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.

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Planning Valentines Day for Men

Men can be pretty interesting and irritating creatures. Being that we’re married to the few and the proud makes life even more unpredictable & audacious. Even if he’s deployed you know your man and if he’s outgoing or a home-body hopefully you will be able to relate and utilize some or all of these suggestions to have a passionate Valentines Day! With some creative thinking you may just get some naughty time & fireworks at the end of your special night.

If your man says in his most cynical grumpy voice, “Valentine’s is just another day!” Don’t fall for it! It’s a cop out to not do anything at all. Tell him you’re not renting a helicopter to take you to an island to renew your vows like you’re on a tv show but the day can serve as an opportunity to reconnect with each other. He needs to suck it up!

Do you shop or not shop for him? It’s a huge thing now a days. Homemade means heartfelt. I say that it can be hard to figure out what to get them in general so do whatever you want to do and don’t feel bad for not crocheting a damn thing! Buying for men on any holiday is insane but especially this one since this isn’t the manliest of man days ever. Those little lollipop inserted cards were cute in 2nd grade but what about now?

Thanks to Pinterest “I’ve seen the light” (in my best southern preacher voice) and perfected the art of man-gift giving. For our Marines it isn’t quantity but quality ladies! I got a standing ovation for my Christmas gift buying skills so here are ideas for receiving a standing “O” yourself on V-Day:

Couple time: yes you have to touch him! hold hands, watch the sunset, walk on the beach or set some paper lanterns up (but not in California you’d probably go to jail)

Message/Poem: daily love notes enhance a marriage anyways to fill that “love tank” so on VDay make it spicy or corny but always from the heart

Scavenger hunt/O-Course: make him work for it! He can read instructions when he comes home that will have him seeking out his gifts or you in the end

Music: remember making tapes from the radio? They were so awesomely heartfelt & special. Make him a compilation of love songs to set the mood either on the IPod or a CD.

Food: the way to his heart is through his stomach! Cook/Bake at home or go out but 4 courses will get his attention!

Photos/Boudoir shoot: everyone has a tasteful temptress in them! No granny panties tonight! Check out that ‘skinny ladies’ secret or a normal sized persons lingerie store & buy some lacy items to cover your naughty bits! Do your hair & makeup then strike a pose for your love either before or on V-Day. He’ll never see it coming! (Deployed spouses: clothing is not optional for so many reasons!)

Retail: store bought/homemade doesn’t matter but a nice tactical Fossil watch, gun store gift card, hand sewn one-point sling harness, painted picture frame, mancave signs, truck accessories, ammo, tickets to his favorite team or a surprise trip to the gun range you set up will have him very fired up!

If you run out of time & all else fails, read the steps below and repeat!

Step 1: Make sure to put all phones on vibrate or silent so the mother-in-law/kids/dealership salesman/bill collector/Avon rep/librarian can’t interrupt!

Step 2: Melt some chocolate

Step 3: Meet him at the door with a smile on your face and not much else

Chocolate can make anyone smile!

 

At least my 5 year old son isn’t pregnant…

Last week we had the joy of a visit from the stomach flu. Yikes, my normal bouncing, loud, energetic, hyper, busy (you get it yet?) five year-old turned into barf-a-saurus Rex. To my delight he is the least dramatic barfer I have ever met, merely turning his head to the side, doing his business and the continuing on. The downfall to this is that he doesn’t happen to care where “the side” is, and will throw up on/in anything.

After 12 hours of nothing staying down I realized that dehydration was quickly becoming a threat. Being an emergency medical professional, I know how hard it can be to access care after hours without a visit to the emergency department, so I gave the doc a call and asked for some anti-nausea medication before things got out of hand.

Blessedly, we were quickly ushered into the clinic, where my son informed the doctor he was “fine, just throwing up a lot”. (His definition of “fine” is different than mine.) Doc declared what I suspected: a touch of the stomach flu and ordered the meds to be picked up at the town pharmacy.

Once in the pharmacy I filled out all of our new-patient paperwork and plopped down in the chair with my now-crabby 7 year old and my sickly boy in my lap. The pharmacist said it would be a bit because we were new, he had to call the insurance company to verify coverage. He suggested some ginger loli-pops to settle tummies while we waited, and of course Sickly was thrilled with having “candy” to eat while we waited.

Twenty-minutes later the pharmacist was starting to (loudly) argue with someone on the phone, and then turned to me and asked if I was “certain he didn’t have other health insurance?”

I asked to speak with the insurance company, and before I could even say hello, the woman on the other end of the line informed me that she “didn’t know what kind of game (I) was trying to play, but federal fraud was going to land (me) in prison!” Ummm, yeah. I am not real fond of the idea of rooming with our favorite DIY/homemaker/chef Martha What’s-Her-Name, but I am also pretty sure I haven’t committed any federal crimes lately.

