Archives for the month of: December, 2011

SB is home (!) and the adjustment is much harder/weirder than I thought it would be…but more on that later…

I’m sure some of you have probably already read this…but when my mother-in-law showed it to me earlier today, I just loved it and I thought it would be a good, relevant thing to share. It’s a statement (or plea, as The Courier-Mail called it) made by Mark Donaldson. He was awarded our highest honour, the Victoria Cross, in 2009, almost 40 years after the previous one was awarded. I’ve just copied the “plea” from the link above…something to think about this Christmas…

ISN’T it funny how we all start looking forward to Christmas and the holiday break?

We spend the weeks before thinking and planning how we are finally going to do that nagging job around the house or what beer to drink while watching the Boxing Day Test.

Yet it always seems we can never quite enjoy ourselves and that something crops up to dampen our spirits.

The computer crashes and you lose that report that took an hour to write; the car in front just won’t get out of the way; the dog has dug up the garden again. And the kids have made the house look like a pig sty.

The next thing you know it’s Christmas Day and no amount of joy or peace can get you through the hours of the same old stories from Uncle John and the in-laws.

The worst part is just how much more exaggerated the stories become as the day goes on and the level of enjoyment increases.

Before you know it, something that is a fantastic opportunity to spend quality time with those close to you is taken for granted and becomes yet another encumbrance – at least that’s how it is for many of us.

Yet, in far off Afghanistan and for reasons most people don’t understand, there stands a sentinel, in the dirt, mud, snow and slush. The whipping, ice-cold wind trying to cut through their camouflage uniform.

They will stay strong and stoic. They fight under our nation’s flag and, like all our soldiers, will give the Australian people 100 per cent effort in everything they do.

They’ll probably get no ham, bon bons with silly hats and terrible jokes. No afternoon nap on the couch or watching their kids play with their new presents or cool off under the hose.

I can guarantee, however, that at some stage over the Christmas break these soldiers will be on a mission in enemy territory. They will go out on patrol, all the time making sure their mates next to them are safe.

Instead of stepping out for a barbecue, or on to their favourite beach, they will face the ever-present potential of stepping on an improvised explosive device or stopping a bullet with body or limb while in a firefight.

However, don’t feel sorry for them and don’t wish them home. It is their job and it is what they are trained to do – without whingeing, without complaint and without the luxuries. It is just like any other high-pressure job except the consequences are much higher.

They will do their job with courage and integrity. And in true Aussie fashion you’ll be bound to hear them say, “… at least we get a white Christmas”.

Imagine having the family gathered around the table this Christmas. Places at the table are set and everything is just right.

Yet this Christmas is different. There’s an empty seat at the table come lunchtime.

For some that seat would have been filled by a family member who is instead serving overseas.

For others, it marks the place of a loved one who has made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives in service to our nation.

Regardless of what the dog dug up, despite that annoying driver and irrespective of the in-laws’ embarrassing rants and raves, there is one thing we can do this Christmas.

We can spare a thought for them, our defence personnel.

To all our defence personnel and their families, particularly those serving overseas, thank you and merry Christmas.

Advertisements

Hi all…sorry it’s been so long, nothing blog-worthy has been happening and I didn’t want to write something really boring…

Lesson #14 is a less significant one, but it’s still relevant. I’m a really shy person when I first meet people. I like to stay in my comfort zone and I tend to cling (for dear life) to anyone I know at a party; usually this person is my husband. I’m sure you’ve all been in this position before…at a party where you know no one except your partner, so you stay by their side and it makes it easier to make small talk and meet people. Maybe it’s just me that does this, but I haven’t gone to a party (that wasn’t just my friends), without my SB since we got engaged; he’s my security and comfort at functions where I feel awkward and out of place.

As we get closer to Christmas, more and more events pop up. Last week was the first party I’d gone to by myself, and luckily it was a friends party, so I just clung to my bestie (I hope you were ok with that!). I missed SB at last weeks party, and I know we all wish he could have been there, but other than a slightly awkward conversation with some of the birthday boys family, I felt comfortable with just my friends. Today took it a whole step further though…it was my step-father’s family Christmas lunch, eek! As this was the first family event since their engagement last month, my mother convinced me to go meet the family we’re about to combine with. I have already met his lovely parents, but todays lunch featured brothers, aunts, cousins, nephews, etc and I was alone, aside from the few people I’ve already met…daunting!

