I still do the cinnamon rolls.

And we always have matzo ball soup. I picked that up from having Passover Seder with a friend’s family back in high school. It was delicious and fun to make. When we are together for the holidays, I always have a head cold, never fails. So the chicken soup is a help, but far more importantly, my husband is the one stuck making it. Unsurprisingly, it always turns out far more delicious when his practiced hands are in control. Mine just does not stack up anymore. The fact that cooking this has moved from me to him is one of our favorite traditions. He won’t even let me touch it.

One year it was just pasta with tomato sauce. That is all I had that wasn’t frozen. I will always remember it because we were together that year and it wasn’t planned. That was an amazing gift. If he’s gone for the holidays, he will inevitably not make it home for New Year’s Day either. I will go to every holiday event they have on base when he is not here. Actually, it doesn’t have to be around the holiday; I still do it. No point in being alone when you are lonely. When we don’t live near enough to family, I snuggle up on the couch to watch TV and wait for him to finish his shift and sit in line to try to call home.

It’s not the tree or the food, per se, that makes us look forward to the holidays. Whether we are together or apart, for us it’s the “remember when.” Most of our traditions started by accident, cobbled together based on time, distance, budget and circumstance. We came from very different backgrounds and have lived in a wide range of states. The important thing is that we made the holiday our own. So when he is able to call home, after the news that the care package still hasn’t made it there, when we have exhausted everything new that happened since our last communication, one of us will say “remember when,” and we celebrate the holiday together, bridging the distance and the time between us.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Every Light in the House is On

(uncredited picture published on article page of SpouseBUZZ)

Every Light In The House Is On

My publishing credit: credited as “Guest Blogger” “Christina” (see bio below) (I am going to frame my acceptance email!)

Published by SpouseBUZZ of Military. com on November 30, 2012, in Deployment, Military Life by

Everyone has weird quirks, some are weirder than others. One of my biggest quirks, which hurts in the pocketbook, is leaving our holiday lights on all night long. I’m talking 5 p.m to 5 a.m.; our house can probably be seen from space when it’s decked out for the holidays.

My husband sees those lights and he sees dollar signs.  He thinks winter is a time when we can recoup from the languid, unbearable Florida summers of non-stop air conditioning.

I see those lights and see comfort during long deployment months — something that is vital at a time when, traditionally, families are coming together, not being split asunder. While our military operations abroad might be drawing to a close, I will continue to fight this battle at home.

I fight the good fight with Christmas lights. Because I was alone during our first Christmas as a married couple. It was hard to come home and destress about work or traffic to no one. As many spouses know, talking out loud can sometimes make the room seem so much more … empty.

Due to the nature of the mission I could talk to my husband only about once a month.  I was holding my breath in dread, weeks on end with every news report that came out. I never knew how my husband would be described if his time was up. Would it be just a number of casualties, would they mention his country of origin, his branch of service, his rank, his age, his name?

I was most assuredly jealous of my fellow spouses who complained that they couldn’t deal with the multiple calls a day from over there:  doesn’t he/she understand?

Oh, I understood the need to make those calls; I would be the one calling every other hour if I was over there. So much for being the strong, independent one.

To fill the void in the hours after my solitary dinner and before report-time for work the next day, I went out the door of what had become my narrow life and into the greater world to search for the light. Holiday lights.

Sometimes I bundled up and walked around the neighborhoods. Other times I drove around to the more affluent areas and basked in glory and appreciation for the lengths these people went to: single color, multicolored, flashing, strobe, ropes, net lights, minimalist, circus-worthy, wreaths, vehicles, characters, deer, polar bears, menorahs of all sizes, colors, and quantities, lighted fake palm trees, manger scenes of various sizes, cultures, and ethnicities, toy soldiers and purple hippopotami.

I was especially thankful, and made the point to silently thank, each and every time, those who left their lights on all night. Some were surely forgotten, others, it seemed, left them on just for me. Perhaps they actually did.

So last year I was dead-set on leaving my lights on all night long. One night, my husband and I had another round about why the lights needed to be on even after we had gone to bed and why we couldn’t take them down until the end of January. I stepped outside to enjoy my lights. I saw the two candles I had placed in the windows–part of that age old sign of welcome–were not lit.

I wondered if I could replace them without my husband noticing. Because I will leave the lights on for that one person who may be searching for solace and healing the wound of the missing other.

Christina is a proud war bride, military “dependent,” writer,and volunteer. She met her husband while working two jobs and he stuck with the despite the long and crazy hours away from each other. And so began her experience with the military. Scrapping the wedding for a long and dangerous deployment, she fully embraced being a military spouse. Christina reaches out to all available networks to learn and take advantage of what the military has to offer its family.