Military Life

The everyday cost of war

Posted on Sep 11, 2013 | 2 comments

*this isn’t a recipe, it isn’t a work out. But I put tremendous energy into my families’ food because it is a tangible way that we care for each other and such a basic building block of our lives. My Authentic Plate is built around the challenges I face and what I do with them. And this is a challenge we deal with every day.*

Bedtime when Daddy is TDY

Bedtime when Daddy is TDY

 

On a bright, late summer day a few weeks ago, I loaded my 4 year old into the car and headed up the road to our neighborhood Target to finish up his school supply shopping. He’s starting pre-K at the local elementary school so this first year of gathering pencils and construction paper is extra exciting and a little bittersweet.

But I didn’t expect my little guy to bring my day to a screeching, heartbreaking stop on that 6 minute drive.

As I pulled out of our neighborhood, in the middle of his normal stream-of-consciousness babble, he asked me “what is a bomb?”

Me: “It’s something that explodes, buddy, why?”

Him: “Why did the bad guys put a bomb on Daddy’s soldier b-ehicle?” (he has trouble with his Vs)

Me: “What are you talking about, bud?”

Him: “The bad guys put a bomb on Daddy’s truck because they wanted him to die. Why did they want him to die?”

I’ll be honest. I had a moment there while driving where I had no idea where I was or what was going on. The only thing I could think about was the fact that our pre-schooler had apparently overheard us, or his Dad while at work (he’s gone into the office with him a couple times recently), talking about his injuries down range.

We talked a little bit about how sometimes for his job, Daddy went far away to help people be safe. And that sometimes people did bad things that we didn’t like (like hitting when my friend won’t share the legos?, he asked).

By the time we got to Target and were getting out of the car, his busy brain had moved on to the exciting prospect of an Icee and new crayons.

My mind and my heart were stuck back in that moment. The realization that our son, on some level, understood that what his idolized Daddy does for a living is dangerous, that he could die. Even if he doesn’t really understand what dying means. And my heart cracked a little on that brief, sunny drive with the sun roof open and the radio on.

Every day on the news, the political blogs, in social media, we are reminded of the financial costs of war. As budgets are cut and belts tightened, we watch politicians sigh and moan over dollars and contracts. They argue and debate the costs of war.

But to experience the true cost of war, they need to help a wounded warrior learn to walk with his prosthetic. They need to watch the recently redeployed soldier struggle to reintegrate with her children while they all battle difficult, conflicting emotions. They need to go with the new widow as she tries to decide where to go with her life now that it is been irrevocably and permanently altered.

And they need to sit in that car and explain to my happy, sensitive, suddenly too serious 4 year old exactly why it is that someone made a bomb to kill his daddy and why he goes there any way.

THEN, they can go back to their wheeling and dealing and posturing for the cameras while they add and subtract the cost of war.

 

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Our Stuff!

Posted on Jul 15, 2013 | Comments Off on Our Stuff!

In general, I’m not all that serious about “things”. For the most part, it can be replaced and I’m just not that stressed about.

But over three weeks without my stuff has me embracing a whole new appreciation for familiar things: my bed, my linens and blankets, my kitchen tools. We’ve done more eating out/quick pick up options in the last month than I think we managed in the rest of 2013. And my stomach is making me pay for it!

It’s going to take a solid week to get things put away and then figure out where it all is but at least it’s here.

One step closer to being back in a regular routine!

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Gardening on the Move: Inventory

Posted on Apr 25, 2011 | Comments Off on Gardening on the Move: Inventory

I thought I’d update you on what we’ve got growing this year. This is the biggest our garden has ever been. We quickly ran out of containers, so we’ve built some and resorted to turning 5 gallon buckets into hanging tomato planters. Although if that works, it’ll be genius!

I’m fully anticipating needing to buy a pressure canner in the next month. My friends will be getting lots of edible gifts. :)  But our back porch is gorgeously green and lush and smells wonderful!

Vegetables:
Lettuce Mix- This is planted in a window box and with some of the tomatoes
Cowhorn Pepper (hot)
Black Beauty Zucchini (1 plant)
Gretel Eggplant (1)
Ichiban Eggplant (3)
Yellow Squash(1)
Leeks
Brussels Sprouts (4)
Broccoli (3)
Mixed Sweet Peppers (15) We started a lot of these because we usually have trouble growing them and ended up with ALL of the doing well.
Cucumber
Straightneck Squash (4)

Tomatoes:
Chocolate Cherry Tomato
Roma Tomatoes– San Marzano (4) YAY for homemade tomato sauce!
Yellow Pear Tomatoes (7) This would be MY favorite tomato. I eat them by the bushel all summer.
Better Boy (2) beefsteak tomatoes that are already starting to flower. They are HUGE!
Black Krim
Mr Stripey– These last two are late additions by ArmyMan. He loves the unusual looking heirlooms.