I politely asked this woman what she was talking about, and she informed me that she had “proof” that my son has other health insurance, and that I am running a scam. She continued a lengthy diatribe about “people like you” and my “free” health insurance.

So now I am standing in the pharmacy talking on a phone from 1983 with its twisted-up cord stretched over the counter while this woman accuses me of random federal crimes and my 5 year old sits on my hip and rests his head on my shoulder. Finally I get out her what this “proof” that she has consists of.

Wait for it…

She tells me she has a copy of the statement showing that he used his state medical coupon to pay for his birth control pills, in July.

(About this time he throws up ginger-lollipop down my back.)

I asked her why she thought my 5 year old boy would be on birth control? …She not-so-politely explained that is how she knew I was a fraudster.

I hung up on her, apologized to the pharmacist who was now mopping up the ginger-scented puddle off the floor, and proceeded to pay cash. (Good reason to have an emergency fund, because you never know when your son’s birth control pills will cause a financial crisis.)

While the problem was very quickly resolved the next day, with the assistance of the Federal Recovery Coordinator, I was still rather upset that my family had to experience it. (and there was no “proof” of anything, but rather a rogue employee)

The moral of this story is: Have a back-up plan in place! I will get the money refunded to me by the insurance company, but it was the emergency fund that saved our hide in this case. Even federal health insurance is not bomb-proof, and while CHAMPVA and TriCare are good, they tend to have more problems than the private sector, so be prepared for an uphill battle.

Top 12 Most Supportive Organizations for Military Spouses

MilitaryOneClick’s Top 12 Most Supportive Organizations for Military Spouses
According to MCCS folks at Camp Lejeune, NC
1. Inc. Magazine & the Military Entrepreneurial Program http://www.inc.com/

2. SCORE: http://www.score.org/

3. iRelaunch: https://www.irelaunch.com/

4. MomCentral: http://www.momcentral.com/

5. The Joining Forces Program: http://www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces

6. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers/Congressional Military Family
Caucus: http://mcmorris.house.gov/#dialog

7. The Military Spouse Employment Program:
https://msepjobs.militaryonesource.mil/

8. Military Traveler, LLC: http://miltraveler.com/

9. AnyBill: http://www.anybill.com/

10. Nelson Mullins: http://www.nelsonmullins.com/

11. Hugh Hewitt: http://www.hughhewitt.com/blog

12. Dr. William Bennett and Team: http://www.billbennett.com/

Baby Birth Marine Corps Orders…

I found this and thought it was too cute not to post! It would be super cute framed and put in the baby’s room..For all my moto prego friends..enjoy! LOL!

From: Chief Angel
To: Private (Insert Baby’s Name)
Subj: BIRTH; ORDERS FOR
Ref: (a) NAVMED6320/20

1. In accordance with the reference, you will proceed and report to Naval Hospital in (Camp Pendleton), California for further assignment to (husband’s name and rank) and (wife’s name) herein after referred to as Father and Mother for duty as on.

2. Your duties will include, but not be limited to sleeping, eating, crying, wetting, and being lovable.

3. You will initially report to your Mother at (time of birth) on (date of birth) and will make yourself available as soon as possible for inspection by your Father. Your height and weight limits for reporting for duty are established as (length of the baby) and (weight of the baby)

4. No uniform or baggage is authorized or permitted in your travel to Naval Hospital in Camp Pendleton, California. Initial issue will be made prior to your Mother’s viewing. Supplemental and 782 Gear will be issued at Marine Corps Exchange upon the presentation of these Orders.

5. Upon completion of your temporary duty at Naval Hospital in Camp Pendleton, California you will proceed to your permanent address at (address) for duty.

By Direction

Care Packages during the Holidays

So the time has come to focus on the holidays! Christmas is typically the main event so I wanted to keep it limited to that for now. For my ladies and gentlemen who have loved ones overseas on watch this one is mainly for you. Besides keeping their presents under the tree for months or doing a Christmas in Julys.  What else can you do?

Last two deployments I became known as the ‘Care Package Queen’ because of Gaby.  I sent at least one almost every week or every other week.  It kept me busy, entertained and always thinking of something new to send him. I sent everything from the usual trail mix to specialized items like Covert Thread Socks (www.covertthreads.com) which specializes in every climate kind of socks and undergarments for military and law enforcement imaginable. The thing to do now a days is to completely customize the box inside.  Thanks to websites like Pinterest there is always some new DIY project that would show him how unique and awesomely creative you are!  If you have kiddos don’t forget to get them in on the action! 🙂

The USPS Holiday delivery dates are about to be here so I hope everyone is prepared!

