It’s the moment when they take the bed out of the room that you know it’s all over.

A few years back, my youngest kid went to college. And I was a nervous wreck about it all. As proud as I was that he was “all grown up,” I hated that those childhood years were behind him. Behind me. Me. Yes, it’s me everyone should be thinking about. The mother.

When he left for school, his room stayed pretty much the same. The closet still held his yearbooks, basketball trophies, and the clothes he’d outgrown years ago were still squeezed between his Varsity jacket and lone black suit. The room was still a bedroom — with a bed, dresser, desk. It was still his bedroom. And that made the leaving part so much easier.

And now, in just two days, that bed will be packed into a U-Haul and carted off to Alabama. Five hours away.

When I tell people my son is moving away, I get a lot of “Wow, that’s exciting…what an adventure.” What I want them to say is this: “Oh my God, I can’t believe he’s moving so far away.” Yea, again, it’s all about me, right? And yes, I’m excited for him. I am. As the youngest of four, he wants to fly. Be on his own. Start his own life. I get it. He’s got this. But I’m also nervous. And, yes, I’m sad. I’m really just kind of sad that it’s really happening.

I wrote in his journal last night. The journal I’d been writing in since he was a toddler. (Sorry, I guess I should have warned you from the get-go that this is going to be a sappy post. I will understand if you stop reading here — especially if you’re a mother. I hear ya.) So, yes, he’ll be taking that journal with him when he leaves. That last entry was a tough one. Went through an entire roll of toilet paper as I filled the pages with all kinds of motherly advice:

  1. “Change your sheets every week.”
  2. “Use baking soda to absorb odors in your fridge.”
  3. “Buy a fire extinguisher.”
  4. “Brush your teeth.”
  5. “Call your mother. Once a week, at least.”
  6. “Text as often as you like, but call.”

I scribbled and scribbled, madly gathering life’s questions and making sure I’ve told him everything he needed to know. Though I know I’ve been preparing him for this moment his entire life, why does it feel like I’ve missed something?

He’ll figure it out, I know. On his own. It’s how it’s supposed to be–even if it does suck for me, the mother.

My own mother arrives in town for a visit on Wednesday. How serendipitous is that, eh? As I sit here thinking of my son being so far away from me, it does make me think of how I just up and left all those years ago. I moved to an entirely different country without giving a single thought of how my mother felt about it. I never even asked her what she thought of the idea. I was a “grown up” capable of making my own life decisions. I didn’t really consider the fact that other people would be impacted by my decision to move away.

Yea, feeling a little selfish now.

[Insert full circle moment here]

As I reflect on my own decision to move away from home–as sad as I know it probably made my mother feel–I know I would do it all over again. It was my journey to take and no one was going to talk me out of it. I guess my mother knew that. She understood it. Her journey to independence began when she left home at the mere 18 years old. She packed her bags and moved across the country, from Newfoundland to Ontario. I’m sure her mother, my grandmother, was sad to see her go — and yet excited that she was beginning a new life.

So my son has his own journey to take, now. It’s his turn and the greatest gift I could give him is to let go and place my trust in him. I’m trying. I really am.

I will be fine (in case you wondered, since it’s really all about me). Just not today.

Repeat after me, “It’s a beginning, not an end. It’s a beginning, not an end.”

This week is going to serve up some life lesson shit. I can just feel it.

This article was originally published on Gwen’s blog, Eat Drinkn Play. Featured image via.

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Several new moms have entered my life recently, so I’ve been revisiting my list of things I wish I’d known before I became a mom. You can never truly prepare for everything that’s coming, but I think it helps to be aware of realities that may peep over the horizon.

Here are some of those realities, in no particular order:

1) Cutting your baby’s fingernails for the first time is one of the scariest things you’ll ever do.

And after that, it’s pretty much a full-time job until they’re old enough to do it themselves. I wish I was exaggerating.