I wished so much for my husband to hide behind today…but as the lunch went on (and the wine consumption increased), I realised lesson #14…I am going to have to learn to be comfortable on my own, and the art of small talk. Once I got talking to his family, I had a wonderful time, and I know that the next party I have to fly solo for may not have any people that I know.

So as we enter into the holiday party time, and many of you may not have your soldiers with you, I encourage you to take a deep breath and strike up a conversation; you might meet someone great! (and if you don’t, it will be a great story for later!)

How do all of you deal with going to events soldier-less?

a side note…SB comes home tomorrow! yippee! so unless something totally blogable occurs in the next 3 weeks, i’m on “holidays” hehe. i hope those of you with soldiers at home have a wonderful time celebrating together, enjoy every second (as i know i will). and those of you who aren’t able to be with your soldiers, i hope you still have a fantastic holiday and that you celebrate from afar.

Axxxx

I like to research… When we talk about plans of where to move, what pet to get, etc, I always jump straight on the computer and start researching like a crazy person. I like to know what to expect. So, like I said at the beginning, when SB first decided to go into the army I started to research.

I searched and searched but I couldn’t really find much information. So I decided I might as well just ask all of you…I mean you’re the experts, you’ve lived through this; so what follows are just some of the questions I have (the ones I could remember). I know that everyone has different experiences, and there may not be a hard and fast rule regarding these things, I just hope you can give me, and any future rookie wives who read this, an idea of what to expect.

So just share your “answers” below in a comment – anyone can comment – and then readers can refer to those for ‘answers’! Also, this is a post where any of you can ask me questions, and I’ll answer them in a future post. So here it goes…

  1. Is there a minimum/maximum length of deployments? All of my information so far is rumors, and I’ve heard deployments are 8 months long. Is this right? Are they ever shorter/longer?
  2. Is there a min/max length of time between deployments?
  3. Do we know where our soldiers get deployed to? I know there are a lot of things we don’t get to know, I guess I’m wondering what we get to know and what we don’t.
  4. What’s the quality & frequency of skype/webcam conversations? This is probably dependent on hundreds of things, but what have your experiences been with this, and with phone calls for that matter?
  5. Is there a min/max time between postings? I’ve heard (one again rumors) that they don’t move you more than every 3 years?
  6. How much notice do you get about a new posting?
  7. Do removalists pack everything up and move you, or do you have to do it yourself?
  8. What are post houses like? Quality, location, availability, etc?
  9. I see you all discusses bush marches…what are these? How long are they usually? and how frequently do they do them?

So just share your experiences with these things. It would be so great to know a bit more of what to expect. And I would like to be able to share the answers to these questions with other rookies searching for answers, like I was when I started this blog. And by the way…I do realise if I just waited, I would learn the answers eventually, but I’m not that patient, hehe.

So comment away

Axxxx

Bitter

So today I sat down to have my breakfast, and I turned on the TV. This documentary thing about our soldiers in Afghanistan was on. I only caught like the last 5 minutes of it, but I’m not sure I could have handled any more than that. (I think) It followed a company’s tour of Afghanistan, and in the short time I watched, 3 soldiers were killed and a bunch more were injured. It brought this whole Army life to a whole new, tragically real place for me. I began to feel terrified about sending my husband to war. Thoughts like “why did you let him do this”, and “I can’t do this” began to swirl in my head (keeping in mind this is after only FIVE minutes!). I now realise in a way I didn’t previously, that this is not all about time apart, constant moving, or cheaper housing; my husband is going to be a soldier in war time. Scary…very scary. I adore my husband, and today is a day where I feel angry with myself for letting him do this. But I have to suck it up, pray for his safety, and support him, because today is also the day that he told me how much he loves this life, and that he sees himself being a soldier permanently. So I reply with joy to his contentment, and keep my fears to myself.

