Living It Week 30 and 31


Short Term Goals – Reunions!

Sharing the bed

It has been a long couple of weeks with some unexpected twists and turns.  Now that we are coming to break in the deployment and a three week visit, we are all tired and ready for a change of pace and desperately in need of an extra set of hands to help out with things.  This weekend I was a taxi driver, homework helper, gardener, baker, laundress, grocery shopper, party organizer, dog walker, and so much more! I nearly sat down and openly wept at the lack of “me time” I have for anything but then I remembered that we are three weeks left to go until I get a break and pulled myself together.  After all, I have made it eight months!  :)

This reunion I am setting some goals for myself that will hopefully support our whole family.  In past deployments, reunion has always been the hardest and I am hoping that doing a few things differently will make coming back together a bit easier…

Short Term Reunion Goals:

* Constantly remind myself about what is important – if some things don’t get done when he is back for a couple of weeks, they don’t get done and the world won’t stop because the fence wasn’t fixed.

* Making a small list of things that are priorities but with the expectation that it isn’t going to all get accomplished in three weeks and only putting things on the list that are driving me nuts.  The list can also overwhelm my husband in that he feels like he has to do it all and that puts pressure on him that isn’t necessary

* Inviting friends and family around all for one big event – this allows everyone to have a visit and for us to spend a lot of family time together too without trying to schedule in tons of different visits.  The last time we spent the entire time going from one event to another and it was tiring.

* Keeping his return low key – we will make a banner, we will get excited, we will get his favourite foods in the house but not make it into the biggest event of the year.  It reduces the pressure on all of us and gives him time to settle in quietly without tons of expectations and obligations

* Set limits with people – many people will want us to do things and go places and we have to be willing and comfortable saying no.  He is only home for three weeks.  We all need a slower pace, low stress and family time (I may be sleeping non stop but I will be physically there)

* I will keep my resentful comments about him not having to run a house, take care of kids and a dog, and have a full time job to myself (at least try to)!  Rationally, I know that we have both had it hard and to compare would be crazy as it is truly like comparing apples and oranges but I do tend to get caught up in the who had it harder game and am going to work hard not to

* I am a person that only feels relaxed when things are tidy and clean – I know on one level it is sad but it is me.  I am going to work hard to not ‘lose my noodle’ when my husband begins to spread like a fungus all over the house.    I am going to remind myself that it is three weeks and don’t want to spend them nagging about cleaning up.

* Selfish “me time” – As I have said before, being selfish is not a horrible thing that you need to feel guilty about.  I am going to have a selfish day before my husband comes home so that I am not burnt out and bugging him to give me time.  I will still bug him to give me some time but I won’t be quite so desperate.

A lot of my goals are either about being self aware or mentally preparing myself to share my life, our kids, the house and bed again (I still am waking up sprawled across it!).  My ultimate piece of advice is to take some time to pamper yourself and think about what it is you want and don’t want before your family member comes home, be prepared to give up some things and set limits!

For more information about our tips, books and resources go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

 

A Company That Gives Back to Military Families


While I have not personally experienced Caliber Collision ‘s work and rarely blog or support for profit businesses, I was convinced when read about what kinds of work Caliber is doing.  They are focused on supporting veterans and military families in great ways and I didn’t know about any of it so I thought that I would share with some of you that might want to apply or access these services.  Caliber Collision has over 300 locations within the United States, specializing in auto body repairs and doing wonderful things to help out military families and veterans.

Having to balance your daily activities and work schedule without a vehicle can be a struggle, and Caliber is making every effort to eliminate this stress from military families.  It is our pleasure to refurbish vehicles and gift them to military families in the Austin, TX, and Dallas, TX, areas.  These vehicles have been restored to excellent driving condition, and were able to gift them to deserving families.  Through Recycled Rides, they were able to donate 20 vehicles in 2014, and in 2015, we have over 25 scheduled vehicle donations.  You can nominate yourself or a deserving individual through this nomination form.

Carry the Load is a national relay designed to raise recognition for our military, law enforcement, firefighters, and rescue personnel.  Caliber has different teams that will trade off walking the entire 2,000 miles starting in West Point, NY, and ending in Dallas, TX.  The relay will be going through 27 cities including Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis, and Little Rock, and people can join the walk at any point in the relay.  Their team will participate in the 27 day walk, finishing on Memorial Day in Dallas, and Caliber will hold events in Austin and Dallas to commemorate this event.  While there is no required registration or fee, registration is encouraged to allow for adequate supplies.  The money raised will help support national non-profit organizations including Heroes on the Water, Snowball Express, Team Red, White, and Blue (RWB), and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).