It also doesn’t get any easier with subsequent kids. I thought I knew what I was doing with our second baby and drew blood the first time I cut her nails. With our third, I gave up the clippers and just tore them off during the newborn phase. Sometimes asking the question, “What would a mom living in a tent in the Outback do?” helps to simplify things.

2) You will be up close and personal with someone else’s bodily functions—on a daily basis—for years on end.

Assuming you have more than one child and space them 1 to 4 years apart, you will literally wipe butts more times than you can count. Pee and poop. Poop and pee. Every single day. You might be saying, “DUH, Annie,” but you really should consciously prepare yourself for this reality. Motherhood is not glamorous.

You’ll know you’ve officially been initiated into motherhood when you have to carry the entire car seat—baby included—into the bathtub, peel layer after poopy layer off your child, and hose the whole business down while trying not to heave. Or when your child wakes up at 2:00 a.m. with a tummy ache, and while you’re feeling for a fever, the little darling suddenly pukes down the front of your pajamas. No, no glamour at all here.

3) The word “Mama” can be the sweetest sound you’ll ever hear.

It can also make you want to poke your eyes out with a crochet hook. We mothers look for those first discernible babbles, that first verbal recognition, with rapt anticipation. When your baby finally gazes at you and says, “Mama,” it just takes your breath away. Treasure that moment, because in four years when you’re trying to drive through traffic or talk on the phone, you’ll do so with the incessant, whining chirp of, “Mama, Mama, Mama!” ringing through your ears, over and over and over again.

Just hide the crochet hooks during those years, and you’ll be fine.

4) You will never sleep soundly again.

Well, maybe not never, but for at least a decade or two. Everyone expects sleep deprivation during the newborn phase, but even after your baby starts sleeping through the night (which, in my experience, happens around three months for about three weeks and then goes to pot once teething starts) you won’t sleep the same as you did pre-kids.

Any noise you hear could be one of them needing you. Your kid might be going through a phase of nightmares or insomnia, or he has a cold so he can’t breathe. Or, maybe the kids are all sleeping fine, but you’re worried about their health/behavior/development/schooling/etc. Or maybe you just want to treasure the time you have while they’re asleep, so you stay up way too late, only to be woken up at the butt crack of dawn by a kid sticking her fingers in your face and asking for cereal.

Whatever the reason, your sleep will never be the same, so don’t fight it. The good news is, by the second or third kid, you’ll get so used to being sleep deprived, you’ll hardly notice it anymore.

5) You will share all of your children’s joy and pain.

The intense love you have for your children will result in an intense amount of empathy. You will feel every hurt your children feel, from skinned knees to broken hearts. And you will rejoice in every one of their triumphs, from rolling over to tying their shoes for the first time. The connection between their emotions and yours can sometimes be overwhelming. And I’m told by moms with grown children that this doesn’t end. Ever.

6) You will never hear about a child being kidnapped or killed without feeling like someone has kicked you square in the stomach.

I remember watching an Oprah show about child abduction when my first baby was a week old. It was my first “mama bear” moment—the one where I knew with every fiber of my being that I’d step in front of a train without a moment’s hesitation if I knew it would protect my child. I was blown over by the force of it.

I had a similar reaction with my third baby when I realized that, as a boy, in 18 years he could be drafted and sent off to war. I believe my exact internal words were, “Over my dead body.” And I meant it literally. If someone wants to send my beautiful, sweet baby boy whom I’ve spent 18 or 20 years loving, teaching, and nurturing into a war zone to experience unimaginable atrocities, they’ll have to do it over my dead body. The instinct to protect is fierce.

7) There may be moments—brief, but frightening moments—where you can understand how child abuse happens.

While the instinct to protect is fierce, certain circumstances can push your instincts to the brink. Your baby is colicky, you haven’t slept in days, you’re hormones are all out of whack, you’re trying to comfort a screaming child, and for an ever-so-brief moment you feel like shaking them or tossing them across the room. It’s awful, but it’s true. If you’ve never had a moment like that as a mom, count yourself lucky.