Sweet

Sweetness does not always come with the bitter, but maybe to a certain extent, sweetness must be sought. Today, instead of completely falling apart with the bitter feelings this morning has brought, I will choose to focus on those that are sweet. Today I got to hear SB’s voice, something that always brightens my day. We never get long, and we really never say much (we just recap what’s happened since we last talk – usually nothing), but hearing his voice is the sweetest of all sweets; although hanging up is always bitter (see, they’re intrinsic!). Today, as I mentioned above, is also the day where SB finally shared his feelings about this life we’ve chosen, and they were so positive! Part of me (the selfish part) was hoping he would have decided that this isn’t really for him and he won’t extend his contract after his required service time…but the part that loves him and wants him to be blissfully happy finds comfort in the fact that he is excited about being a soldier. Today is also the day when the expiration date on the milk is after when SB comes home for the holidays! I’m not sure if anyone else does this, but in our house, whenever there is a date we are looking forward to (or dreading), we get very excited (or nervous) when the date on the milk is on or after that date because we know it’s soon!

I’m sure you all go through bitter-sweet moments, and you all fear for your soldiers at times. I would love to hear some of your experiences with this! So comment away!

Axxxx

I love writing on this blog, and everyday I think “what could I write about today?”, but the last few days I haven’t come up with anything. Since posting how we got here, I’ve realised that if I can’t think of anything interesting to post, not to post at all; because that day I wanted to write and have something to say to you all so badly that I ended up writing something that was soooo boring, I couldn’t even proof-read it!

But I guess we will call this Lesson # 13…because I suppose that I have learnt something new in the last few, boring days…life keeps moving on.

The highlights since my last post have been getting new puppy pictures (SO sweet!), starting to watch Army Wives (highly recommend!), and getting a phone call from SB. I guess maybe I thought boredom would cease once we were in the Army…turns out, it doesn’t! I guess sometime during this week I finally reached the point where the excitement and ‘new-ness’ of this life morphed into normality. I still miss my husband, but I feel much more accustomed to the lack of his presence, and I’m beginning to feel nervous about him coming home for the holidays. This is not to say I’m not excited, I couldn’t be more excited, but I do worry about how we have both changed, and how we will go once we bring our new selves together.

I also think I feel a little bit guilty. I am so fortunate that my soldier is coming home for the holidays. It was an unexpected joy, and I intend on enjoying every last second with him; but I can’t help but think of all of you out there who won’t have your soldier home for Christmas. I am so aware of the fact that this holiday together is a gift, and it may be the last one we spend together for a long time. Nothing is every guaranteed with the Army, and while I hope we will be together next Christmas, I know not to expect it. So to all of you brave women (and men, if any Army husbands are reading), who are missing your soldiers this Christmas, I am thinking of you, and hoping that you will find a way to make this time of year as magical as possible, even though a big part of your family is not here to share in it with you.

So basically, this was a quick post just to remind you all that I’m still here, still blogging, and still loving my soldier.

I would love to hear how all of you wives have dealt with, or are dealing with, holidays away from your soldiers, so comment away!

Merry Christmas!

A****

I have received a few negative comments over the last few days…and while I don’t expect everyone to agree with me all of the time, I fear that the point of this blog may be misunderstood. Even though I have written ‘disclaimers’ in almost every post, (almost to the point of redundancy), I think maybe I need to address some of these things again…

It seems that some readers feel that I am presenting myself as an ‘expert’, or that I’m telling other’s how to be an Army Wife. This could not be farther from the truth! If it helps…think of this blog as a ‘note-to-self’. My “lessons” are certainly not meant to be from me to you…they are things that I am learning during this journey. I wanted to start this blog right from the beginning; to document everything, and in the end it’s for me. This is basically my journal, I just chose to publish it. At the end of the day I have to decide whether I want to write for myself, or for others…and I have decided that I need to be true to my own journey, my own learning curve, and just honestly document this whole thing from day 1.

As for concerns about the difficulty of my life as compared to other Army Wives, of course mine is less. I don’t feel that I have ever tried to claim that my life is harder, or for that matter, easier, than anyone elses. I honestly don’t see it as a competition-of-agony. I guess I kind of thought that as an Army Wife, or as any mature, empathetic human being, we should recognise that no-one will ever be in the exact same position as us, but that we support and encourage each other anyway. I don’t feel like I should have to earn my status as an Army Wife. Sure I may not have children, and my husband might not have marched out yet, but he’s still gone, and I’ve still signed my life to the Army just the same. I have never claimed to know everything, I don’t claim to understand the heartbreak you seasoned Army Wives have endured time and time again, but that’s the point of this blog. This blog is documenting my learning process; I am not presenting it as everyone’s must-have manual for being an Army Wife.

