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.

Espirit de Corps

Today! -hang on a minute, I need to clear my throat.

*ahem*

TOdaaaay.-whew!!! So much better!!

I would like to call out every movie, every book and every tv show that has ever made loving an active duty service member look like some sort of beautiful, romantic, fairytale. And the tag chasers that fell for that silliness.

Are. You. Freaking. Kidding me?!

Loving a service member isn’t romantic. Or fun. There are no break out into song moments. -trust me, I’ve pleaded with my guy friends while they were picking songs at a karaoke bar to sing “you’ve lost that lovin feelin” at least a dozen times. It doesn’t happen. Now ask them to sing “1 bourbon, 1 scotch n 1 beer” and you’re golden. But that’s a whole nother story.- there are no moments in which a service member in uniform lifts a woman up and carries her into the sunset. -as I sit here typing that, I’m trying to recall a time I’ve ever requested it. It seems weird to me that I haven’t. Maybe my mature brain has rationalized that since I can’t hold my husbands hand while he’s in uniform, I shouldn’t ask to be carried…But I’m not the rational type so that seems silly.-anyway, where were we? ah yes.-Loving a service member. It’s not romantic love letters and phone calls filling your ear with sweet nothings.

Hell no.

It’s years of weird, awkward porno phone conversations, (Seriously. Try telling your special someone how hot and bothered you are while wiping your 2 year olds butt or baking cookies) It’s “creative” emails with secret language and fun filled pictures that change how you look at everything in your surroundings. It’s having to maintain your “bubble” personal space with everyone -down to your mother people-because you haven’t been touched by a person for so long there’s no telling what kindof response your body would have from just a simple hug.

It’s running from the table at Thanksgiving Dinner with your in laws when someone says “thank you for allowing us all to be together on such a wonderful day” to avoid screaming at the top of your lungs “WE’RE NOT ALL HERE! CAN’T YOU SEE THE HOLE?” It’s making Holiday Traditions your spouse may never know. It’s building relationships with your special someones family and friends not as you, but as them.( picture yourself spending hours picking the right birthday card for your mom in law to sign from them and only them. It’s like being Santa to EVERYONE in your family. All these amazing things happen thanks to your thought and care, but everyone thinks it’s someone else.

It’s bedtime stories that end with “Sweet dreams. Daddy loves you” to your children. Followed by long conversations about your day that only your bedroom walls will hear, because when they do finally call there’s so much to say you can’t say anything.

It’s exhausting. Sleeping with a phone in your hand and your computer in your lap with one eye open. Yeah….That’s exhausting

And it’s stinky. -No. I mean it. It smells. Bad. Seriously. Have you ever smelled a pair of socks that can stand up on their own thanks to a 20 mile hike in 110 degree weather? That shit ain’t right!

Loving a service member means that from the moment you promise forever, your life is no longer your own. You will be torn from everything you know and thrust into a life that you no longer have a say in. Where you live, how you spend your time, how you dress will be dictated all in the name of morale and leadership. It means feeling like an outcast when surrounded by people you’ve known your entire life but feeling at home with strangers simply because the strangers speak “military”

It means fighting the urge to punch some ungrateful bitch when she complains because her husband didn’t take out the garbage that morning when they left for work, and holding your friends hand as they deliver their first born son because daddy left for Afghanistan a day to early to be there for the birth. It’s being strong enough to deliver that baby by yourself because while your husband was gone, your family is 2000 miles away and any near by friends couldn’t be there that one time.

It’s realizing the most important person in the world to you has somehow, through distance and time become just words on a computer screen or ink on a piece of paper. While their words keep you moving forward, you’ve come to realize the person behind them is barely a memory.

It’s going to bed at night and praying to God, that if your person is to leave your side someday, he take them now, while they are only words on a screen or ink on a piece of paper. Because to hold them once again, and lose them forever is far worse than the idea of losing the person behind the computer screen you’re struggling to remember

Loving an Active Duty Service member is not romantic. Or fun. It’s not even cute. Certainly not something to do to yourself on purpose.

It’s painful.It’s hard. It’s lonely.

But there’s a sense of pride in it that won’t be found anywhere else. A love and loyalty that only the few that survive the pain and loneliness will ever know. And that is beautiful.

Raising Little Girl Ninjas. ( child rearing as a rape survivor )

When the idea to write this began, the content in my head was light, friendly, filled with cuss words and dripping with sarcasm. But now, sitting at my keyboard, the reality of opening up about such an important subject is forcing me to rethink my words.

I am a mom. A confused, loud, clumsy mom. Covered with imperfections and fears I try desperately to not pass down to my children. Especially my young, beautiful, intelligent, ready to take on the world daughters. For them, I pray for opportunity to always be in their favor. That they know love and kindness. That they experience joy and beauty so intense their hearts swell and tears flow freely. The same way I experience joy and beauty every time I see their faces.

But the reality is they will experience the ugliness of humanity at some point in their lives. More so as they get older. As a mother, I want to shield my children from reality. Keep them in a bubble, block them from the horrors of life. As an adult, I know this is impossible. So instead, I try to prepare them with stories of my bad choices, acknowledgement of pressures they will soon face and discussions on possible resolutions to situations they may find themselves in. Every conversation ends with the same statement.

“I love you. I need you in my life. A world without you is a world I can’t live in.That will never change. So when you’re out there, facing these things, remember you are never alone. Come to me always”

This parenting technique is not often met with enthusiasm. In fact, on many occasions, when informed of my decision to have these discussions with my kids I’m met with dropped mouths and looks of complete horror. But this is the reality, 1 in 4 girls ( and 1 in 6 boys!) will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. 1 in 3 women will be raped in their lifetimes. (http://www.rvap.org/_docs/pdf_documents/sexual%20assault%20statistics.pdf)

I am one of them. It’s funny to me that even now, when I think of rape, I picture violence, fear and strangers when none of that is what I experienced. I was young (15) I was naive, and all too eager to go to my first house party. It’s mind boggling how quickly the vultures start swarming when intoxication hits a young, clueless girl. I could relive each soul stomping moment thru words I type out on a keyboard, but to be honest, I don’t think my psyche could handle the trauma. Even 17 years later, that violence free, barely conscious moment when an acquaintance ignored my pleas to stop still leaves me shaken and teary eyed. Desperate for the memory to stop.

I was young. I was naive. I was too trusting.I was drunk.

Am I saying I deserved it? NO

I don’t care how drunk, how slutty they were dressed or what a person was doing with you physically before they said no, once the word “no” is out there, It. Means. No.

While the memory will always remove the air from my lungs and fill me with dread and regret I will never get a “redo”. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything.

For me, I learned to never drink something I didn’t make or open myself, always have a “babysitter” (100% sober person watching over the group) and to do everything I can to make sure I am always alert and aware of what is going on around me.

To my children, this means long , honest conversations about what they might face someday. Pleas for them to do what they can to protect themselves and equipping them with self defense techniques to protect them when all else fails.

I was lucky to find an instructor that understands the reality of the world and refuses to sugar coat anything. Through his training-both as a student who studied under the some if the greatest instructors in the world, and as a Sensi- my children are stronger, braver and wiser than I will ever be.

That is the purpose of a mother after all right? To make your children stronger, wiser, better versions of yourself?

Thanks to his teachings, I am raising bad asses.

Thanks to his teachings, I am raising ninjas.

Because when the shit hits the fan, I want to know my daughters can do this; ( yep, that’s a girl from our dojo, Bratchers Karate. Can your kid do this? Wouldn’t you sleep easier knowing they could?)