Learning to fight fair…with a Marine.

IMG_1133This post is long overdue.  I don’t know why I wrote this article first.  Maybe because when we woke up, Anthony totally went all men-o-pause and thought I said something I didn’t.  I was like, “whoa, I didn’t call you stupid or think you couldn’t talk to and get your point across to the doc.”  Let’s be clear, I may have been thinking it, and I should’ve just gone and did it myself but I didn’t say it!  Bless his heart.  😉

We all know, men are very simple.  The average man wants two or three things out of daily life and only uses 7,000 words a day but they aren’t counting Marines unless grunts are included.  They use maybe 3,000-4,000 a day.  This is no bullcrap.  I’ve caught Anthony just glazed over eyes, looking at my mouth moving but he ain’t listening to me!  I think sometimes they have so much on their minds they can’t multitask like our Google brains can.  Ohh, those sound like fightin’/challenge to me, men?!  They wouldn’t be able to juggle everything like we do in a million years.  Cue the Lifetime, man hating music.  LOL. Just kidding men.

So after a little “Semper Gumby” moments through our PCS across the country with two teenagers, my husband, two dogs and two guinea pigs (yes, pigs) we all survived yet got to practice what we preach a bit. It could’ve been worse right?  Don’t laugh too hard ok.

So let’s be clear, we’ve found two main points that really help us in positive communication and overall in our Marine Corps family.   I’m no Oprah or Ricki Lake, well maybe since she gave good advice too sometimes and I do accept wine if you somehow get extra attention from your spouse.  IMG_0302

Active Listening. If you’re already thinking of something sarcastic to say before the other person isn’t even done talking, you’re not fighting fair. When we were first married this happened a lot. He would tell me something & I was literally creating an Excel spreadsheet in my head of all the points I could make. Guess I wasn’t “fighting fair” by actively listening & being in the moment to hear what he was actually saying after he said that first sentence because I was creating Excel columns and rows.

No Negative Rebuttals. If constructive criticism is aimed at you and you quickly think of something negative, counterproductive or completely irrelevant to the entire conversation about that other persons flaws, character or habits, you’re not fighting fair. Once, we were discussing where to eat for dinner; which I somehow in my mind flipped his comment around because I know he said I was overweight and need to eat healthier. I told him that MAYBE he shouldn’t use the bathroom with the door open while talking to me. It took us a while to eat Subway again afterwards since it was such a “remember when you went nuts…” moment.  We laugh now. 7 years later.IMG_0329

Both points apply to both spouses.  Now with age and time come maturity for some.  Well this is the Marine Corps so these tips may not work while he’s wasted at a Dining In or the Ball.  In those instances we know they’re all the same age, crazy teenagers. It can also apply to dealing with other people who may not have the same common sense, manners or common courtesy as yourself.  Somehow it can be tougher to keep your calm in these situations so tread lightly…(cough, cough, military spouses…) IMG_1135

When conversations go negative, most people shut down and don’t even listen after a certain point & you start going in circles about the same thing.  Sometimes it’s wise to not even begin or get into it depending on what it’s about.  If its the toilet paper roll on wrong or the toilet seat down, there are worse things in life to holler about so perspective and rationality come into play here.  If he gets whole milk instead of 2%, just send his cute ass back to the commissary and get some chocolate and wine while he’s there.

IMG_0707

My husband aka (his cute little ass I’d send back to the commissary)

Momma always said, if you don’t have anything to say, don’t say it at all.  I don’t think everyone got that lesson.  Just saying.  She also had this little plaque in the kitchen that said, “The way to be seen is stand up, the way to be heard is speak up, and the way to be appreciated is shut up.”  I always wondered if my dad gave it to her.  LOLLL.

Marines (men in general) have a short attention span so make your words count (remember they don’t use very many in a day) & get your point across as calmly as possible. Despite wanting to shake the shit out of them and slap them silly, breathe, and even though they probably see the red in our eyes and Lorena Bobbit twitchy hand, maybe respond in your best and calmest “Horse Whisperer voice” and say, “Babe, I’m always thinking of you and what will be best for all of us and I’m only trying to help.”   After all, Bryan Adams says, “When you love someone, you’ll sacrifice. Give it everything you got…” Arguing should be the minimal part of your lives. Your spouse is the best part of this Marine Corps lifestyle and the reason you’re in it. Just eat the damn Subway and keep your possibly overreacting comments to yourself to avoid the awkward stories your family & even strangers will hear over and over.

Love, laughs and hugs to y’all!

-Crystal

Advertisements

What are you afraid of?