Many Caliber employees are veterans so we understand the challenges of finding employment after you leave the military.  They have partnered with 3M to help returning veterans find careers in the collision industry while giving them the correct education and support.  They work directly with 3M and the Collision Repair Education Foundation to provide veterans with scholarships and support for collision repair training.  In addition, the 3M Hire our Heroes program is able to fund rehabilitation for wounded veterans through Operation Comfort’s Automotivation program.  Through this program, they are able to help wounded veterans learn automotive skills in a new way so they can continue their automotive skill training.  In addition, many of their shops are eager to employ military veterans.

As a corporation, Caliber participates in Recycled Rides, Carry the Load, and Hire our Heroes, and many of our individual centers participate in other military organizations such as the Celebration of Love, Valentines for Veterans, and the Wounded Warrior Project.  They are committed to helping our military heroes because of the sacrifices they continually make for our country.  We will be eternally grateful to our country’s military, veterans, and their families, and we are thankful to have the opportunity to restore them to the rhythm of their life®.

 

For more information about our tips, resources and books go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org 

Living It – Week 29


Tip # 445 – When They’re Back Box

When You Are Back Box

It is now at the point where my kids can see the light at the end of the incredibly long tunnel. They are beginning to talk about plans and what they want to do when Dad gets home. I will admit that I have started a list of things that I can’t wait to hand over. But… I also have had to remind the kids (and myself) that my husband was working long hours, was away from all the comforts of home for a long time, didn’t get holidays or weekends and will be tired.  We have decided to take my own advice and we have dusted off the When You’re Back box.  We have used it a few times with great success and we also take the cards when we have done them and put them all up on the wall for awhile to see what we have accomplished.

The idea is that the box sits out on the kitchen table with cards beside it and a couple of markers.  When I or the kids think of something that they want to do when their Dad gets back they write it on the card and stick it in the box.  Then when my husband gets home he randomly chooses a few cards at a time and they set times to do some of them in the week.  This way the kids get things to look forward to and my husband doesn’t feel like he has to do it all the very week he comes home.  We also try to think of a lot of things that have no cost associated with them and mean we will get to just spend time together.  I have already thrown a few boring ones from me of things I have been dying to get down around the house!

Our ‘When You’re Back’ ideas so far:

* Go hiking with the dog

* Read Lord of the Rings together

* See the Matrix movies together

* Go camping

* Play chess

* Go for a bike ride

* Make a big Thai dinner together

* Do a 3km run each week together

* Sign up for an adventure race

* Go out for breakfast together and then drive us to school

* Make a fort in the backyard

* Set up a movie in the backyard

* Have an unChristmas party

* Clean out garage (Mom’s)

* Have a chocolate fondue

* Have a picnic at the park

* Go for ice cream

* Play a round of mini golf

For more information about our tips, books and resources go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #460


Easter Hunt for Tweens and Teens 

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A couple of puzzle pieces in each egg and sometimes a chocolate egg or two!


With Easter coming, the pressure is on me to prepare an Easter Egg hunt solo and with them being older, they needed a challenge.  My kids don’t want to give up being kids so I am all for that for as long as I can get it!   I have always done the prep work and my husband was always the one hiding the eggs in ridiculous places and the kids loved it. The other challenge is that we have a dog so we can’t put chocolate within his reach either.  Last year I decided that I would buy a cheap puzzle, write on the front of it, with permanent marker, the clue to where the baskets were hidden.  I put the puzzle pieces in plastic eggs and when they finished the puzzle they would be able to discover where their baskets were hidden. They loved it but it was a little too easy. This year I believe I have found the key to a Sunday morning that will keep them busy for at least an hour and challenge them to work together – this will also give you time to caffeinate!

You will need: permanent marker, plastic eggs, two puzzles exactly the same and a few jelly beans, mini chocolate eggs and something you are giving them hidden in a safe location. 

Directions:

1) Buy 2 exactly the same 30-36 piece puzzles (got mine at the dollar store)

2) Use a permanent marker and write your message across both puzzles. 

Message Is: Hoppy Easter! Your baskets are somewhere in the laundry room!

Message Is: Hoppy Easter! Your baskets are somewhere in the laundry room!

