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

Getting through Deployment Tips…

We only really feel alone when we’re left with our thoughts and insecurities. It’s hard to forget our sorrows and go on with life while our Marines are away.  None of us are made of stone, brick or are superhuman. We are not born equipped to deal with everything that the Marine Corps will throw at us. The key to emotionally dealing with deployments is developing survival, social and coping skills to weather the tough times .
As Marine wives we stand on the tarmacs, in airports, piers and in parking lots waving goodbye to our Marines with a heavy heart. Have you ever had the moment where it feels like time has stopped and we’re just waving and waving until they’ve gone out of sight or can’t see us anymore?
Reality hits home the second he gets orders for a deployment, then again when he leaves for the bus, dock or air station. You can and will feel alone. Not all of us have biological immediate family members close or even in the same state as your duty station.  It is completely normal and can be a little more than overwhelming but try not to feel too down about the situation. This is when our friends and Marine Corps family comes in handy during those first few days when you can’t get out of bed, off the couch or out of the fridge. When you are so sad and depressed that you’re heart is literally breaking for fear of the unknown, lack of control and the many dangerous possibilities out there. We wait for our men not because we want to or have to. We wait for our men because we are mentally strong enough for this job. Not every lady is and that’s okay this is truly a hard pill to swallow but they love their jobs and us; so we shouldn’t be the ones to come in between the two passions in their life.  And so we support and love them.  We do so because in the pit of our stomachs there’s a strong and unbreakable love, appreciation and affection for these amazingly masculine yet soft hearted individuals. There is just an overwhelmingly powerful and soul warming flow which is the strength that helps us get through those sometimes hollow days and lonely nights. The dark, cold and lonesome nights at times seem to never end and are enough to make wives forgo their own beds and sleep on loveseats, futons or with the kids.  Irregular communication wherever they are does not aid in the sad and lonely days at all. :/
Unless you intend to go back to your home state during his deployments which a lot of wives do we have to rely on each other for support. Moving back home can be a good idea to save the BAH money but you run the risk of being far away from your duty station and possibly having pay issues you can’t deal with, possibly not getting vital deployment information as well as not participating in events the command holds during the deployment.
One of the many misconceptions about deployments a lot of wives, girlfriends, mothers, and family members have is that your husband will call, email or write everyday or even every other day. Some have been known to try & contact the command, the hotel the men are staying at port in or try and guilt trip their husbands into calling them often.  These women get upset whenever the Marines do not get to call, email or Skype as much as they believe he should.  Ladies I know this is 2010 but as I was told by my senior peers many times before they are working and will call you the second they get a free moment to do so. Meu’s (ships) are a little more consistent but there is always going to be times when they can’t. Like during Rivercity. It’s not a location it is what the military considers times whenever there is an issue during the deployment and for everyone’s safety they cut off all communication outgoing until the issue has been resolved. There are hundreds if not thousands of people on any one deployment so a 5 minute phone call for every one of them is a strategic undertaking for the command.
Hopefully you will get to have dozens of phone calls, emails, video teleconferences set up by the command team, and even possibly Skype with your Marine. I hope you learn any tricks of the trade (each ship, crew and command is different) very quickly and not at the very end of the deployment. I had Anthony email my text message service on my phone so it was more like texting and I’d get it almost immediately versus an email. After I realized how inconvenient it was to do this I ended up upgrading my phone to a blackberry so that I could get emails and phone calls without delay. Typically what we would do is I’d have to be quick but if I was awake we’d email back and forth. I once found out almost half way through a deployment that through Yahoo there is a video web chat option where the Marines could see us but we couldn’t see them. As weird as it feels to look at a black screen they felt comforted and a little closer to home.
The strong productive wives learn to busy themselves and keep their positive fellow Marine Corps wives around to buy time. Deployments are full of emotional highs and lows and in the family readiness classes you will learn quite a bit about this. Even for seasoned wives at first you will feel inconsolable, rotten and just want to be glued to the floor. Find a source of strength to vent and relate to whether it’s another Marine wife, your dogs, MarineParents.com, Facebook Marine Corps pages or other Marine Corps wives websites. The main trick is after the initial shock and sadness set a goal (re-decorate your house, learn to sew, learn a new language, take a college course, dancing class, cooking/baking class or teach yourself, make a new margarita every night or taste a new wine, learn the different city parks or beaches in the area) but whatever you do just have fun and take everything one day at a time!
 (Cheesecake making for the first time & My new flower garden during a deployment!!! :P)
After a little while your strength will increase and you’ll be able to function outside of the home without succumbing to tears at the first patriotic song that comes on the radio, overly exaggerated newscast, or phone call where someone mentions your Marine’s name. You’ll eventually find yourself in a groove and routine of cleaning, exercising, planning, shopping, kids, dog walking, gardening, wine tasting, cooking and learning new recipes, ect. About a month before he comes home you’re in high spirits and in homecoming mode of banner/sign making, flag buying, fridge stocking and deep cleaning. He gets here and you’re on top of the world in another honeymoon phase and so in love. You realize quickly he can’t load a dishwasher to save his life, he puts the ketchup in the pantry and not the refrigerator, makes insanely huge messes everywhere and doesn’t remember to put the laundry in the dryer but he is back home and ALL YOURS!! So now to create a whole new routine and schedule!  And once again the emotional cycle begins again but it is all worth it because you have your man home and have survived this deployment!

