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Living It – Week 26

Make a Calendar Together – Tip #65

Our latest deployment calendar

Our latest deployment calendar

We are now past the halfway mark of this deployment and even though I have the deployment candy jar marking down time, the kids are older and I think need to see it on an actual calendar.  We have a calendar of events that happen each week but I thought it would be helpful to make a calendar of fun!  This week we made a calendar for the next three months so that we can begin to see a  see all the good things that are going to happen in between and after my husband gets back.  We do not have a specific return date so we are just highlighting the possible weeks for now.


* Complete the calendar together (so you can also discover the events coming up that are important to them)

* Put it in a high traffic area so that everyone can reference it

* Add fun events, activities and holidays

* Mark birthdays and milestones and identify which month your family member is likely return

* Add things that you want to do at the top and reminders

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


1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #458

Loneliness – Tip #458


No one tells you about the times you are going to feel utterly alone as a member of a military family (no one also tells you about the deep seeded resentment you will feel but that is a tip for another time!). It is hard going it alone during a deployment or any extended absence. Everyone in your life has their own lives too and can’t be around all the time nor would you want them to be. Having said that, you are going to experience loneliness whether you are alone or surrounded by people.  While I don’t have a lot of time to feel lonely (and there are definitely times when I enjoy my alone time) it can also sneak up on you and leaving you feeling truly awful.  After several deployments I think that I have learned to combat loneliness (most of the time).  This doesn’t mean I don’t have a good cry or take some time to feel well and truly sorry for myself but I don’t let these be lasting moments.  I feel it and then do something about it.  Flying solo has also forced me to get comfortable with who I am as a person but you can only be with yourself and/or your children so much before you crave an interaction that doesn’t start with, “Can I…” or “Would you…”.  Weekends seem to be hardest for me as I am usually too exhausted to have the drive or motivation to do much but also have so many obligations – driving kids to their activities or friends houses, cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping, that I don’t have time to connect with people that aren’t living under my roof as much as I would like to.  


* Acknowledge that you are lonely and try not to eat your loneliness away (it doesn’t work and you end up feeling worse – trust me… I am the master at eating feelings and whole bags of chips!).  Talk to other people about how you feeling.  They often have a brighter perspective and a good suggestion or two – they also don’t cause weight gain that can put you in a downward spiral.

* Make plans and actually do it no matter how tired you are.  Have something to look forward to (ensure that they are plans that friends or family won’t let you bail out on).

* Read great books (great means anything that you can lose yourself in).  A book doesn’t have boring commercials and you can get lost in it, escape from your own reality and forget about your own stresses and problems.  It can also give you some much needed quiet time and perspective.

* Look at the things that you are doing that trigger feelings of loneliness and see what you can cut out or do differently.  I had a family friend tell me that on days that she feels lonely she can’t sort out photos.  If you know this, don’t do it.  Wait for a time when you are in a better place.

* Think of things that make you happy and do one.  Be selfish.  Do something that brings you joy or happiness.  I find that I often feel lonely because I am too caught up in making everyone else happy and missing having someone around who puts me first.  Each week take a time out to put yourself first!

* Spend less time on Facebook and other social media sites and make real life connections with people.  While it is easier to connect via Facebook, it is so much more fun and rejuvinating to actually meet with someone in person.  I would challenge you to look at your Facebook account and then PM someone and make a plan to see them in person.

* Spend time actually tracking time of day, hours of sleep and your diet when you feel lonely.  These can impact how you are feeling and may be easier to adjust than you would think.

Lonely quote

None of the above suggestions will stop you from feeling lonely once and awhile but they can reduce the number and length of time!

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


Living It – Week 21

Tip # 58 Create a Pillow Case

T-shirt pillow

In “101 Tips for Military Families Experiencing Absence or Deployment” I suggested making a pillowcase that they could lay their head on every night that would be comforting.  When I wrote it I was thinking that you could put a picture of your loved one and some comforting things to help your children.  Since I decided to “Live it” this week I took some time to think about what would be fun to do and practical (I always love it when these two combine!).

So, I decided to go through my husband’s closet and use some of his older t-shirts to make a pillow case out of.  The older t-shirts are soft, my husband has dropped 60Lbs and all his older t-shirts are too big so I wasn’t worried about him freaking out about their repurposing!  If you have any doubt, lay them out, take a picture and send it to your loved one asking if there any you can use.  Look through your own too and see if there are any that would work for this.