My mom told me about her own brief new mom moment when her instinct was to chuck my brother out the window when he wouldn’t stop crying, and I was so grateful to know that it was normal. My mom is incredibly gentle and even-keeled, and about as far from abusive as you can imagine. If she could get pushed to the brink, anyone could. I’m not talking full-on postpartum depression or psychosis. Just flickering moments when terrible thoughts flash through your psyche.

Later, your toddler might be screaming uncontrollably at the worst possible time, or your six-year-old might be whining relentlessly, and for a brief moment you just want to slap them. It’s hard for me to even write that, because it goes so completely against my normal instincts. But there are moments. Everyone has them. Be aware of them and let them pass, and don’t beat yourself up. Thinking about it and actually doing it are two very different things.

8) You will always love your children, but you may not always like them.

There will be phases your kids go through—irritating, obnoxious, rude, dramatic, moody phases—where they ride your last nerve. And you’ll feel guilty and wonder what you’ve done wrong. And then the phase will pass and you’ll wonder how you ever felt any negativity toward them.

This is hard to imagine when you have a baby or a toddler. Babies start out cute, and they just get cuter and cuter until you can’t stand it and think you might explode from their adorableness. And then they turn three. And then four. And oh, seven can be a doozy. But these are just phases, and with patience and a little decent parenting, they pass.

9) Whatever good behavior you think your kids have mastered, expect to have to re-teach it again, and again, and again.

I remember being so proud of how polite my first kid was at age three. Please, thank you, excuse me – she was the poster child of courtesy. If she had it down pat at three, surely I could check that off my parenting to-do list, right? HA!

There’s a reason it takes 18 or so years to raise a child. And it makes sense that they’ll have setbacks, when you think about it. They go through phases and grow and change and have to adapt what they know to the stage they’re in now. Learning the art of the “gentle reminder” and being prepared to use it often will save you much frustration.

10) Your kids will change constantly, from their very first day out of the womb.

And you’ll change right along with them. Motherhood will keep you on your toes. As soon as you start to think you’ve got a handle on things, your kids will enter a whole new phase, or do something totally unexpected and awesome, or do something totally unexpected and atrocious, and you’ll have to re-figure out parenting all over again.

And you’ll find your own identity constantly on its toes as well. Your life and your purpose are no longer yours alone. Each baby brings with them their own life’s purpose, their own blessings, and their own destiny—all of which become intricately woven into your own.

You might worry about “losing yourself” in motherhood. But it’s important to recognize that on some very fundamental levels you’re never going to be the same person you were pre-kids. And that’s not a bad thing. You will get lost in motherhood, and it’ll be scary and disorienting and painful sometimes. But in the process you’ll discover a stronger, wiser, tougher, softer, realer version of yourself. Just give it time.

Welcome to Motherhood, new Mamas. It’s a wild and wonderful place to be.

This post was originally featured on Annie Reneau’s blog, Motherhood and More. Featured image via.

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Lorelai Gilmore is not only one of the best TV characters of all time, but she’s insanely relatable to single moms everywhere.

Here is a day in the life of a single mom, as told by Lorelai GIFs. May she forever reign as one of our TV mom heroes.

1. When one coffee in the morning just isn’t going to cut it.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Lorelai Coffee IV

Pump that sh*t right into our veins. 

2. When you realize you actually have time for a shower.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Lorelai Gilmore

The first shower in days, might we add.

3. When your kid is having a temper tantrum because they don’t want to go to school.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Lorelai Gilmore

And of course this temper tantrum is going to cause you to be late to work.

4. And then you are late to work and your boss spots you pulling in.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Lorelai Gilmore

How do they always know?

5. When you take a call from your kid’s teacher and your coworkers throw you dirty looks.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Lorelai Gilmore

Guess how much we don’t care?

6. When it’s not even 10am but you already need that fifth cup of coffee.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Lorelai Gilmore

It’s exhausting being both mom and dad, and coffee is the only one who truly understands. Coffee=life.

