Category Archives: Surviving separation

Care.Com Interview

I am so honored to be part of Care.com’s interview series for The Month of the Military Child!

They will be featuring the series in their newsletter this upcoming Tuesday as well as in a social campaign both from the  Military and General Care.com accounts throughout the month.

You can find my feature by following this link.  Here is the introduction to the interview:

When Daddy goes to work and work is a year-long job in Afghanistan, Hallee Bridgeman knows just what to do to help her family get by. From how they manage holidays to how they mark milestones, Bridgeman acknowledges that military children experience a very different upbringing than their civilian counterparts. The Hallee the Homemaker blogger says that being an Army Brat made her stronger, and for her three kids (ages 14, 5 and 3), whose father has spent four years of their lives in a war zone in the National Guard, she hopes for the same. Her trick? Keeping Daddy present in her kids’ daily lives, whether through conversation or even a cardboard cut-out.

The entire series can be found by following this link.

 

Hallee


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Surviving Separation: Dealing With It

I’ve been asked by Care.com to contribute to a series about celebrating the holidays as a military family.  In Holiday Boot Camp for the Military Spouse, Care.com listed resources for 26 tips for making this holiday special – no matter where your family is stationed.

They asked me to write anything I wanted — from coping as a military family to celebrating with a deployed spouse.  Since I spent three years in a row with Gregg gone, I immediately thought of this post.  This is last year’s Christmas time “Surviving Separation” post – it was written on the fly, with little to no editing, but with all of my emotions plainly set out for everyone to read.

I am excited to be part of this series and pray that you get a blessing out of the “re-run” of this post.

 

Hallee


This is part eight in a series about surviving separation from your spouse. Read all posts in this series.

Gregg and Hallee - 1 week after his return from Afghanistan in 2003

Gregg and Hallee - 1 week after his return from Afghanistan in 2003

Gregg and I have been married for over eight years. We didn’t live together until our first anniversary. Three months after we married, he deployed to Afghanistan. A couple of years later, he changed his military specialty and went to school 400 miles away for eight months. A couple years later, he went to another school, even further away, for six months. He is currently in Afghanistan again, this time as a civilian contractor, and has been working there for 21 months. On top of these extended absences, his civilian job had him away from home for months at a time, when he would come home on Friday night and leave again on Sunday. We have spent more time apart than together, so we have learned how to have an abiding, intimate relationship even though we’re, at times and currently, thousands of miles away from each other. This series will provide you with little tips and hints we’ve picked up along the way.

Dealing with It

We’re smack dab in the middle of what they call “The Holiday Season.” Thanksgiving is behind us. Christmas is looming. I mailed Gregg’s birthday box Monday — the third year in a row I’ve mailed him a birthday box instead setting the table with the birthday table cloth and kissing him Happy Birthday. I have a 4-year-old who tries desperately to believe in Santa Claus despite the fact that we don’t even talk about Santa Claus in our house. When I tell him that Mommy and Daddy are Santa Claus, he has now become convinced that Daddy will come at Christmas like Santa.

A piece of my puzzle is missing.

I want to cry and wail and kick and scream and tell the holidays to go away. I want to whine to my husband about how “hard” it is. It’s so “hard” to do this thing – raising these children and living this life – without him.

Then I stop. Then I remember. I am in our home. I’m sitting on our couch with the Christmas tree blinking right next to me. Our son is sitting against me, watching television. Our other children are sleeping upstairs. My home is filled with the smells of home cooked, consciously healthy food. I’ll hug our children, talk to them face-to-face, interact with them, share meals with them, laugh with them. At night I’ll go sleep in our bed. On Sunday I’ll walk into our church, hug our friends, worship with our church family.

I have an amazing life and I have nothing to complain about.

