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.

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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

Veteran’s Day, Communication & Suicide

I wrote an article for Veteran’s Day for Military Press.  I hope you enjoy it.

 

Communicate with your Veteran before it’s too late!

Have you ever thought about what it’s like in combat? For a second let’s imagine what it might have been like for your spouse in the sandbox, constantly in a heightened state of fear for his life. As things are just getting back to normal around here, Veteran’s Day next week may bring up some of those same mixed feelings.

Typical Duck Dynasty loving Americans don’t realize what we go through, let alone what our spouses choose to go through. I think many fail to realize that everyone who’s gone to combat comes home with some sort of extra baggage. Mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically — if they even come home at all. It’s not all civilians’ faults though because it’s either not a part of their lives or it’s just out of sight and out of mind. I understand we’re a very small percentage of Americans but the more Americans know, care and understand, the less all of our Veterans and service members will feel isolated and misunderstood.

What always gets me is the statistic that 22 Veterans a day commit suicide. That adds up to more deaths from suicide than were killed in action in the current war. That’s a suicide every 65 minutes. Even more astonishing, according to CNN, is that the numbers are underreported due to Veterans not registering with the VA and states not turning in accurate numbers because of lack of information. The numbers are mainly for older Veterans. Apparently 30% of the OIF & OEF service members have considered taking their own lives and 45% said they know a service member who has attempted suicide.

Steel Magnolias, I encourage you all to teach your children about Veterans Day and educate them on how things used to be and why we should cherish and respect not only our elders but especially the Veterans. Volunteer and speak up so that we do not let the cycle of unknowing civilians continue. Always try to keep positive communication going with your spouse not only for your marriage and yourself but also the well-being of your family. So many of our marriages end up in the drain because of things that are out of our control but there are many wives who don’t get to make this point or celebrate holidays with their husbands anymore and only get to visit them at national cemeteries.

Don’t let them stuff down their feelings and suck it up living in horrid silence alone. Please don’t wait until it’s too late to try and communicate. If you need a push start don’t be afraid to contact FOCUS, a local therapist, find a couples retreat or even simply go run errands together, hold hands and keep that constant feeling of support and openness there.

Don’t forget yourself in all of this. Have a glass of wine with a fellow spouse occasionally. As Steel Magnolias we have the strength to be the spouse, cheerleader, researcher, mother and health advocate these men need but the only way to prevent all of this is to simply talk.

Setting Goals for the New Year-Military Press article

Sometimes when people hear the words ‘goal or resolution’ it’s almost like a scary movie moment.  You’ve seen this before and are screaming at the screen, “No. Don’t do it!”  Although, try not to be too scared, pessimistic or standoffish this year when you create that New Years goal; it can be fun, if you let it.  “Just Do It” and try for something new, crazy, adventurous or financially responsible for the next year.

Let’s start a new craze like bringing the 80’s back, jeggings, Pinterest or Elf on the Shelf but free, less creepy & weird.  My idea is simple; just change your way of thinking about goals.

If you’re idea of goals is 100% negative and you know you’re going to throw your resolutions out the window almost as soon as you say it then don’t go as big.  Realize that you can achieve a small goal while working on the larger picture and your results will seem less daunting.  For instance, try to save $20 from each paycheck to put away specifically for holiday spending for next year.  You’re not saving an extreme amount of money at one time but you’re building up to what will be about $500 or more when December rolls around again.

Also, I’m not guaranteeing that on Dec 31st what you wish will magically be easier to do.  When you promise yourself, “I’m going to run 3 marathons by the end of the year” and you get winded by climbing the stairs; we have work to do.  Some things will need to be accomplished to get to marathon status but it’s absolutely attainable & one day at a time.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and anything worth fighting for usually easy but you’ll succeed.  Keep good motivators exercising with you, free financial advisors to keep you on track, find a Jane Wayne Day happening & keep striving for your goals.

It’s easy to get discouraged in 2012.  We’re almost all accustomed to instant gratification via email, text, television, Google, Skype, credit cards, ect and sometimes have forgotten it takes time to achieve some big steps and goals in life.  If you want a more communicative marriage, to start college, get a job, buy a horse, work on your Masters degree, have a baby, invest in the stock market, buy a house then you’ll have to do some homework and fight for what you’re working towards.  Marine spouses are no stranger to adversity and this year doesn’t have to be one of them if you set your mind to achieving a new goal out of 2013.  Whatever it is you intend to do always remember to think of others before yourself, love your Marine unconditionally (your kids too maybe), send handwritten cards because they mean more, volunteer when you have the time but do not forget yourself in taking care of everything and everyone else.