Herbs:
Rosemary
Parsley
Cilantro
Dolly Basil
Superbro Sweet Basil
Gennovese Sweet Basil
Spicy Globe Basil
Pistou Basil
Rosie Basil
Cinnamon Basil

**Notice all the Basil? We’re experimenting and we looooove basil so it’s everywhere!**

Ornamentals:
Begonia (light pink and white)
Geraniums (pink)
Fuschia (my favorite hanging basket flower of all time!)
Peonies (for my pallet garden)
Roses
Bee Balm (this makes a gorgeous greenery addition)

Do you have anything growing? Now’s a great time to get started if you’ve been thinking about it!

Military Mondays Family and Spouse Carnival at Army Wives' Lives

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New Army Wife Advice: Pearls and Fine China

Posted on Mar 30, 2011 | 4 comments

Pearls and Fine China might seem like odd advice for today’s military spouse. But it’s the core of the best advice I’ve ever gotten.

During ArmyMan’s first company command, we had a wonderful Battalion Coffee Group. Everyone was welcome at these very casual gatherings, sometimes lunches and sometimes dinners. Usually around food, women gathered to share stories, laugh and do a little venting. There was a fabulous variety in backgrounds and perspectives. A couple ladies worked outside the home, some were stay at home moms and a few were students. We were all dealing with the Army.

At one lunch, sitting around the table after eating, we were talking about the upcoming Easter holiday. As the youngest (and most recently married) spouse, I was looking forward to hosting my family for a holiday for the first time. I was especially excited to use the various wedding gifts of fine china, serving dishes and gorgeous Vera Wang silver.

One of the ladies turned to me and told me to “use that silver and china whenever you feel like it, and sometimes when you don’t”. She went on to explain that the one aspect of military life that you can count on is that you never know for sure what’s around the corner. For the first several years of her marriage, her fine china and “sexy, night out clothes” were put away for a time when they had a chance to go out or have a big dinner party. Finding herself in a funk, she threw herself a dinner party while her soldier was away training. She made her favorite dinner, got dressed up, put on her favorite jewelry, and ate dinner by herself with her fine china and a favorite wine. As much as she laughed about it, she said it got her out of her funk. The other ladies smiled and laughed and agreed.

I didn’t think much about it at the time. It was a fun afternoon and a lovely lunch. I didn’t appreciate at the the time the value of the lesson those Army-wise ladies shared. There is so much uncertainty in our lives. Why wait for a special occasion to enjoy the things that make us feel good? For me, it’s wearing the pearls my mom gave me. It’s sitting down to a dinner served family style- even if it’s just me and my toddler eating. It’s candles around my home, even if they have to be strategically placed out of Monkey hands.

What makes your day? What little touches make you smile?

Military Mondays Family and Spouse Carnival at Army Wives' Lives

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Disappointed in My Army Family

Posted on Oct 16, 2010 | 1 comment

I haven’t posted much the last couple of days- on Blogger, Twitter, or Facebook- because I’m frustrated. And I needed a moment to work through it in my head.

Unfortunately, that moment didn’t help a whole lot.

It feels like every day this week someone I know has been seriously let down by the Army in some sort of medical related situation.

Bethany at A Southern Belle and Her Officer posted about her husband’s truly appalling experience with a PA regarding a service related injury and a refusal to fill mental health prescriptions. Someone I’ve known through an army spouse message board was told that the hospital didn’t have time to make her appointment- at 36 weeks pregnant. Another friend here has been dealing with a complication filled pregnancy, the MTF dragging it’s feet on her referral, and now was hospitalized for three days because of major concerns about her health. She has not heard from her FRG or Rear D in over a month. And this is after a previous pregnancy complication resulted in her deployed husband being sent home briefly. It’s not as if the Rear Detachment and FRG are not aware of the fact that there is a serious issue going on.

These things embarrass me.

I love our soldiers. I love being a part of the Army Family. I feel privileged and honored to watch my son grow up surrounded by heroes. We are blessed by the support and opportunities made available to us by virtue of being a part of the Army Family.