2010 USPS Holiday Timelines
Addressed To                          Express Mail®/ First-Class Mail®/Priority Mail/Parcel Post®
APO/FPO AE ZIPs 090-092  Dec 18/////////////Dec 10/////////////////Dec 10//////////Nov 12
APO/FPO AE ZIP 093           N/A//////////////////Dec 4///////////////////Dec 4////////////Nov 12
APO/FPO AE ZIPs 094-098  Dec 18//////////////Dec 10/////////////////Dec 10//////////Nov 12
APO/FPO AA ZIP 340           Dec 18//////////////Dec 10/////////////////Dec 10//////////Nov 12
APO/FPO AP ZIPs 962-966  Dec 18///////////////Dec 10/////////////////Dec 10//////////Nov 12

This time of year I love MarineParents.com since there is a Care Package Idea for every occasion. Need a way to warm them up, Patriotic theme, Christmas, Birthday, Halloween, Poker Party ideas or anything like that?! Go there! I will put some on here for ideas and I typically brainstorm off of their ideas posted. Some of these items is a given and I sent them more than once and on a pretty regular basis as he needed them. I used an Excel Spreadsheet so I knew what I sent the last time and didn’t send the same thing over and over or if he didn’t need it or like it then I would know not to send it again.

Warm Them Up:
Hot Tamales, flamin’ hot Cheetos, hot sauce, hot nuts, cajun spices, Fritos and Jalapeno Dip, Atomic Fire Balls, Cinnamon Gum, Red Hots, Hot-Flavored Planters Peanuts, Mini bottles of hot sauce, Cinnamon TicTacs, Icy/Hot Sore Muscle Rub, Crystal Lite Iced Tea, Andy Capp Red Hot Fries, Jalapeno Jelly Belly Beans, a Hot Rod magazine and Tums

Cold Season:
some cough drops, kleenex, tea, instant noodle soup, hot chocolate,

Christmas Ideas:
those little Christmas trees that they sell in all of the mail order catalogs (Lillian Vernon, Oriental Trading Company, etc.) that come with their own ornaments, mini Christmas stockings, candy canes, little candy bags of coal (bubble gum ones), the green and red M&Ms for the holidays, an Advent Calendar. There are also little pine trees (about 4″ tall) that have a mineral solution on them. You add water to the little base, and these color mineral salts “grow” on the tree and look like colored snow and decorations. Of course this all depends on where your Marine/Sailor is stationed at because if he is out patrolling in Afghanistan he can’t carry a Christmas tree around with him but if he is on a MEU out in WESTPAC or somewhere then it might be easier for the guys to put up and maintain your holiday decorations.

And my favorite trick of the trade is Cake in a Jar!

CAKE IN A JAR
It’s basically a mini cake inside of a mason jar. It arrives moist and fresh and tasty!
Here’s how to make them: Get wide-mouth canning jars. You can find them at Walmart, other stores, or online. Boil the jars to sterilize.

1 package of cake mix or any cake recipe

1. Make the cake batter according to the instructions or recipe
2. Grease the jar by liberally spraying the inside with cooking spray
3. Fill jar no more than 1/2 way with batter
4. Place jars on cookie sheet on rack in the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean @ 400 degrees
5. While baking, boil jar lids in a pan of water
6. When cake is done, take on jar out at a time and cover with hot lid. Screw on jar ring tightening it slightly
7. The lid will seal as it cools. Listen to hear the “ping” as they seal.
8. As the cake cools, it will pull away from the jar slightly. That’s ok; it just means that it will slide out of the jar easily.
9. DO NOT FROST cake in the jar! Send frosting along.
10. Make sure you wrap the jars well (bubble wrap is preferable, but wadded newspaper or clothing and other items will pad it too)

Don’t forget to include a couple of plastic knives for the frosting and some plastic forks.

Even if you don’t have a Marine or Sailor overseas you can still contribute to their holidays at http://www.carepackageproject.com/sponsor.asp for only $22 or the USO at https://www.uso.org/DonateHolBrandCPDD2010.aspx?src=WH10CPDD10 for only $25. There are so many outstanding organizations who help our Marines and Sailors out there and even ones who are here injured like the Wounded Warrior Project and Semper Fi Funds.

I LOVE this time of year since everything cool is during this month! No seriously, my birthday, my kids’ birthdays, my husbands’ birthday, our anniversary and even my dog’s birthday is ALL in this month (Amber’s is 11/29 but still a Sagittarius lol)! Ladies if your husband is home have fun ordering him around for once and having him hang lights on the roof, get tangled up in the inflatable characters and try figuring out where to plug in all of the extenstion cords.  Deck the halls, sing Christmas carols, volunteer for the elderly or needy and just enjoy the family time together.  Hold your family a little tighter this year because as I’ve said before there are many out there who won’t ever get a chance to do so again. Hope I didn’t miss anything on the list above!

Merry Christmas everyone!

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!