7. When your annoying coworker asks you the same question, again. 

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Lorelai Gilmore

We’re trying really hard to hide the steam coming out of our ears.

8. When your kids ask you why you’re so tired and you tell them you feel like death.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Lorelai Gilmore

We’re too tired to explain how actually tired we really are. How many times have we said tired in that sentence? SOMEONE GET US A NAP, PLEASE.

9. When it’s finally the appropriate time to enjoy adult libations.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Lorelai Gilmore

This is honestly the only necessary beverage besides coffee.

10. When you’re too tired to cook and the universe punishes you for it.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Lorelai Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Lorelai Gilmore

No one has to know about this…

11. When your day has been so long that you just give into the sweet tooth.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-LorelaiFelicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Lorelai Gilmore

These are words we live by.

12. When your kids refuse to help you do the dishes.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Lorelai Gilmore

And we’re about two seconds away from losing our sh*t.

13. When your kid has a meltdown because they don’t want to take a bath, they and act like it’s the end of the world.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Lorelai Gilmore

Just serving up some of that realness for dessert. They need a little perspective.

14. When you bestow your motherly wisdom onto your child because they’re upset.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Lorelai Gilmore

Because honestly, sometimes that is the best medicine.

15. And finally, when your kid surprises you by not being a little brat.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Lorelai Gilmore

Lorelai Gilmore totally gets us, and we love her for it.

Featured image via. GIFs via 1| 23| 4| 5| 6| 7| 8| 9| 10 | 11| 12| 13| 14| 15 

When Philippe Morgese found himself as a single dad to his daughter, she was just a year old, and styling her hair was pretty simple.

But as Emma grew, so did her hair. Morgese quickly realized that simple hair clips just didn’t cut it. He started giving Emma adorable pigtails.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Pigtails

via.

Pretty soon Emma had a straight-up full of head of hair, and Morgese knew he had to learn more complex hairstyles such as braiding.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Braids

via.

Look at those braids! This dad is seriously talented. Other people and parents quickly began to notice Moregese’s talent.

Over time, Morgese began to get many compliments on Emma’s hair. He also received inquiries from other dads, asking him for advice on how to do hair themselves. (via)

Eventually, Morgese realized other dads could really benefit from learning how to do their daughter’s hair. It not only made him feel great as a father, but it instilled confidence in him as a single parent. It’s important for fathers to know things like how to do their daughters hair, because it brings them closer to their child.

“I get a lot of credit for doing her hair and hear compliments about my role as a father because of it,” he said. “I want other dads to be able to experience that.”

So, Morgese reached out to a local beauty school,International Academy, and asked them if they would provide a space for free for the class. He said he wasn’t sure what response he would get, but they thought it was a great idea. (via)

The turn out for Morgese’s class was awesome. Seven dads and daughters were a part of it, and all  had an amazing experience.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Dad Hair Class

via.

Morgese said he was so happy with how it turned out, he decided to share photos of the event on Reddit to hopefully inspire others.

Now, Morgese said he plans on holding more classes, and even started a Facebook page for them, which he calls the Daddy Daughter Hair Factory. (via)

We love seeing fathers step up and take initiative with their daughters! Even for fathers who are in a two parents household, this is important! How much stress would it relieve us moms to have our husband take on some parenting duties like braiding hair or picking out clothes? We love it.

For the full article on Morgese and his daddy-daughter braiding skills, check out BuzzFeed.com.

Featured image via.

This post is brought to you by And So It Goes, starring Diane Keaton and Michael Douglas. Now available on Digital HD and on DVD and Blu-Ray.

There is a really big difference between dating in your teens or in college and dating when you’re all grown up and have kids of your own. But as it turns out, having kids can give you a pretty interesting perspective on dating.

Who knew kids could teach you so much? Well, And So It Goes‘ Oren Little (Michael Douglas) could probably tell you a thing or two about all that having a kid around can teach you.

