Category Archives: Military Reintegration

SMURF-P

Smurf-P is not a small blue hip-hop artist who wears baggy footy pants. Nor is it a urine sample from a tiny person who lives in a mushroom house.

Smurf-P is the nickname given by my husband to a specific military team he recently joined. The proper acronym is CERFP (pronounced “surf-pee”), which stands for (and no, I’m not kidding): Chemical, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear, and Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package.

See? CERFP. It’s easy. And Smurfy.Brainy Smurf

Or Smurf-P, as the case may be.

Smurf-P and I are already at odds. The training that comes with my husband’s new role generally occurs on weekends that are not drill weekends. That means T is now gone two weekends a month instead of one. Since we both work fulltime, it’s not like we just sit around during the week soaking each other in. We’re working, commuting, running errands and doing housework. Weekends are when we’re supposed to relax, see friends or plan a fun activity together – in between laundry, taking the trash to the dump, grocery shopping and vacuuming up the dog hair and cat litter that threatens to bury the house on a daily basis.

What I wouldn’t give just to go see a movie with my husband.

As if that wasn’t irritating enough, this week is a full week of training for the Smurf-P. The training takes place near the armory where T drills – the one that is two and a half hours away from where we live. It doesn’t make sense for T to drive five hours a day for a full schedule of classes, so he’s staying in the area.

From wikipedia; originally uploaded to wikiped...

Image via Wikipedia

In case anyone is new to this blog, I’ll also mention here that my husband got home from a year in Afghanistan last December. Oh, and he’s also National Guard, which means all this is in addition to his civilian job. That’s right. He’s not fulltime military, which means we don’t get housing pay, he doesn’t get health insurance through the military and he doesn’t get comp days for a drill weekend. The only thing we regularly get from the military is the shaft.

What was I talking about? Oh, yeah. Smurf-P. Sorry, got a little off-track.

Last week we were discussing T’s military plans and I got on a roll then, too. I commented on how often he’s been gone and will be gone in the coming months. I listed off this training and that inventory and this drill and that whatever. T ignored me as best he could, but when I didn’t get the reaction I was looking for, I kept going.

With as much distain as I could muster – using diminutives to minimalize its importance – I scoffed, “And what about your little Smurf-P-ness?”

Which sounded completely different out loud than it did in my head.

Good thing T doesn’t have a fragile ego.

The National Guard and Salsa

This weekend is a drill weekend, which means I get to sit around in my fleece pants, not shave my legs and eat ice cream all weekend long.

Oh, wait. I do that anyway.

But, is it a drill weekend? Or is it next weekend that’s a drill weekend? It might be this weekend. Or not. I’m so confused.

You see, since the first weekend of the month is split (Saturday falls in April, Sunday in May), each unit can pick whether they want to drill this coming weekend or the next (which would be the first full weekend of May).

So what does that matter to us?

Well, T was promoted to CPT in Afghanistan where his status was “active duty”. Now that he’s returned to Guard status, he can’t stay with his current unit because in the Guard you can’t have two CPTs in the same unit. He’s sort of homeless for the time being.

He’ll be taking command of his unit in August, so the military only has to find a place for him until then. I was irritated by the decision to move him. I whined, “It’s only for a few months. Why can’t they just fake it?” Then I got the speech about rules and regulations and blah blah blah, something that I didn’t really listen to because I knew it was all BS anyway. They can get around the rules and regs when it’s convenient for them – just not when it’s convenient for us, so don’t pipe me that tune, thanks.

So, they tacked him onto Battalion. About a month ago, T came home and said, “Guess what?”

“You won a million dollars?” I asked.

“No, but Command decided that I can stay with my unit until August because it’s only a few months and it would be a pain to transfer to Battalion, then transfer me back.”

Gee, I wish I’d thought of that.

Earlier this week, word came down that T would be drilling with Battalion after all. Battalion is drilling this coming weekend. Okay, fine. I can take the trash to the dump on my own and maybe I’ll plan a hike with some friends. The weather looks nice.

A couple of days ago we got word that, no, T would be drilling with his original unit the following weekend instead. Okay, fine. T can go hiking with me and my friends this weekend, and we’ll take Owen. And T can go to the dump. Beautiful!

Today we got word that, no, T will go to Battalion unless it’s too short of a notice, in which case he could drill with the original unit. Uh, okay? Maybe I’ll take Owen to the dump and cancel the hike?

Five minutes ago we got word that, no, T will stay with the original unit and drill next weekend. Oh for the love of Pete! At this point, I think I’ll hike to the dump where I’ll meet my friends unless the weather is bad in which case Owen can drive me.

I love the military.
 