Crystal’s MEU Homecoming…

One of the best things about deployments besides the gifts your Marine gets you is their arrival!! Depending on the type of deployment, the location of their deployment and what base you are stationed at will determine the kind of Homecoming Reception your unit has.
I know that on MEU’s sometimes they let Marines get off the ship at a port close to your location and use their leave time early instead of waiting the extra week or more to make it back to land for the big homecoming. It was a great relief for some to see their heroes early and an exhilarating surprise for others to have their husbands standing outside their door! The Facebook posts from so many wives that weekend were so moving and I melted thinking of how some of these strong, hardened Marines thought of a secret plan to fly home before everyone else and catch their wives off guard with no makeup on, the house a mess, a full load of dishes in the sink and probably a pile of laundry! LOL! Hilarious but yet thoughtful and romantic at the same time!
Some families stay at home and let the Marines drive their own vehicle from their drop off location and choose to not wait for hours on base for their arrival. For our first deployment I wasn’t even in the state myself.  I was unaware of how incredibly amazing the homecomings can be. Not all homecomings have the rolled out carpets and velvet ropes. Not all homecomings the Marines march in together in formation. Not everyone’s experience is the same but at times it is a very surreal, somber, emotional, heartfelt, heartbreaking, and thrilling event which can be an exhausting for the reasons stated above.
One of my particular homecoming though, I was pumped up.  I helped the FRO and families cope & survive during this deployment and I felt like my heart was in the production of helping set up, prepare and assist family members during the waiting game before the busses arrived with the men. Now on the family readiness side we thought we were pretty prepared. We had plenty of coffee makers, ice, balloons, snacks, water, kids’ patriotic paintings, mini flags to line the streets and canopies for families to sit under. This is where the Semper Gumby comes in at. Almost every FRO will have Homecoming Arrival time frames for the family members to go by. As typical Homecomings can be the times we were told were incorrect and the time frames were early by about 5-6 hours. Thankfully, all of the parents and wives I talked to were very patient, understanding and cooperative during this time especially knowing their Marines are so close to being in their arms.
When the busses started to arrive and head towards the armory it was a sight for sore eyes. Unfortunately but expectedly some of the attendees wandered off thinking they’d get to get their men early but all it did was to stall the transition and accountability process. We were about 300 yards away from the armory on a different street.  We were near a BEQ (Bachelor Enlisted Quarters or barracks rooms) and there were Marines walking around in their cami’s all day so we didn’t really even know when or how orderly our Marines would be released from the armory to begin walking our way.
Would they all be marching into the Homecoming location? Marines were pilling about in two and four at a time people were on pins and needles; but was it our Marines? We all stood on our tip toes trying to catch a glimpse of a familiar face since all of these Marines seem to look alike!!
I’ve heard so many stories of ladies who grabbed and hugged the wrong Marine! LOL! Hilarious but I didn’t want it to be me!
Slowly but surely indivdual hugs, tears, screams and jumping commenced; they were on their way! After a long tiring day we eventually all found our Marines and were able to hug for the first time in nearly 7 months! They had all had long and stressful days so all they wanted was to eat some Carl’s Jr. or McDonalds, get a shower and head home.
The best thing about this deployment was it was a MEU & ladies that is where our hard work is repaid in GIFTS!!!! These men have time to shop at ports and bring back the BEST loot! I swear if you need silk sheets, M.A.C. Makeup, jewelry or jewelry boxes, pearls, ect they will be able to find it for pennies on the dollar!
Another deployment down and many more to go in these years to come! My husband had information for me in the next few hours that would change my world forever. Little did he know that I was already aware of the situation but hadn’t come to grips with it just yet…