3) Mix both of the puzzles together and then put a couple of puzzle pieces in each egg (sometimes I put some jelly beans or chocolate in the plastic eggs to keep them fueled up)

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Two puzzles mixed together

 

4) Count how many plastic eggs you hide so you know when they have all their puzzle pieces 

5) Hide eggs and then enjoy an hour or so of watching them work together to figure it out 

Happy Hunting!

For more information about our tips, resources and books go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

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Recommended Reading – The Nightingale


Kristin Hannah’s Latest Book 

The Nightingale

Right now, reading is a luxury for me.  It feels as though from the time I wake up until the time I crawl into bed and slip into a coma each night is taken up with having to work, look after the kids, the house, the dog, etc.  But…  I always make time to read as it is a cheap escape into someone else’s world.  During a deployment I usually read ‘light, fluffy, feel good’ books.  I was hesitant to read a book about war with my husband being deployed.  I am so glad I went against my instincts.  This is easily one of the best books I have read in years, I could barely put it down.  I have read several of Kristin Hannah’s books over the years (Home Front is another great military one about a woman serving and the sacrifices she makes) and I always enjoyed them but this goes beyond simple enjoyment.  This book truly took me on a journey to the depths of my heart and back (I felt like it had been torn out a few times too).

When I started reading this book I was in the familiar ‘feel sorry for me my husband has been away for over six months’ mode.  By the end of this book I was completely humbled and reminded that I am fortunate – that I have no idea what struggle really is.  This book tells the stories of two sisters both brave and courageous in the face of hatred and surrounded by death.  There were times when it was almost too painful to read but I couldn’t help myself.  I became invested in the characters and the story and just had to know what happened.  I was reminded that my stresses are having to take out the garbage, walk the dog, fill the car up with gas, get groceries, look after the kids, work, etc.  – I am lucky.

This book takes you on a journey through the years of German occupied France – telling the story through the eyes of two sisters choosing two different paths to survive and helping others throughout the war.  These are women forced to make impossible choices over and over again.  Hannah does an incredible job of creating characters that you not only believe in but who inspire you to be a better person.  I love that Hannah chose to highlight the humane, brave and selfless things women did for others during a time of great human suffering.  Sometimes it takes a great book to make you realize that life isn’t so bad after all and that there are so many things to be grateful for thanks to the sacrifices of others.  Bravo Hannah –  This is a must read for 2015 but have a box of kleenex for at least the last 50 pages!

For more information about our books, resources and tips go to:  www.whileyouwereaway.org

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Living It – Week 28


Tip # 459 – Weight Loss 

weighing

This tip generated a lot of chatter!  Many of you asked me to report in on how I am doing and be ‘real’ so I thought it would be a good one to “Living It” with.  I would love to tell you that it has been 3 weeks of clean eating, great sleeps, and 20Lbs just dropped off…  ah… no…

My Updates:

* Stopped weighing myself everyday (my whole day was determined my a number on a scale and I often ate more when I was higher with the defeatist attitude that I am already up pounds so why not) – I have managed to only weigh myself 4 times a week (which is down from 20!).  One week I did survive a whole week but then I started worrying that I was gaining and out of control (I sound crazy but some of you must know how it is…).

* I will not to set insane timelines on my weight loss that I always fail on and then eat through the feelings of failure – I cannot tell you the number of times I started to do this.  I would ask myself how many weeks until I have to wear fewer clothes (layers do cover a multitude of sins) and then I would start to say things like if you could lose 15Lbs before the warmer weather…  it was awful trying to stop doing this.  I am determined not to put a timeline to weight loss so I haven’t set any timelines and am just sticking to the goal of permanent life changes.

* I have cleaned out of the house pop and chips – I have stuck to this even though I decided it would be a good idea to go down this aisle in the grocery store and then tried to talk myself into this fabulous looking bag of chips.  I repeated the mantra (‘I would rather feel good long term than a short term fix’) and then got the cart and myself out of there.  I have also found a good pop replacement (It seems to be the fizz I like) and now have flavoured fizzy water.  For those of you in Canada – PC makes a great one!

* I have changed my routine.  I had the habit of coming home and snacking –  A few times I stayed later at work and just arriving home a little later helped with stopping this habit.  If I was home ‘earlier’ I have taken to do a few jobs around the house that aren’t in the kitchen.  It has worked so far.