Another issue was had with Lesson #11. I did not mean it to be flippant. I didn’t even mean for it to sound like a complaint that I had to decide about the dog while SB was away. Of course I know that there are MUCH larger things that need to be decided by you while your husbands are away. I really did not mean any offence with this post…I was trying to make it a light, amusing one after the previous one. This was simply the first time I had to decide something more than what to have for dinner without SB and I realised it would not be the last…therefore it seemed like a perfect lesson to me.

In the end, I am sorry if I offend people. I will never be able to make everyone happy; we all have a very large range of very strong opinions and I think everyone should feel free to share theirs. I do however feel it is important to defend myself and state, once more, that I know I am not an expert, I know I have it easier than a lot of people at the moment, I know that I’ve only been an Army Wife for “five minutes”, and that everything I say on this blog is simply my own opinion. Ultimately, no one is forced to read this blog; I hope those that do so, enjoy it, and share their opinions in a constructive, respectful way, because I love hearing what you have to say! I just don’t want to have to defend myself or justify my legitimacy every time.

I do want to thank the readers that have provided encouragement. This is so important in anyone’s life, and I appreciate it so much. I hope that I can offer the same pick-me-up when you need it.

A****

I thought I would give a bit of background about how we got here to this Army life.

I grew up in the States, and SB grew up here. After moving to Australia following my parents divorce (my mum’s an Aussie), I started high school in Brisbane. That’s where I met SB. We became best friends and supported each other through many difficult things throughout 11th & 12th grade. Then the summer after we graduated, both of our high school relationships ended and we began to make the change from loving each other to being in love with each other.

That’s such an exciting time when you’re falling in love, and we fell hard. We were digusting! haha mushy text messages, Facebook statuses, phone calls, you name it. As our puppy love grew into something more comfortable, genuine and concrete, we realised that we didn’t envision an end to our happiness; so we decided to get married. We were young, but we were best friends, and we knew that that was as good a foundation as any; marriage is going to be a challenge no matter what age you are, but we accept that and we try to move through our struggles together.

After a year long engagement, we finally got married on the beach. The wedding itself was nice, but my favourite part is really just being married! So anyway…how we ended up in the army…

Before we even got married the Army became an option. My man is extremely talented, intelligent, fast, athletic, and adventurous and it seemed like a path that would lead to a fulfilling career for him. So I went along with his plans and he began the LONG process of joining the Army. All the medicals, interviews, psych tests, physical tests, etc finally led us to an interview for the job he really wanted. Unfortunately his age disqualified him, and we pretty much decided that we were done. We had been chasing the Army, putting our lives on hold and such, for just over a year and we were ready to just move on. Then about a month later he got a call…there was a job in a related field and training started in 3 weeks…did he want it? We didn’t really do much debating; it was what he wanted, so I said yes, lets go for it; and here we have it…my husband’s a soldier now, and I’m learning to be an Army Wife.

Sorry, this was a really boring post, but I’ve been working nights…so I’m too tired to come up with something more thrilling.

I would love to hear how all of you met your soldier boys?

Axxxx

Update: after some negative comments, I just want to state that the following post is not a complaint. The lesson learnt is that decisions will need to be made while our soldiers are away, I simply learnt this lesson through this decision. I am in no way trying to say that this decision was huge, or comparable to decisions other wives have to make in regards to children etc…it’s just an example.

So those of you that are still with me after the most recent, controversial post; here’s one that’s just a bit of fun.

As you all know, SB is at basic training at the moment…now I’m not sure what it will be like in future deployments and such, but I only get a phone call like once a week? So far I’ve gotten one twice a week, but I feel lucky every time the phone rings, because I know there will be times when we don’t get to talk.