I can’t understand how they can even function sometimes. I mean, if they can’t figure out how a drill weekend is supposed to work, how in the name of your Aunt Fanny can they maintain an entire theatre of operations?

I guess the same way in which my husband can strategize a successful mission from top to bottom, but he can’t find the salsa in the fridge because it’s behind the yogurt.

That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway.

My Dirty Little Secret

I have a confession to make. You may hate me afterwards, but I can’t keep it inside any longer. (Actually, I can, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll pretend I couldn’t.)

I’m an FRG Leader.

There. I said it! I’m an FRG Leader and I’m proud of it!

Do you hate me yet? C’mon. You know you just threw up in your mouth a little. FRGs have the reputation of being only slightly less catty than an old school popularity contest between Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton. (Ah, those were the days.)

I knew this before I went in, but I wanted to be involved with the Guard and learn more about the military piece of my husband’s life, so the summer before his second deployment, I signed on as co-leader of the unit’s FRG. I really wanted the job of Communication Chair because I thought (and rightly so) that I’d be better at things like writing emails and newsletters and establishing social media venues than I would be at organizing and leading meetings.

My co-leader had been doing a phenomenal job at running an FRG that was based out of the middle of the state, but there was a need to branch out. The soldiers in T’s unit, as is the case in all the Maine Guard units, are spread throughout the state. I know it doesn’t look like it on the map, but Maine is actually a pretty big state. It’s about an eight-hour drive from top to bottom. Or you could probably snowmobile it in five, if you didn’t freeze first.

So it was that I was handed the job of creating an FRG in the southern part of Maine. We started having meetings the November before the unit left for Afghanistan and we had our last the November before they came home. When a unit is in non-deployed status, FRGs are required to meet only quarterly. Frankly, it’s a struggle to meet that often. There just isn’t much interest in forming bonds when the soldiers are at home.

You have to understand: this is the Guard. It’s not an Army base. This has both pros and cons for families. One pro is that Guard families already have friends and families that live around them. Most of them didn’t just move to the area so they aren’t necessarily looking for new friends or support networks. They’re in a place they’ve lived all their lives. The con to this is that when the soldiers do deploy, there is quite possibly no one within an hour’s drive that has any idea what it is they’re going through. It’s during this time they yearn for and need those connections. So that’s when the FRG is most active.

Ideally, we’d form these bonds before deployment and maintain them afterwards, but it’s tough, and not only because of distance (though that certainly is a major factor). Our unit in particular tends to have a high turnover rate. We also have a lot of very young soldiers that don’t have spouses. During a deployment, it’s their parents that need information and support. I had multiple meetings where I had in attendance: wives, parents, grandparents and young children. Talk about a diverse group. It wasn’t easy to plan meetings that would be relevant and meaningful to everyone, which is one reason I tried to keep things strictly informational.

Another reason, apparently, is that I’m a Gold/Green personality, according to Shipley Communication’s 4 Lenses Assessment.

This weekend, my husband and I attended the FRG State Conference. The first session on Saturday morning was “4 Lenses Training”, which turned out to be absolutely fascinating. At least for an analytical person like me.

What are the 4 Lenses? Well, according to Shipley Communication’s website:

The 4 Lenses™ assessment is a proven personality assessment which helps organizations build a solid understanding of the innate talent and potential of its individuals. The 4-Lenses™ instrument was created from the research of the Myers Briggs’ Personality Type Indicator, as well as David Keirsey’s modifications to this instrument in his book, Please Understand Me.

Basically, it’s a personality test that helps you understand and relate to others in a group, whether that group be work, family or the FRG. And it was really helpful. I won’t give away the full profiles of each of the four personality colors or how the test works in case you ever get a chance to do it (which I would highly recommend). I’ll just tell you each color’s assigned “word”:

Green: competence

Gold: structure/order

Blue: relationships

Orange: freedom

Color Arrows Vector

I was a Gold/Green and that’s pretty accurate. I’m OCD about order and structure. I’m organized and I make lists constantly. That’s the Gold. I’m also independent and a perfectionist. That’s the Green.

My husband was an alpha Green. So much so that his test numbers almost didn’t leave room for any other color, which explains a lot. He was literally off the charts. But he was sort of a Green/Orange-Gold, if that’s possible.

The Blue didn’t show up until third on mine and last on my husband’s test. Blues are sort of the nurturers who value relationships most. That’s not to say that we don’t value relationships, but in a work situation, we are very business-like and less social.

We decided that if we ever have a Blue child, we are going to mess that kid up royally. It would go something like this:

“Look, I know you’re only eight months old, but you’ve got to get over this teething thing. Suck it up and don’t be such a baby!’

Hmph. Come to think of it, I’m not sure that’s the right attitude for an FRG Leader, either. Maybe I should look into that communication position again.