* I have worked hard to get more sleep (when I am tired I use the excuse that I am eating for energy, I also make terrible food decisions when I am tired and stressed) – This one is a challenge for me as I LOVE my sleep.  Ideally, I would love to sleep 9 hours a night and this is rarely possible unless I go to bed before my kids!  I did manage to go to bed earlier over the past few weeks and it has helped.  I am shocked at how organized I have to be in order to go to bed earlier.  I also have worked on not watching TV mindlessly and then waking up in the morning saying, “Why did I stay up watching that stupid show?!”

* I am going to work hard on my ‘self talk’ (I think and say horrible things about my body 100’s of times in the day) – I had no idea the amount of horrible things I say to myself until I started to pay attention to them a little more.  It starts in the morning some days before I even get up and then I walk past the hall mirror and just continues throughout the day.  It has been hard but one way I am looking at it is telling myself I would NEVER say those things to my best friend so I need to start being a better friend to myself.  

* I am working on cutting out all diet Coke…  I am an addict – I have had three in three weeks.  That is pretty good although I want it every day still.  The fizzy water has helped and the fact that friends and family are constantly nagging me about it.  

I have lost 2Lbs but some of my clothes are feeling better – I don’t have to lie on the bed to get my work pants done up and when I sit down I can still breathe, all good signs!  What I discovered these last few weeks is that I am my own worst enemy in other ways too.  When I discovered I had lost 2Lbs my first reaction and all the ones following it for days was, “Is that it?  This isn’t working?  You aren’t working hard enough on this?  You have failed, again.”  I just need to be happy with the loss and that it isn’t a gain.  I am also going to work hard on measuring out food.  When I tracked what I was eating, I was shocked.  What I put in my mouth throughout the day was quickly forgotten (almost as soon as it passed my lips).  I need to get a better sense of what and how much I am eating.  No matter what big weight loss companies would like to have us believe, weight loss is a simple formula when it comes to food – calories in and calories out need to, at least, match.

For more information about our tips, books and resources go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org 

Living It – Week 27


Tip #99 – Be Organized

Organized

When I wrote “101 Tips for When They’re Back” I had a fair number of suggestions for making life easier for their return by being organized.  Since we are in the final 60 day stretch I decided that it may be good to start going through the reunion book and living some of my own advice from there too.  I still stand by all of what I said and truly believe that there is a certain loss of control that I have to be willing to give up again.  For the most part, I have been the one making the decisions about what we eat, what things we do in the evenings, where we go, when we go to sleep and so on and so on.  Now I am going to have to readjust to sharing those decisions with someone else.  Being organized will help me feel less out of control (yes, I am one of those people that finds coming home to a clean house one of the greatest feelings in the world – EVERYTHING REALLY DOES HAVE A PLACE!  Despite what my husband and kids say…).

By the time he gets home I will have…

* Cleaned out the areas of the house that were my husband’s and make them ready for him to invade again (or… to make a mess of and frustrate me but everyone has to have a space to do what they want with)

* Organize the fridge and freezer so that I not only know what we have but that I know we have things he likes too – it will also take the guess work out of meals and make life easier

* Do some bulk shopping for boring things like toilet paper, soaps, etc. – less time in the stores and less hastle

* Sort through and prioritize the mail that is stuffed into a box the door (this has not been a good example but with so much to deal with, if it was addressed to my husband and didn’t look like a bill or urgent, it got shoved into a box)

* Try to get some work done ahead of time so that I can take a few days when he gets back and not feel overwhelmed with a long list of things to do on top of getting used to having to go back to sleeping on my side of the bed!

* Go through the calendar and see what things are going to be happening and try to do things in advance to help reduce the amount of running around when he first gets home (I am going to buy some birthday cards in advance, get some birthday presents and wrap and label them, get postage stamps, etc.)

* Send a copy of our calendar to my husband so that he knows some of what he is coming home to as well

* Write ahead of time and ask what things he is missing the most (besides his favourite wife and kids).  This way I can pick them up when I have time rather than dashing around in the last few days

Regardless of whether or not I am totally organized or a complete mess, reunions are hard.  I really believe that being organized will only help with a smoother reintegration for everyone.  People often tell me that it must be so hard to have my husband away so much – it is but…  it is very hard to get used to sharing a life again after a long deployment too and many times for us, it has been the hardest part.  My husband has been at home with us for a total of 67 days in 2 years.  Getting used to life together again is going to be something I need to begin preparing for and living my own advice!

For more information about our tips, books or resources go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org or join our Facebook page While You Were Away

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