I admit it: I am scared of the dark. So if I am the only adult at home, I sit around late at night shopping for ridiculously overpriced bed linens (that I could never afford) while talking to the dog about how busy I am and I wish I didn’t “have” to be up so late. Yes, it’s an issue, and while I am glad you all grew out of that when you turned 4, I did not. So here I sit in the light, typing this, while lamenting with the dog about our late nights.

My Partner in crime, TxGruntwife (A.K.A. the dollar store flower thief) and I were covering some of the many reasons I am perfectly safe alone in the dark. I may live in an old farm house, outside of screaming distance from any of my neighbors, in a region where we suffer regular power outages, and have no cell service, and have a protection order against my stalker… but still, there are many reasons I cannot fit the horror movie victim profile:

1.) I am not a blonde with giant plastic knockers. Sorry if I just ruined anyone’s fantasy, but the unfortunate reality is I am probably less hot than you imagined. Everyone knows in the horror movie it is always a pretty girl who gets killed by the fisherman in the rain-slicker (which could be half the population of New England), or the deranged logger (half the population of the Pacific Northwest). So my chances of surviving the night increased slightly thanks to my bra size and dirt-colored hair.

2.) While we are on the topic of appearance, my wardrobe may just save my life! Anyone ever see the victim get offed while wearing her husband’s faded PT gear and fuzzy slippers? I think not. So while, they may not be flattering, the OD green may just save my life. (Bonus: stretchy waistband for the late-night snacking done while waiting to be killed by logger-fishermen.)

By the way, the dog has now given up on me and begun snoring as I write this. Apparently his concern about boogie men is slightly less than his concern for napping.

3.) I am also lacking the necessary tools to fend off a serial killer. Such things as large, dull kitchen knives are not existent in my home. Also conspicuously missing from the set are: little-league baseball bats, hockey sticks, brass candle sticks and other random, ineffective self-defense items. Though I admit the legos strung across the floor of my house would be a good deterrent to anyone not wearing heavy-soled boots… The movie is never as exciting when the victim takes down the creep with a 12 gauge as he is coming through the front door. (Actually that would be rather anti-climactic, don’t you think?)

4.) The final missing element is the cast of characters. Every axe-murderer film has some essentials: the jock, the hunky love interest, the security guard/cop/former SEAL who dies saving everyone else, the nerd that should have been picked off first, but somehow survives (to hook up with Miss blond Plastic-chest) and the best friend who shows up at the end to wrap a blanket around the wet, but triumphant victim. (My bestie lives entirely too far away to drive that far just to wrap a blanket around my wet shoulders. ..also, it is not wet where I live, so I do not see this need. So never mind that…)

All in all, I think I am safe from the blue collar ax-murderer crowd. However, I think I might get eaten by wolves…

Man Skills

You want me to what?!

In our house we have had pretty stereotypical gender roles. I clean, bake, do laundry, grocery shop, etc… He did the lawn mowing, car stuff, and killed spiders. Then Mitch got blown up. So now, instead of him killing spiders, I stand in the living room having one-sided arguments with the dog about who has to do the smashing. (The dog always wins and goes to sleep while I dispose of the intruder.)

Image
My dog completely not caring that I am about to be carried off by a pack of rabid tarantulas.

 

Spiders aside, I am now learning some new skills, like fire building, lawn mowing and wood cutting. Skills that are certainly okay, and probably good, for a woman to have, but none the less new to me. I think there may be a good reason I was born with baking skills and not lawn mowing skills: my yard looks something like blind beavers mowed the lawn while consuming large amounts of absinthe. Practice makes perfect, right? Since we have a riding mower Mitch does a lot of the mowing (Praise Jesus!) and my “skills” are only on display about once a year.

Car care, well I give up. I outsource for that. Mainly because I have a strong aversion to placing my hands any were I cannot see, something that is apparently required for anything more than checking fluid levels. I know how, I just don’t. We all have issues-don’t judge.

Image
This is actually 4 rows deep, and no, I did not do it all alone.

This summer I taught myself how to split wood. Yes! Score one for Anna! It was a steep learning curve. My daughter asked me if I was okay. Twice. Then she suggested I ask the neighbor for help, which seems like a really brilliant idea for a seven year old, until I realized the neighbor she was referring to is the elderly man who lives up the hill. (It must have looked really bad to her, that she thought he would better at it.) However awkward and time consuming my splitting efforts were, they paid off and we now have a tidy stockpile of firewood.

Image
manual labor: more fun than you are imagining!

… And a savings account for a hydraulic splitter.

Now that it is time to actually use said firewood I am practicing my fire building skills, which I will say I am good at. Perhaps I am channeling my inner Laura Ingalls, but my fire was quick-to-ignite and warm, so that is what matters!