Here are 9 things we can learn about dating from our kids.

1.) Persistence is important.


(via)
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

2.) Don’t be shy


(via)
Want something? Go after it!

3.) Just Google it. 


(via)
Kids google just about everything new in their lives.  This may be borderline creepy, but you probably should know if you’re dating a sex offender.

4.) Don’t underestimate the power of stuffed animals.


(via) 

Sometimes a day at an amusement park is just what you need to bring out the kid in you. See how Oren Little (Michael Douglas) wins the heart of Leah (Diane Keaton) in And So It Goes.

5.) It’s okay to say no.


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If you’re not feeling it, no big deal! You don’t need to waste your time on someone who isn’t worth it.

6.) Be prepared to fight for what you want.


(via)
Anything (or anyone) worth having is worth fighting for!

7.) Go photo crazy.


(via)
Kids these days take about a thousand photos before choosing one to upload online. Before uploading your dating profile photo online or sending your new beau a pic, take as many as you need until you nail it.

8.) Don’t be afraid to try new things. 


(via)
Take this however you wish.

9.) Stop caring what other people think.


(via)
Want to find someone who loves you for you? Be yourself!

This post is brought to you by And So It Goes, starring Diane Keaton and Michael Douglas. Now available on Digital HD and on DVD and Blu-Ray. And So It Goes is rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.a

When I last wrote to you about my husband’s deployment, I was a sad sack of something.

There was a lot of crying and a disproportionate amount of eating ice cream (scratch that, it was Häagen Dazs Gelato, specifically their sea salt caramel gelato, which, in my book, is the frozen dairy nectar or the gods).

Now a month has passed and my outlook is a bit different, although I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t still sad at times, or that I kicked my therapeutic gelato habit (I haven’t).

Things have settled into somewhat of a routine, and routine is what I believe is essential for surviving a deployment, whether it’s your first, or fifteenth (god, please tell me you haven’t had to go through fifteen full-fledged deployments. That just sucks).

A few days after my husband deployed I received my first phone call from him.

Of course, due to Murphy’s Law, I also missed that phone call, because I forgot to never screen phone numbers during deployment, and when a strange number appeared on my iPhone screen, I promptly hit “deny.”

Before I listened to the voicemail, I knew I had just missed a call from my dear hubby. I
whispered “no, no,no” as I clicked the little play button and heard him speak to me.

“Hey sweetheart, I just wanted to give you a call, just to see how things are going. I’ll try again later, uh, I don’t know what time,
there’s a time difference with us now. I don’t want you waiting for the phone, I know how if I say I’ll call and I don’t, that’s not good [he knows me so well]. So please don’t wait up, I’ll call back  if I get a chance. It took me awhile to dial out, it was just busy. Connectivity is slow. But I just wanted to touch base with you. I hope things are going well. I love you, and I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

I. Felt. Horrible.

Luckily, my husband DID call back, about an hour later, and we got to spend ten beautiful minutes on the phone together. My husband is a shy man, and when people walked past him, he stopped speaking, afraid someone might overhear our conversation. I teased him on the other end: “glad we aren’t having phone sex and just talking about the kids, because you’d really be embarrassed then.”

READ MORE: Deployment Diary: He’s Gone.

Missing his first call sent me down memory lane, recalling the list of other things you don’t do during deployment:

1.) Don’t delete emails your spouse sends you.

It doesn’t matter how full your inbox is, just make a folder and keep every single reply/new message etc. Even the ones that say: “please send wet wipes.”

2.) Don’t leave your phone, not even for a minute.

Buy a Velcro strap and keep that thing on your body at all times. When showering, stick your phone in a resealable plastic baggy and make sure the ringer is all the way up. If you don’t, your spouse is guaranteed to call one minute after you walk away, and you are guaranteed to not hear your ringtone.

3.) Don’t leave certain chores for your spouse to do. 