Anyway…so this week I needed to make a decision, a rather large one, without my husbands input. It’s not that I didn’t want his opinion, I just had to move fast. My Aunt and Uncle decided to get a labrador puppy, and after seeing their photos and videos of their prospective pups, I realised just what is missing from my life…a puppy! So I decided to steal my A&U’s thunder and jump on the bandwagon.

Now I really wanted to ask SB if he was ok with this new addition, so I tried to hold off on finding a breeder and such (I really did!), but when he didn’t call on wednesday (like he did the previous 2 weeks), I couldn’t be patient any longer (even though I had only decided to get one the previous evening haha). I’m not a patient person. Once I decide I want something, nothing gets in my way. So I started researching breeders, and I found one that is PERFECT! The timing of when my baby will come home is perfect, the way she raises her puppies is perfect, and she also loves Star Wars! This one is important because we are Star Wars lovers in this house, and our ‘son’ is going to be named ‘Lando Calrissian’. For those of you that don’t know…

 this is Lando Calrissian.

This is who we are naming our chocolate labrador after…read into it what you will.

So I decided that I wanted this puppy, for good reason, and unfortunately SB was not going to be able to participate in every decision that’s going to need to be made during this whole Army process. It was time to suck it up and decide something on my own, for this family. So I contacted the breeder and put a deposit on a chocolate baby boy, and I booked him in for puppy school with my Aunt and her baby (Lando’s cousin).

So here they are…my baby is either going to be the one with the cream collar on the left, the orange one being used as a pillow by his sisters, or the blue one hiding at the back!

Anyway…what are some decisions you’ve had to make while your soldiers are away?

Axxxx

This post may ruffle some feathers. There are two VERY different opinions about this, and this post is not intended to change anyones mind or belittle those who do not agree with me. This is MY opinion, purely, and I respect, and would love to hear your own opinions about this. Now that that disclaimer is out of the way, a bit of background…

I told you in my first post that I searched for blogs when we first decided this was the path we were going to take…well I came across To Love a Solder, written by this amazing wife of an American Soldier, Megan (I secretly strive to be like her! hehe). You should check out her blog, it’s amazing; start from the beginning, it is heartbreaking, insightful, and uplifting. Anyway, so the point…this one post of hers REALLY got to me. It has given me a whole new way of looking at things and I think it is a HUGE part of what helps me stay positive when I could just as easily curl up in a ball and hibernate until SB come home. So what is this ‘motto’ that I disagree with? Well if you didn’t immediately link to Megan’s post, it’s “Army Wife – toughest job in the Army”.

Let me just once again state that my opinion is simply that; an opinion (eek! I can practically hear some of you yelling at me through the screen in disagreement about the statement I just made)

Now while Megan’s post really focuses on children, mine is a bit more self centred because I don’t have children yet. So if you do, I HIGHLY recommend reading hers as it has more to offer than I do. Anyway…so I disagree, I do not believe that being an Army Wife is the toughest job in the Army. I’m not saying that it is not awful at times. I ACHE with the immensity of how much I miss my husband, if not constantly, a considerable majority of my day. But here is the difference, I’m home, I’m here in my comfort zone, with my family and friends, living a normal, free life.

My husband, as far as I can tell from the VERY limited contact we have at the moment, is told what to do, when to do it and EXACTLY the way in which it should be done. And it’s not as if he’s asked politely, it is an order, usually being screamed at him. He is on edge, at all times. He is lonely, he is exhausted, and he is CONSTANTLY on edge physically and emotionally.  He is being broken and pushed to his absolute limits, all while being away from his support system; and this is just at basic training. He doesn’t even have to worry about his life being in danger at this point. Once deployment happens he will have the stress of watching his own backs and the backs of his Army brothers.

This brings me to what I do all day…besides looking at my phone every 5 minutes, I write this blog (which really is incredibly therapeutic), research my puppy (yippee! more about him later),  go to work, and do uni (although it’s holidays at the moment), but mostly I watch TV. yes…that is pathetic. I sit for hours at a time watching crappy TV shows, I guess you could call it my coping mechanism (sounds a bit better than just calling me lazy, hehe). I also don’t have to miss out on anything. At this point I’m still in Brisbane, with all our friends and family, and he is missing every single family dinner, birthday parties, and maybe even a wedding (hopefully not, fingers crossed), but I’m not. I get to go to these things, all of them; I don’t have to miss out, so how is that harder for me?