Happy New Year my Steel Magnolia’s of the Marine Corps!

Making it all work…latest edited Military Press article…

Over the weekend I realized something I wanted to share what I think we sometimes let slip in the back of our minds. Ourselves.
Reluctantly I got my hair cut & styled by a friend. I had been meaning to do it weeks ago but I hadn’t had enough time, my house was a mess, I’ve had a million Girl Scout things to do, the dogs needed a bath & my husband could just cut it right? I kept making excuses until one Friday there was no more running. I was on her block at a meeting & she said I’ll cut it then. Crap. Okay fine. I did & after she was done I felt like a whole new person! Like I’d been pulled off the street and given a total hair makeover. I almost didn’t recognize the face on the hair! I felt girly, alive, frisky & fun. This face needed makeup! But my hair was amazing and I loved it. We all know how a good haircut can make us feel and I couldn’t fathom why I didn’t do it sooner so I could have felt like this before!  By the way thank you Jessica!!!! 😛
Does it seem as if there aren’t enough hours in the day? Are you procrastinating on dieting, working out, spring cleaning, gardening, ect? Well today’s the day I hope you make that to-do list have more checks on it! Get it done. Be motivated and just do it! (ha ha that was not intended to be funny but I couldn’t help but think of Nike when I reread it)
Sometimes your feelings get in the way of your to-do list which is understandable. Say you’re at the beginning of a deployment or in the middle of a deployment in a routine and in both cases there’s a complete lack of energy or stamina to do anything let alone something for yourself. It’s typically mundane tasks, go with the flow and wherever the day takes you. I understand.
Yet I encourage you ladies to do something for yourself out of the ordinary to break the routine. We often times pour ourselves into the kids & especially our husbands but try not to forget you. Save up and splurge on a Burke Williams massage, have someone watch your kids so you can relax & read a book on the beach or get that haircut you’ve always wanted. Whatever it is have fun & embrace the moment.

Becoming a Marine Mom

Becoming a Marine Mom

The above link is from the Marines.mil website thought I’d share for my Marine Parents friends.  This is also very valuable information for the Marine Corps spouse as well.  In helping to bridge the generational and informational gap by hopefully communicating one sides perspective.  🙂

Enjoy!

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!

Afghanistan 2011…

Well our friends and some very close people which we consider family recently found out their deployment schedule has been altered to have them headed to Afghanistan in a few short months. Personally I’m apprehensive and nervous as any loved one would be whenever finding out this kind of news.
After Anthony and I have both talked about the subject we’ve come to the conclusion that it is what it is, he wishes he could go with his brothers (typical Marine) and we will always be around to help with whatever the wives or Marines need to get through this battle ahead. I told Anthony it is going to be extremely hard for me to not be 100% in the Family Readiness program this time around so I will help where I can via MarineParents.com through forums and chatrooms, Facebook pages, and my personal emails. I am sure that there will be Town Hall Meetings, Meeting Minutes posted online, Seminars, and other information passed on through the Battalion Facebook page but I know not everyone has a Facebook page and sometimes even internet access.
I do know that the greatest support that my families always had was each other though. Last few deployments together we have created an outstanding web of information that because of dedicated wives and parents have grown to include families, friends and supporters nowhere near Camp Pendleton. I do hope this connection continues since everyone will need this level of support now more than ever. We want to help put together care packages, buy these guys the best socks from Covert Threads and any other gear or comforts from home they’ll need.
We’ll be at the send off and homecoming events for the guys and support for the parents and wives as well. If it’s only for picture takers and huggers we’ll be there. We will be here to keep our families spirits as high as possible to try and ease any tension and anxiousness. Let us know if we can help with any advice such as postal regulations, deadlines for special dates, addresses, care pkg ideas, the latest innovative gear, battalion events, ect.
I encourage everyone to cherish this time together and make as many happy moments as possible before these guys leave our great country to do the hardest jobs known to man in some of the worst conditions imaginable.  Take care of yourself and take care of each other…