This one time…In the car….

A road trip story.

Being that we had a lot of places to see last week, we spent a lot of time on the road to and from our sights. To kill this time the 4 of us would play the “What’s the song? Who sings it?” game. Each of us taking our turn picking a song on my iPhone, the others trying to figure out who sings it, then jamming to the music.

It’s a great way to kill the time.

Music to me has always been a form of self-expression. Stories and thoughts performed in (for me anyway) the most personal and self-exposing form.  It can make me laugh or strip me raw of every emotion I bottle up inside. For that reason, the difference between my favorite music and The Mr.’s favorite music is baffling to me.

He’s a Led Zeplin, Beatles, AC/DC fanatic. I am a Skillet, Theory of a Deadman, Sara Barrellis, The Fray and Shinedown  kindda girl. (yes, Glee   remakes too :))

Shuffling through “our” music can be interesting. It’s more common to find one jamming out, and the other listening quietly. –there’s no irritation that the others music is on, it’s just obvious who likes each band.

Annnnnndddddd…..That’s how our hours in the car were spent

At least till “Here Without You” by 3 Doors Down came on. With The Mr. sitting next to me, singing along I caught a glimpse of every emotion we fought for survival to during his deployments. Every imaginary conversation we had with the other. Every missed holiday. Every memory unshared.  Every laugh. Every tear that dropped.

I saw everything.

The return of his last deployment was almost 3 years ago and I still shake when I’m forced to (and I mean forced. I don’t look back at those 5 deployments from 04-09 on my own free will) recall a story from a time he wasn’t there.

I’ve read stories where there’s a description of the characters heart being pulled, or they realize something and it takes their very breath away. Without these intentionally left behind memories, those words would never have meaning. They’re just words in some random book, there to fill up the space on the pages/

But force me to remember something that happened during a deployment though…..I swear I can actually feel my heart spread out across my chest.

Picture pancake batter poured into a pan. It spreads across the pan, flattens and then hardens.

Yup. That’s what it feels like.

I’m fairly certain during those times my heart isn’t even  in my chest, but dripping below my ribcage. And I can’t breathe. Not like the “I ran to fast and can’t catch my breath” type of gasping for air, but like my chest is already full and I can’t get air in. My lungs fill 3 times bigger than normal and nothing quiets the throbbing of my heart in my ears.

For all of these reasons, I don’t think about those years.

For all those reasons, that song was on the “crying list” If you don’t have one, let me explain what that is….Life gets crazy. People get busy. Things happen. Good. Bad. And Ugly.  Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to process them right away, so you do what you can, then set the rest aside.  A common side effect of this is that a day comes when you need to dump the bricks that have built in your chest but you just can’t. The words and tears don’t come.

That’s what the crying list is for.  Find the songs that make you cry and push repeat till you can’t cry anymore. It’s a survival technique.

It sounds morbid and depressing, but it’s not meant to be. I found it to be the most healing in all the chaos of those years. There are very few people that understand the emotional crap (yup I said crap) that comes with a deployment. There are even fewer that can be trusted with your crap and can help carry the weight when it needs to be dropped. Often times, the “crying list” is the best remedy.

So there I was. Listening to one of the songs that at one time had been key to my survival but was now just a memory I preferred to ignore and I was making a new memory. A memory with The Mr. sitting beside me.

Sometimes  things just happen that way. When they do, it’s fantastic.

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The Sock Basket

Growing up, I was surrounded by perfectionists. Our days were spent cleaning and organizing. Perfecting our living space so that it could be admired by any guest or random stranger that might find their way into our home. As I became a young adult, this habit stuck with me. And when I became a parent, it only intensified.

When I was pregnant with my second child I began working for a photography company. My days were spent in the studio, my nights were spent cleaning and organizing as I prepared for the birth of my son. This is how I came to meet a woman that would quickly influence my role as a parent, a friend and wife.

I met my boss for the first time during the busiest season of the year. The Christmas season. Our studio was full of families from open to close, waiting to have their faces captured just right so they could share their year in greeting cards to be sent all over the world. And she was just the person to do it. Despite the chaos of the studio, the cramped quarters and fussy infants she was happy, energetic and ready to meet the demands of each family with an energy that was loving and contagious. We quickly became work friends. Falling in sync with each others styles and depending on each other to keep a flow in the studio that was productive and creative. Allowing greatness to shine in every moment we captured on film.

On the rare occasion I had to run something to her home after work, I would find her snuggled up on the couch with her children, (2 young adults and 1 middle schooler) laughing, sharing and genuinely enjoying each others company. A love so obvious, a bystander couldn’t help but reconsider their relationships and the interactions they had with their loved ones.

Late for work one morning, I stumbled into the studio flustered and overwhelmed. Feeling like I’d let my coworkers down and afraid of the repercussion. ” I couldn’t find a matching pair of socks” I offered up as an explanation. ” I was doing the laundry yesterday and just threw all our socks into a basket. I forgot to match them up” I half hardheartedly laughed both embarrassed and frustrated.

“Good” she responded. “You have better things to do than spend your time matching up socks!”

Those simple words had a profound effect on me. One that has stayed with me everyday since.

She was right. I did have better things to do than match up socks. I had little fingers to kiss. Tummies to tickle. Stories to read, and memories to build. I had two beautiful infants that wanted to explore and learn. And they wanted to do this with me. Matching socks were nothing in the grand scheme of what actually mattered in my life.

Ten years later, those little fingers are now bigger than my own. We’ve moved across the country, graduated from elementary school, gone to  first school dances, had first crushes, and felt the loss of important people in our lives.  Moments have flown by so fast, but thanks to those simple words, memories have been made. And strong, loving relationships with my children have been built.

They never needed perfect. They never cared that they drawers weren’t organized. Or that sometimes when they needed to brush their hair, they’d have to dig through a drawer to find the comb. They never asked-not once!- for an easy to find pair of socks.

What they needed was me. Clumsy, scatterbrained, me. And that’s what they got. In all my glory. We’ve laughed together, cried together, yelled at each other, told stories and became something so much more important than a pair of matching socks.

We became a family.