Like clean the car or the  litter box (he was so good at both of those) because they won’t get done, and your house will stink, and your car will look horrible.

4.) Don’t listen to love songs, or watch romantic movies.

It will make you feel lonely and sad. Trust me.

5.) Don’t tell people it’s your anniversary.

Because when they say “happy anniversary” it will feel like a gut-punch and make you sad. Subsequently, try to avoid looking at all your wedding-day photos. That has the same unpleasant effect.

6.) Don’t expect deployment pay to kick in right away.

We get a tiny increase in our pay during deployment, but before that happens, the fine folks who handle our paychecks are more apt to pull (all) the deductions (your spouse has to eat and that isn’t free) which will leave you with far less pay than normal. Don’t worry, by month 2 it should all be settled. Just skip breakfast (and maybe lunch) for awhile and you’ll make ends meet.

7.) Don’t hesitate to call the doctor and let them know you’re emotionally unstable/anxious/having a hard time coping.

I’m not joking. There’s a reason military clinics/hospitals have a question on their sign-in forms: “Is this deployment related?” Yes. Yes, it is.

8.) Don’t expect your kids to be nice to you just because dad/mom is deployed.

They’re dealing with loss too, and since they’re not old enough to handle those emotions, they may (and probably will) lash out at you.

9.) Don’t forget to fill out a customs form every time you send a package to your deployed spouse. 

I forgot. I had to leave the line, go fill out the form and get back in line. There went 30 minutes of my life I could have saved by remembering this detail.

10.) Don’t be mad at your family/friends who aren’t as sympathetic as you’d hoped they be.

They have no idea what you’re going through, and unless you’re posting/tweeting depressing “I miss my deployed spouse” updates on the daily, they probably don’t know how sad/lonely you are right now.

11.) Don’t be depressing when your spouse calls you.

They are already away from home and have to work every single day in difficult conditions. Let them feel a little happiness when they connect with you, so they don’t have to add more worry to their already full plates.

There are more “don’ts,” like, don’t watch the international news (it only makes things worse), and don’t stop living your life, although, normally it takes us awhile to readjust to living solo and on the interim, nothing feels better than cozying up in bed with soft sheets, a box of tissues, and your sorrow.

Now, there are also plenty of deployment “dos,” too. Here are just a few of my favorites:

1.) Do get out of the house (with your phone attached to you at all times). 

After a few days of withdrawing from the world, it’s important to scrape off the crusties, spackle on some faux-radiance and join the world of the living. It helps if you have friends to accompany you.

2.) Do find the joy in the accomplishments you achieve on your own.

Didn’t know you could fix the broken car door (that just happened to me, and I did it) or deal with a spider infestation. Guess what? You can! Be proud of yourself.

3.) Do experiment with change.

Now is the time to see how you look with purple hair, or how the living room looks without any furniture. Have you longed to buy fresh fish but your spouse hates the smell? Go for it now. Worried deodorant/antiperspirant causes cancer but you don’t want your husband to think you’re gross? Time to go au natural. (I did this. I stunk for 2 weeks.) Even if you have kids who oppose, they’re not adults and can’t tell you what to do. Na-na-na-na-na.

4.) Do indulge yourself in favorite hobbies and goals.

I’ve read eight novels in the past month my husband’s been away. I love reading, and don’t usually have the time to binge-read two to three books at a time. I’m not bothering anyone at night when I leave my light on, and can leave all my current reads in bed with me for easy access. Right now I’m swimming through Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, Arrow of the Blue Skinned God by Jonah Blank, and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Last week I finished Q & A by Vikas Swarup (the book Slumdog Millionaire was based upon), Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling, The Book of Tomorrows by Cecilia Ahern, and The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. I’m on a literary high.

5.) Do expect days where everything that could go wrong will do just that.