My kids have a lot of happy memories attached to some of those shirts and they realized that their Dad would too so we actually made 3 pillowcases and sent one over to him so that he could have something comforting too!  This gave our family comfort, something to do together as a family and something we can treasure.

Here is a link for a no sew pillow if you just want something easy and fun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1EZPhRpCMA

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

1001 Tips for Military Families – #456

Sanity: Keeping It or Getting It Back!

Losing it!

Losing it!

Keeping your sanity during a deployment is no easy feat (it is actually a challenge for me even when I am not going through a deployment). This week I’ve totally lost mine – I realized this when I was standing in a parking lot yesterday with a cart full of things and crying uncontrollably as I looked through the window to see my car keys locked inside (for those of you old enough to know this reference – I looked like Alice Cooper).  This week I have had to juggle work, kids, no kitchen (reno happening because of a flood), a basement in chaos, water heater not working, Christmas shopping, taxiing my kids to and from things, getting groceries, cleaning the house and so many other things I will not bore you with.  Locking my keys in the car was the final straw.  Many of my readers lately have asked me how I can be so positive and optimistic all the time.  Well… I am not!  I think the only positive thing I can muster up about the last few days is that there was no bloodshed (it is actually miraculous)!   Last night as I crawled into bed after making lunches in the living room, filling out trip forms and trying to find a place to hide Christmas presents, I thought about how I was possibly going to keep remotely sane over this holiday season and throughout the rest of this deployment.  Here is my sanity saving list!

1) Ask for help – I have asked my in-laws to take our dog during our crazy house renovation and I even put a plea out on Facebook for help with painting my basement.  I know that people are often happy to help and it is nice to have others taking some of the pressure off.

2) Say “Yes” – When people offer to do things, say yes.  Try not to worry about the burden you are putting on them (this is hard for me to do).  Two of my favourite people on the planet offered to drive and get my husband’s car (that was 2 hours away) and I didn’t want to let them but I realized it was my sanity or a little guilt – I went with feeling a little guilty!

3) Cry – I found myself crying twice in the last week and I haven’t cried before then in weeks and weeks.  It felt good and now I am able to move forward.  While I don’t think sobbing uncontrollably regularly is a good thing, a good cathartic cry every now and again is healthy.  My son saw we sobbing into a paint tray on the weekend and it was good for him to see that I am human too, that things get to me and I need TLC like everyone else (he was also extremely helpful all day which was an added bonus!).

4) Go to Bed Early – One night last week I went to bed when my kids did (8:30pm).  I realized that I had a huge smile on my face!  I got out my book (that was gathering dust) and actually read for 30mins before going into a virtual coma.  I woke up feeling so much better.  Once a week I am going to forget all the other things I should be doing and just get on my pyjamas and go to bed!

5)  Vent – While I really do believe that I am a very fortunate person and that many, many people have it MUCH harder than I do, I am so lucky to have a friend that I can vent to.  There are times when I just need someone to feel sorry for me, get something off my chest and then laugh about the craziness that is my life!  Find that person you can vent to – search until you do.  My best friend is sometimes the only thing between me and a straight jacket.

6) Do Things That Make You Happy – I spend a lot of time trying to make everyone happy.  I like being a caregiver and wouldn’t trade being a Mom or working in a school for all the money in the world but I also have to get better about doing things for myself too.  The most affordable thing that I could do to make myself happy would be to have a day in pyjamas, eating whatever and reading my book with a cup of tea.  I have marked on the calendar, “Mom Day” and over the holidays I am going to take it… no matter what.  Do the same – take a day that is just for you doing something relaxing, selfish (selfish shouldn’t be a dirty word) and that makes you happy!

The other things I do to create a healthy level of sanity aren’t as proactive or healthy (eating chocolate, having a lovely glass of red wine or watching movies until my eyes hurt).  The bottom line is that everyone feels stressed out, drained, and insane during a deployment.  You are not alone and just because I normally write some lovely proactive, positive tip doesn’t mean I don’t live with a healthy level of insanity myself!