What about you? Have you ever taken the 4-Lenses Assessment? What was your color?

What We Do in Bed

This is a view of my husband’s nightstand:

Amazon Kindle

When we first snuggle into bed, we both read.

What did you think I was going to say, gutterheads?

I read good old-fashioned paperback books. T reads from his Kindle, usually. We each have a small light on our nightstand.

It generally takes about five minutes before I’m dropping off to sleep. I shut my light and pull the covers over my head. This is in part to block out T’s light and in part to keep the vampires from biting my neck.

Residual childhood issues. The ear must be covered.

T used to read on for a few more minutes, then shut his light. Lately, and despite multiple polite requests from me, he has taken to reading for a half-hour to an hour longer, or more. Invariably, after about twenty minutes, the still-blazing light wakes me up.

I am not pleasant when I get woken up.

Actually, I’m almost never pleaseant. But especially not when I get woken up.

The other night I was so angry that I couldn’t fall back to sleep for what seemed like ages and when I finally did, I tossed and turned and slept as if I had not just a pea, but an entire vegetable crop under my mattress. A rotting, bumpy, lumpy, smelly, slimy vegetable crop.

Because I’m such a rational person, I decided that I would approach this conflict in a mature manner.

No, I did not take his Kindle outside and run it over with my car. That would in no way be satisfying.

If I were going to do something like that, I would first smash the shit out of it with a ball peen hammer, then tie it to my rear bumper with fishing line so that it could bounce and drag along behind me on my way to work. And I would make darn sure I was driving in front of my husband.

But, no. Instead I left him a little note inside of his Kindle.

Kindle Love Note 

If you want to read this book,

At the clock you must look.

A full five minutes is the max

Before you have to put me back.

Any longer, you must leave

And take the light where you will read.

Your wife is tired, so please be nice,

And in five minutes SHUT THE LIGHTS!!!

I briefly contemplated making the last two lines:

If more than five you read in bed,

You effing wife will kill you dead.

But, I didn’t.

I’m nice that way.

Does your spouse read in bed? Do you read, too? Or does it drive you crazy?

Speaking of spouses driving you crazy, time is running out to vote in the latest “Tell Me” poll. So far all 11 of my readers have voted (thank you, peeps!), but if you know anyone else who might like to vote, please pass the word!

An Exciting Announcement

We interrupt your (ir)regularly scheduled programming to bring you this exciting announcement:

I’m guest blogging over at The Annoyed Army Wife today!

The Annoyed Army Wife

I was so thrilled – not to mention flattered – that Michelle asked me to write a post for her. I admire the stark honesty and down-to-Earth realism of her blog, not to mention the way she engages her readers.

Her husband, OccDoc, recently returned from a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, so while the two of them are making up for lost time, Michelle asked me to write about my own reintegration experiences and offer up some advice for the newly reunited.

I did it the way I do everything: with a bit of sarcasm. Here’s a preview of :

A Cynic’s Guide to Reintegration

Buh-Bye Abs

Remember all that work you did over the past six, three or even just one month to look and feel fantastic when you greeted your soldier? We all do it. It’s as good an excuse as any other – better even – to lose some weight and get in shape.

Well, say buh-bye to your new body, because it only takes about two weeks of celebrating, eating out and vacationing before your pants start to get tight again. Not to mention the other people (I’m looking at you, Mom) who want to feed your returning hero as a way of welcoming him back.

Because clearly everyone needs three desserts at one sitting.

I love Italians.

Now get on over to The Annoyed Army Wife and check out the rest. Go on!

March 6th

March 6, 2006: I stood in a cold, dark parking lot and watched my boyfriend of four months walk away from me and towards war in a place called Iraq.  I wouldn’t see him again for almost six months.

Ft Dix Bowling Alley

March 2006 - Before the good-bye at Ft Dix

March 6, 2007: My boyfriend of one year and four months was back at Fort Dix for demobilization. I had seen him for only two weeks during the past year. Three days later we would reunite.

HolidayFest 2007

March 2007 - HolidayFest in full swing!

March 6, 2009: The two of us stood before God and Mount Washington and pledged our love and devotion to each other.

Wedding Picture #1

March 6, 2009 - Our wedding day

 When the pastor pronounced us man and wife, my new husband took me in his arms and gave me the most gentle and yet passionate kiss I have ever received. The two of us radiated a joy that was almost tangible. We couldn’t stop smiling.

Wedding Picture #2

Husband and Wife - and best friends

March 6, 2010: I woke up to a quiet emptiness. I lay in bed for a few minutes, while my heart throbbed a few painful beats. I missed my husband. I was afraid for him. I wanted him back.

But I was determined to make it a good day, for both our sakes. I mustered my courage and rolled out of bed. In celebration of our first wedding anniversary, I took a hike with our dog.