Dramatic Auditions: the line starts over there.

Sadly those who most need to apply this will believe it applies to everyone else.  I saw this constantly in the family readiness groups, and now watch it transpire daily with the families of wounded warriors.  Unless you are auditioning for Jerry Springer….

Don’t make drama.  Seriously.  No one else has time for it and you aren’t making yourself look good by bashing anyone else or having a public display of dysfunction.

We have all been wronged.  Deal with it.  If it is a criminal problem, use the proper authorities to take care of it.  Otherwise start acting like an adult and get on with life.  You are going to do stupid things.  Yes, I said it: you WILL screw up.  Intentionally, unintentionally, directly, indirectly, you will do things you regret.  …and so will everyone else.

Think about it.  When you accidentally turn in front of traffic you feel bad, but if someone else does, they surely meant to cut you off, right?  If Linda ignored you at the last family readiness meeting, it must have been because she was mad at you, right?  (Never mind that she was just diagnosed with a frightening medical condition…)

My point is that if you don’t know what is happening, don’t create a reason.  Sometimes people do things that are irritating, stupid, or downright cruel.  If it is something you can work out without causing yourself more harm, then do it.  If it is something inexcusable or something that you cannot get passed, move on.  Don’t keep living it.

If whatever is happening is intentional, do your best to move on or extricate yourself from the situation, and then get on with life.  In the scheme of life it really doesn’t matter that Linda made snarky comments about your hair, or that Enda intentionally stole your assigned parking space.

Deployments come and rumors start.  Joan’s husband might be sleeping with the neighbor’s goat, but is that your business?  Edna might just be a horrible person, but does telling everyone about it make her less horrible?  If the rumors are about you, live so that no one believes them: don’t compromise yourself.  (The only exception to this is if you legitimately suspect there is a crime such as child or domestic abuse, in which case, please report it to the authorities, see that there is follow-up, and then keep your mouth shut.)

Either fix it or leave it, but engaging other people, and causing more stress for yourself is not a resolution.  You cannot “win” at drama.  Proving you are right is not helpful if you injure yourself or others along the way.  I see a lot of wives who want to “prove” they are right by getting everyone on their “side”.  Ladies, we are not in middle school, and this is not a popularity contest.  Take care of yourself, and let everyone else worry about their own issues.

Anna is Back!

For those who missed me, I apologize.   If you didn’t miss me, lets pretend you did, so I can feel needed, okay?

If you don’t know who I am:

I have been a Marine wife for almost ten years, and I have known my husband almost ten years and two weeks.  (yes, do the math, it is what you are thinking.)  I have two active, and busy kids who are almost old enough to brush their teeth without coating the bathroom in toothpaste.  …alas, maybe next year.

And here is a random picture of my dog. Mostly because I am lame about collecting photos of myself. …and my dog is super cool.

My husband was horrifically injured in 2006 and left active duty in 2007.  We have moved multiple times since then, experienced the uniqueness of VA healthcare, buried too many of our friends, and been blessed with a tribe of supporters who really understand the concept of “leave no man behind.”

Follow me while I share what I have learned, what I am learning (Splitting wood takes muscle.  Splitting wood without splitting your foot takes skill…) and the things that I do that you would think I should have learned by now.

Friends & Sister wives

Yes I said it. I have sister wives & friends. It started out as a joke but then upon looking at it more closely we’ve found slight differences. I think we all have them in one way or another. Nothing extreme or anything she’s just that supportive shoulder to lean that you click very easily with without hurtful drama; like a sister. Sometimes it can be just one and sometimes it’s a fluid cluster with wives coming and going as the Marine Corps sees fit. This Marine wife can relate to your plight more so than civilians and even your own family sometimes. So you see she’s more than just a typical friend she’s a sister wife.

Friends are great and everyone has lots of them whether they are acquaintance friends, high school facebook friends, twitter follower friends, work friends or neighbor friends. Friends might say hi and ask a rhetoric question expecting an empty answer. You & this friend don’t really have much in common but you’re cordial. A sister wife would know if something is up with you. She tries to pull you out of a funk when the guys leave for training and stops by for coffee to cheer you up every morning. A friend would ask to stop by chit-chat and leave. A sister wife knows your schedule so she drops by & doesn’t have to but will (after coffee of course) help you clean your house before the hubs gets home from out of town just because she knows you’re trying to do 1 million other things. The saying “it takes a village…” applies here but not only with kids because when you’re on the verge of emotional breakdown a sister wife will take your kids for the evening so you can run a warm bubble bath and relax before biting everyone’s heads off. If anything but having a sister wife will give you an excuse to visit your friend in Hawaii when you have to PCS to Arizona.