Most of the time, it is enough. Most of the time.

I HATE that whenever (and it is all too common) medical concerns like the ones I’ve seen and heard about this week come up, people shrug their shoulders and say “It’s the Army!”

What exactly does that mean? That because our husbands are in the military, those pregnant friends of mine should settle for substandard care at one of the most vulnerable moments of their lives? That our soldiers should be satisfied with what they get?

No. NO. Not acceptable.

When my Doctor at Fort Leonard Wood was incredibly rude to me, flat out LIED in his rebuttal to my complaint, then mixed me up with a completely different patient, it took days of regular phone calls to Patient Advocacy and eventually to the CG’s office to get a resolution. That resolution came in the form of a sit down meeting with the Deputy CG- who was incredibly apologetic, very upfront about the challenges the hospital was facing, and took steps to rectify the situation immediately.

But WHY did it take so much? Is that the right way to handle it? Is there a better way that will still get results?

The Army can not eliminate rude, inconsiderate or the sometimes grumpy docs. And I wouldn’t ask them to. However, it IS their responsibility to make sure that the medical professionals and the support staff are competent. It is also their responsibility to make sure that there is a clear, accessible method of handling the situation when the soldiers or their families are unsatisfied with their care. There should be a standard, easy to understand method for requesting and setting up a second opinion- which is a STANDARD practice in modern medicine.

I’m still working on the best way to address these concerns. But last night, as I drove the hour home from a Nashville hospital where I was visiting a friend who is being allowed to fall through the cracks, I was unbelievably saddened. Disappointed in the Army Family that I am so proud to be a part of. Embarrassed that the community that I have staunchly defended should so thoroughly FAIL to provide even a base level of support for a woman who simply needed it.

I don’t know what the answer is, but there is one out there. If nothing else, I’m going to make some noise and let people know that there are options and a course of action to be taken.

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You want me to WHAT?!

Posted on Sep 21, 2010 | Comments Off on You want me to WHAT?!

A couple months into my Soldier’s current commander I kept getting the feeling he was trying to bring something up. But he couldn’t quite spit it out.

I enjoy this. I like talking around things and making him be direct. I’m so direct that I take a lot of the work out of difficult conversations for him. When the opportunity presents itself, I enjoy making him be direct.

So back to that particular summer evening.

After a rather torturous conversation, he finally comes out with “The Colonel wants me to stand up an FRG for the company.”

I kept my face completely deadpan for approximately 30 seconds. Then laughed. Loudly, actually. I told him good luck.

“Actually, he asked if you’d handle it. Col FormerCO told him you were really good at it.”

I stopped laughing and glared. *sigh*

And about a month later, I spent 10 hours over two days at the Family Resource Center going through Ft Campbell’s new FRG Leader training.

For the non-milspouse readers (or those Mil Wives who haven’t gotten involved with their FRG), FRG stands for Family Readiness Group.  An FRG is defined by the Department of the Army is:

“An FRG is a command sponsored organization of Soldiers, Civilian employees, Family members (immediate and extended) and Volunteers belonging to a unit.”

FRG’s can be a contentious topic in the Army.  I wrote a bit about that in FRG vs. Technology. I spent just over year during my Soldier’s last command as an FRG leader. It is time consuming, often thankless, and frustrating. There is no way to make everyone happy.

But I honestly believe that the FRG plays in important role in today’s military community. While there is a tremendous amount of incorrect information and perceptions floating around the community, the FRG’s real purpose is to provide a system of communication among a unit’s family members and chain of command, welcome new families to the unit, help families to be self-sufficient when a soldier deploys, and assist the unit to share accurate information with families. Nothing in that purpose is detrimental to families, causes drama, fuels gossip, encourages infidelity or any the other negative impressions some people have experienced. Those are people issues. Issues you will have when dealing with any cross section of the population as varied as the United States Army.

My Soldier’s battalion commander was right- his company should have their own FRG. The current setup often results in families not getting the information and resources they should have. So, I spent my 10 hours in a really fabulous, well constructed training class (although I had taken one at Ft Lewis- there’s always more to learn, right?). I’m spending my evenings putting together the paperwork to launch the organization. And I am confident that it will contribute positively to the Soldiers and Families of the unit.

I’m also recruiting another spouse to take over as FRG leader after I get the ball rolling.

And avoiding our FRSA who keeps sending me emails about taking the Battalion FRG position.

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