During that hike, my husband called me from Afghanistan. He was one day away from arriving at his outpost where he would spend the next eight and a half months. Our conversation was almost as sweet and loving as that first kiss we shared as husband and wife.

Later that day, my friend K stopped by and brought me flowers. Her husband was only a few days behind mine and would be gone just as long. She’s a MilSpouse, too. She knows. We chatted for a while and played a little RockBand.

When she left, I went upstairs and started a blog. I called it Mowenackie.

It was my anniversary gift to my husband – another way to help us stay connected in the coming months. “Virtual paper” I call it. Paper is the traditional one-year anniversary gift. Since nothing about us is traditional, I thought this fit. He was thinking along the same lines, apparently. He got me the Rosetta Stone for the Italian language, Levels 1-3. Virtual paper.

I just love him.

The story I told in my first post is still the most accurate illustration of our relationship that I can think of. I am so grateful to have this man in my life, who loves me without reservation, accepts me and keeps me grounded. It doesn’t sound like much on (virtual) paper, but it is everything to know I have that one constant in my life of inconsistencies. He is the one I turn to for solace, for soothing, for laughter, for logic.

He was worth waiting for…again and again and again. And he still is.

March 6, 2011: I’m sitting in a hotel room, typing a blog post and waiting. I’m waiting for the military to release my husband back to me, like I’ve done so many times before. But on this March 6th, I woke up next to my husband and at the end of the day I’ll be with him again.

Me & T at the EconoLodge!

March 2011

In the meantime, I’d like to thank you, my darlings – friends, family and fellow MilSpouses – for accompanying me on this journey. This is our anniversary, too. A year ago I found a community that I never dreamed existed, yet today couldn’t imagine being without. Thank you for your support, your help and your advice. Thank you for sharing your experiences with me.

Thank you for reading.

Happy Anniversary!

Because Nothing Says Romance like EconoLodge

This is our anniversary weekend. So, naturally T is drilling with the military.

The armory where T’s unit drills is almost a three-hour drive from where we live, so coming home in the evenings is not an option. In fact, he often has to report so early on Saturday that he leaves Friday night after work and he doesn’t usually get home until late Sunday.

I have this thing where I want to be with him on our anniversary. I couldn’t last year, because he was in Afghanistan. And before that…oh wait, we weren’t married before that. This is only our second anniversary.

So it is that I find myself at an EconoLodge somewhere in Maine on a rainy day in early March. If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing a March in Maine, allow me to elaborate:

The air is soaked with the dampness of melting snow and penetrates every layer with which you attempt to block it out. It is about 35 degrees, but feels much, much colder. The sky hangs low in a dingy layer of white, smothering any happy thought you ever had about spring and red-breasted robins and flowers, while mud from two months of salted roads runs in chocolate rivulets along high banks parfait-ed with alternating layers of sand and snow.

Here’s the view from our window:

muddy parking lot

It’s delicious.

The EconoLodge is, well, economical, but even so, after expenses T won’t end up earning much this weekend. That’s part of the reason we’re here. The other part is that we plan on celebrating next weekend. I just wanted to be with him now.

EconoLodge logo

You know, it’s actually not that bad. The room is tiny: there’s a bed, a dresser, a teeny table and not much else. There’s not even a closet. But it’s got a medium-sized refrigerator and a microwave. There’s only one sink, but the shower has a tub with lots of places to put your toiletries without having to bend into the water stream to pick them up (I hate that) and the water pressure is decent.

 More importantly, it’s clean and they allow pets!

Owen in our tiny hotel room

The pillows suck, but I went to Walmart today while T did his thing and picked up a couple of better quality. I also had trouble working out because there just isn’t room, but if that’s the worst thing that happens today, I’m doing pretty well.

Besides, if I stayed home, all I’d do is work around the house. This way, I have a little extra time to spend reading, writing and being lazy.

For a wonder T was released mid-afternoon, but his college aspirations make it necessary for him to study for his GMAT, which is coming up this week. So I’m blogging and he’s studying. If you read my last post, you would think smoke should be coming out of my ears, but he looks so darn cute that I really can’t be mad at the jerk.

T studying

So yeah. I could think of a few ways I’d rather spend my anniversary weekend, but there are compensations:

Compensation #1

Tonight, we’re going to get some delicious Mexican food and a little horchata (that’s a rice milk drink, pervs).

Compensation #2

He’s not in Afghanistan. He’s right here. With me. Where I can talk to him, hug him and bite his nose if I so choose.

Me & T at the EconoLodge!

That’s all the compensation I need.

Besides, I think two sub-par anniversaries in a row get me to Tahiti on our 5th instead of our 10th, don’t you?