All of us are in this for a few years and some shorter than others so I see people’s apprehension in getting close to folks you’ll move away from eventually. Like the Marines though your support system is only as strong as those standing to your left and right beside you. Ladies being the only one in your support system is lonely and you’ll need life lines every now and then even if it’s just to vent. Regardless of the wife drama stigma out there please mix and mingle out there with some remarkable new life long Steel Magnolia sister wives.

Big Bear Mountain Adventure w/the Doyle’s

Gaby came up with the idea that we should go and see the snow.  It can be challenging to get our schedules to mesh but very thankful that we could make it happen!  We’ve never been to the mountains here before and never saw snow like we were about to see.

Gaby had been to Big Bear Mountain before so we picked a weekend and found a beautiful little cabin that fit all of us.  We crammed all of our stuff into my truck and started on the 3 hour drive!  The sights on the way there are pretty bland.  Not too much to see other than the change of climates by going from the Pacific Ocean to hilly inland to desert to the mountains.  It is true that living in Southern California you can go from Snowboarding to Surfing in one day which is pretty awesome. Big Bear is absolutely gorgeous!  I didn’t know if my old truck was going to get up there since it is older than my oldest child but it was fine, we didn’t get stuck in the snow or on the mountain incline!  This was another intense learning experience as far as driving conditions for me.  My instincts were to just keep the truck in the middle of the road as best as possible.  Gaby’s husband is from the North so he knows how to drive where there is ice and snow probably better than anyone in the truck!  I don’t know why I didn’t have him drive but I hear him tell me from the backseat that I should watch for the ice that builds up on the side of the road which is bad and not always seen.  WHY did he tell me this while I was on my way up and just past an elevation sign of 4500 feet!?!  Anyways, after some white knuckle driving at 10 and 2 we made it safely up this mountain.  Between Sacramento & Big Bear I am becoming jack of all trades with this driving in different climates thing and pretty stoked about it. I wonder if I can use that on my resume or figure out a way to bring it into every important conversation from now on.

We weren’t at the cabin more than 10 minutes before snowballs were being thrown.  All of us were all out there in it and played for quite a while before we wanted to venture out a little bit.  A local bait shop clerk said that there was a hill close enough so the kids could sled for free.  We took them to do that for a little bit and they had a lot of fun!  Anthony even went down the hill!  The Sizzler was for dinner.  Let me tell you they make it seem pretty glamorous and awesome on Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby but it wasn’t as great as we thought it was going to be.  In Texas steak is generally the size of the plate and at this Sizzler it looked more like a slice of bacon!  No seriously it was and immediately knew we weren’t ever going back and definitely weren’t going to be walking billboards for this restaurant.  The salad and my baked potato were the best part of the dinner!  It was highway robbery for us for that small amount that we ate.

The next morning we got up, ate at IHOP then set off to find a place to fish.  Anthony was hell bent on this one activity so I couldn’t withhold him from doing what he loves and tries to share with the kids.  So we find a good spot on the lake that doesn’t looked completely iced over and pretty away from a lot of tourists like ourselves.  We wouldn’t want the loud noises to scare away the fish!  Well let me tell you that I don’t think noise was an issue that day because any fish in that lake are probably frozen for the winter!  Anthony and Josh had to throw rocks on the surface to break the ice so they could cast their lines in the water.  Even when they did they didn’t always hit the spot where the ice was broken up so the lure would glide along the surface until they were able to drag it to the open spot! Hilarious for us wives!  So they’re ice fishing now! LOL!  These men were serious about this fishing situation apparently!

Gaby and I took pictures of the area, she made a snowman and we both got stuck in the deep snow a few times.  It’s very strange because it all looks the same on the top and when you go to step it can be solid or allow you to sink in deep without notice so after about 5 times of sinking all I could do was laugh.  We only stayed one night but it was a fun and event filled weekend.  It is something that I can say we did on the spare of the moment but it wasn’t hectic or stressful or planned really in any way. It was nice to spend time with family and the kids got to do stuff they’ve never done before.  All we have is each other and Gaby is a big part of me being able to be me here.  She is one of the few Marine wives whom I’ve gained a lot of respect and adoration for these past few years and have come to consider like a sister after all we’ve been through together.  The whole point is enjoy the little things in life and make friends along this journey because they’ll always stick with you as best they can.  They are a large part of what keep us motivated to be here and be the best we can be for our families.  Thank goodness for good Marine friends & especially Marine wives like her!