Now it may be different once you have kids; I’ll keep you posted; but I’m not sure I could say that my experience is harder than his, I personally feel there is no comparison. He is giving up his freedom, and breaking his back and spirit, for me, and I’m watching episodes of The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Doesn’t really seem comparable to me?

So now to the part about how this helps me stay positive…when I am missing my SB and feeling like I just want to sulk and feel sorry for myself, I always remember Megans post. I always say to myself…”suck it up Alice, you’re sitting here sulking in front of your giant, fancy Mac computer, watching horribly-good tv, eating anything you may feel like, talking to your friends and family whenever you want. Yes you miss your man, but this is not a hardship worth shutting down for, so pull your s*** together!” (yes, it’s quite a long pep talk). Because at the end of the day, I am sleeping when I want, eating what I want, doing what I want, going where I want, and seeing who I want, and he isn’t.

And that is why I disagree…our job is not tougher and I think acknowledging this (if you choose to feel this way as well), is uplifting not only to yourself, but also to your partner.

And that is the end of this controversial post, I hope you all made it through without wanting to throttle me! I would LOVE to hear your own opinions about this.

I just want to finish this with a thank you to Megan for being brave enough to share her experiences with the world and for giving me something that I cling to on days I want to hibernate.

Axxxx

Wow! I am so amazed by the response to this blog! When I first found out we were joining the Army, and I started looking for blogs (see the first post here), all I could really find was some Facebook groups. I joined some, and  I started reading all the things the other wives were posting. I’ll be honest, I was sooooo intimidated! All the wives had so much experience, and knew all this lingo (I still don’t know ANY of the lingo, but I’m sure SB will teach me when he gets home); they just seemed so put together and sure of themselves and such. I want to be like these women, so confident, upbeat, and ‘together’ about their lives, and that is what these ‘lessons’ are for; to get me to a place where I am the best Army Wife I can be.

So anyway (gee I ramble a lot! hehe)…I posted a link to my blog on my Facebook and my friends and family read it and liked it and that was great, but the real test was what these Army Wives I admire so much would think! I was sooooo nervous, but I decided to post a link to the blog on this Army WAGS Facebook page. As I sat here debating whether I had made the right decision or not, comments started to appear, and they were positive ones! I was thrilled! I guess I had expected outrage. This is their lives, a life that they have all lived for longer than I have, it’s not as if anything I say is news to them, and I imagined that reactions would be driven by a sense that their ‘territory’ was being invaded. I feel that had they had this opinion, it would have been valid; I really don’t know what I’m talking about, and I know how annoying it can be to have someone talk about something that is familiar to you, when they themselves know nothing about it.  I had expected Army Wives to run after me with flaming torches and pitchforks for daring to speak of something I so clearly am new to. But they didn’t, they thanked me for bringing back memories of their own Army beginnings, and shared their own stories. Then the most amazing thing happened! This one wife came up with the idea to start a Facebook group where Army Wives can share their own ‘lessons’! At first I was going to say I didn’t have the time, but then I thought, ‘how much time can it really take, and what a great idea!”, so I started the page, and WOW! In less than a day 53 WAGS have joined (at the time of posting)!

It’s incredible to me that something I started, just basically as a way to keep track of this significant time in our life/marriage, is impacting other people! I did not expect this, but I did hope (see Lesson #10) that this blog would help to make Army wives feel a little less alone, and a little bit more comfortable with what to expect (or I guess I should say ‘hope for’ to stay consistent). I also hoped that it would give ‘civilians’ an insight into what our life is really like, so that maybe, just maybe, one of those insensitive people we’ve all encountered (I know you have because you’ve been sharing them all day on Facebook!) will think twice before calling our husbands selfish, or telling us the time has gone fast. I feel privileged, encouraged, and strengthened by the fact that by blogging my own experiences I have helped (even in a small way) these amazing women feel better.

Axxxx

I’d love to hear your own Army Wife Lessons, so join the Facebook Page, or comment below!

Update 15/08/13: The Facebook page was shut down a while ago, it wasn’t really being used. There are defence support groups all over Facebook though 🙂