We have a saying amongst military wives, “only during deployment” and it means exactly how it sounds. Your car engine dies? Only during deployment. Your son needs emergency surgery? Only during deployment. You slip in your oldest child’s vomit, while breast feeding your infant, and then vomit all over all three of you? (Sorry, I know that was gross, but, guess what? It happened. To me.) Only during deployment. These are the moments that make military spouses so very resilient. When my husband is home, things can go wrong, sure – but the magnitude of havoc wreaked on our lives is amplified tenfold when he is gone.

But honestly, this post wasn’t supposed to be about lists and instructions – rather, a chance for me to share just how deployment has gone for my family.

First, aside from missing my husband’s first phone call, I have been blessed to receive an email (sometimes more) from him every single day.

He doesn’t have wifi, so there’s no chance we can Skype, but he does have basic access to the internet (not Facebook, unfortunately – it’s been blocked) and that single line of communication has done a lot for my sanity.

(Right after I wrote this, my husband was able to Skype me. Yay for small miracles. It won’t happen again for awhile, but it was nice to see his face!)

Emails happened (if we were lucky) once a month, and sometimes less, when my husband returned to the main base to restock their supplies.

That deployment was hard. It was during a pivotal time in the war, and news of deaths and dismemberments were frequent.

I can’t tell you how many times I looked outside the window, stared at my husband’s empty vehicle, and imagined him sitting inside, smiling and waving at me.

Then I would cry, and be certain that he was dead (why else was I seeing him smile at me?) and then wait in nerve-wrecking anticipation for the sound every military spouse dreads:

The door bell.

FYI – if you want to visit a friend whose spouse is deployed, please do not show up unannounced and ring their doorbell/knock loudly. If you do, you will have effectively scared the shit out of her/him and caused your friend to flash through the next fifty years of their life as a widower. Please call or text them first and let them know you are coming. That way, they will watch out for you and save themselves the unnecessary panic.

If you didn’t know, the way our uniformed services communicates the death or injury of a service member is face-to-face. Generally, a representative from the command comes in full uniform, with a military chaplain assisting them. It is a doorbell ring/knock no one ever wants to receive. Ever.

Thankfully, my husband, so far, has avoided injury and even in some of the worst conditions imaginable (during one deployment the Marines lived in squalor, with all of their belongings submerged in a foot of freezing-cold water) he has returned home to us whole and happy to be alive.

So it’s a nice change of pace for me, and for my sons, to hear from him every day.

He’s managed to be an active and engaging father while on this deployment, which is also a new thing for us. When we were first married, even his trips to Japan meant he was mostly out of our lives for the entire 7 months.

Back then, we didn’t own a computer, know what an email was, or have cell phones. Calling cards were expensive, and international calls were a nightmare, so we relied on good old fashioned hand-written letters, of which we still have hiding in a box somewhere.

Still, at night, when I lay my head on the pillow, and my shoulders are aching, and I’m too tired to do anything else (but I have to, because there isn’t anyone else to do it) I find myself missing my husband a great deal. Just the comforting sound of his breathing (okay, snoring) was enough to make me feel like I wasn’t alone in the world. Even with daily emails, I still find myself feeling very alone.

That’s when the self-reflection starts. I believe it is during these lonesome moments that military spouses give birth to their deployment goals. For some of us, it’s the dedication to finally lose weight, and for others, it’s an internal promise to be a better mother, wife, lover, housekeeper, employee, employer (you get the gist).

For me? I’m motivated to stop being so impatient, and more flexible. I’m also toying with the idea of laser hair removal, but that’s a different blog altogether.

Turns out my husband is having a lot of those same “better myself” thoughts. In a recent email he told me he is: mastering cursive (a lost art), studying rules of English grammar (wow, that’s nerdy), and flexing his literary muscles by reading every day.

He just finished a collection of short stories about the Vietnam War, and has now moved on to Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I think I should send him something a little lighter, sheesh.

He sent me a few pictures the other day, but this was my favorite. I love looking at him while he’s hard at work. It’s nice to know that he’s doing okay, and I guess that means I’m doing okay, too.

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