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

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #455

Board games – 

Board Games

While I fully recognize (and acknowledge that I do it from time to time) it is easier to send your kids to the nearest electronic device and grab some “me” time, it is equally important to play a game or two with them.  Board games have made us laugh together, given great opportunities to talk about things that wouldn’t have come up otherwise and to spend some quality time together (I turn off my phone, don’t answer the landline and give them my 100% attention).

During this deployment, I have committed to having one ‘board games’ night a month.  We have also used this as an opportunity to clean out our board games and add a few new ones to our Christmas wish lists.

Our recommendations are:

* Apples to Apples (not sure I have ever laughed as much with my kids as I did playing this one)

* Pictionary (There is an adult and kids version.  You don’t have to be an artist to play and in most cases it is better if you aren’t)

* Cranium (Each category appeals to a wide range of skills but, I think, you need a group of people so you can make mixed ability teams)

* Monopoly (Honestly, this is my son’s recommendation – he loves this game.  I find it looooong and a bit painful!)

* Taboo (Funny for kids to watch adults struggle to find the words and a great vocabulary builder as a bonus)

* Heads Up (Popularized by Ellen and it is also a great App on your phone it also helps when in line ups, waiting for food at a restaurant, at the doctor’s, etc.)

* Chess (It is not always possible to get a group for games and chess allows for quieter moments together too.  There is also an online version that you can play.  While his Dad is deployed they are playing against each other online.  Sometimes my son will wake up and be so happy to see that his Dad has made a move!)

The bottom line is that it really doesn’t matter what game you play with them.  The important thing is that you are laughing together, talking and coming together as a family even if we are one family member short!

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

Living It – Week Sixteen

Top Ten Lists – Tip #54

Our first few top tens!

Our first few top tens!

November has felt long and the grey days and cold temperatures haven’t helped.  I was, once again, looking for something to change things up a little and record a few of our thoughts, feelings and to help fill in the gaps for my husband as he does miss an awful lot and this is a fun way of filling him in.  This deployment has already been exhausting and I am trying hard to find things that are easy and fun to do together so… top ten lists began again.

Here are some titles of ones we have done (our top ten of top tens!) – 

* Top Ten Things We Miss About You

* Top Ten Most Annoying Things that Happened this Month

* Top Ten Best Things that Happened this Month

* Top Ten Terrible Meals We Have Eaten This Month

* Top Ten Movies We Want to See

* Top Ten Things We Are Looking Forward to

* Top Ten Animals We Wish We Could Have As Pets

* Top Ten Songs

* Top Ten Funniest Moments Since You’ve Been Gone

* Top Ten Junk Foods To Eat

Doing this together made us think about all the things we have survived, accomplished and got us thinking positively about the months to come – it was also super easy to put together (which is always a bonus!).  Deployments are life sucking and being able to sit back and laugh, plan and be positive about the future are no small feats when there is so many things that we could openly weep or get down in the dumps about!  Each week we are going to take a picture of them and by the end of the deployment we should have a book worth of top tens to talk or laugh about when their Dad gets home!

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

Living It – Week 15

Listen – Tip #41

Using your ears!

Using your ears!

Active listening is a skill.  Some people are born with it, some people have to work hard on it and some people may never get it.  I am hopeful that I fall under the category of having to work on it rather than never getting it.  Having said that I am often shocked at how many people don’t really listen or give their 100% attention when people speak.  They are either thinking about what they are going to say next, thinking about all the things they have to do, or simply just watching the person’s lips move!

A few months ago I was stressed out, busy with work and trying to prepare for this deployment.  I found myself getting caught into the trap of not listening to my kids properly at least 75% of the time and multi-tasking when I should just been listening!  I began to realize that they were taking this to mean that I didn’t care.  Their Dad is a great listener so I always had him to fall back on if I was too tired or busy with work but now that he is deployed, I have made a commitment to be a much better listener and follow my own advice.


* I have set aside time just to be with the kids uninterrupted (dinner time).

* I don’t answer the phone or even have it close by throughout dinner

* The TV and all devices are off

* I no longer multi-task the same way – even when I am making dinner I stop to listen more

My new tip for listening is also to try to be less reactive to what they are saying.  By doing this, I think that they are sharing more with me.  They are less and less worried about what my reaction is and more concerned with getting it off their chest.  I believe it is crucial that we know what is happening in our kid’s lives – the good, the bad and the ugly.  Our reactions determine whether they tell us more and things later on.

For more information on our tips, resources and books: www.whileyouwereaway.org