For the third year in a row, my husband will receive a birthday box packed by his wife and children instead of sitting down at his table with the Happy Birthday table cloth covering it and his children singing “Happy Birthday” to him. He will receive his Christmas stocking stuffed with beef jerky and smoked salmon instead of putting together toys and stockings for his kids. He’ll go to work and do his job on Christmas because war doesn’t stop just to celebrate the birth of our Savior and King. He’ll do it because that’s what he has to do in this season in our life.

And he’ll do it without crying and wailing and kicking and screaming and telling the holidays to go away. He’ll do it without whining to me about how “hard” it is. About how “hard” it is to do this thing – this living day in and day out in a war zone; this eating crappy food and being thankful for how much better it is than the last place; this not being able to sleep for more than an hour at a time because just a few hundred feet from where he lays his head, fighter jets take off in full after burner; this not being able to touch his children, kiss his children, actively raise his children; this sleeping in a single bed with a thin lumpy mattress, suspended off of the ground to keep the cobras and spiders out of his bed.

I don’t have it hard. My heart aches, my soul yearns – but I have it easy. So, I can deal with this season, and I can do it without crying to him about it and making it even harder on him, making him feel even worse for doing what he has to do for his family.

Hallee


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Surviving Separation: Believing in an End

This is part eleven in a series about surviving separation from your spouse. Read all posts in this series.

Gregg and Hallee - 1 week after his return from Afghanistan in 2003

Gregg and Hallee - 1 week after his return from Afghanistan in 2003

Gregg and I have been married for nine years. We didn’t live together until our first anniversary. Three months after we married, he deployed to Afghanistan. A couple of years later, he changed his military specialty and went to school 400 miles away for eight months. A couple years later, he went to another school, even further away, for six months. On top of these extended absences, his civilian job had him away from home for months at a time, when he would come home on Friday night and leave again on Sunday.  He is currently in Afghanistan again, this time as a civilian contractor, and has been working there for 28 months. We have spent more time apart than together, so we have learned how to have an abiding, intimate relationship even though we’re, at times and currently, thousands of miles away from each other. This series will provide you with little tips and hints we’ve picked up along the way.

Believing in an End

I was pregnant with Johnathan when Gregg got a long-term contract in Louisville, Kentucky.  He was there for several weeks, home on the weekends but gone Monday through Friday.  The company that contracted him sent him to Nashville next.  Johnathan was probably two months old when he went to Nashville, and he was there for about three months.  He finished that job in October and drove from Nashville to Ft. Gordon, Georgia and was there for six months for a school.  He came home  some weekends, we went to visit him some weekends, but the drive was about 10 hours.

On the day of his graduation, he got the call hiring him for the job in Afghanistan.  This was February 2009.  He left in March.

Since he’s been there, the United States economy began its decline.  Jobs in Gregg’s market have been in serious decline and the 8000 mile separation seemed interminable.  A contract end date would approach, no jobs would pop up, so Gregg would be forced to sign another contract and stay a few more months, and it would cycle all over again.

Johnathan turned three in May.  As I post this, it’s August 12, 2011, and we finally see an end.

When Gregg was home on vacation in July, he was contacted about a local job for which he’d applied online.  However, because he was home and neither one of us were in our normal operating mode, he hadn’t checked his job-hunt email for over a week.  When he checked his email, the email from the company asking for a phone interview was over a week late, and the days had passed for the interview options.  He simply wrote them back and said he’d be available Thursday and Friday that week.

He received a response from the recruiter rescheduling the interview for the following Tuesday.  We were going to be at Glen Eden Youth Camp that week, so Gregg replied that he wouldn’t be available until the following week.  They agreed and his phone interview was a Monday morning.

He and I both didn’t hold out a lot of hopes.  The phone interview was three weeks  after the initial contact.  We thought that alone would have had him out of the running.

But what happened instead was that God made sure things worked out in way that we could only look at it and say, “God did this.  God brought Gregg home.”

His phone interview Monday morning went smashingly well.  The recruiter was uberly impressed with him.  He told her that he was leaving the country on Friday, and she said she would see about expediting an in-person interview to accommodate his travel plans.  About thirty minutes after they got off the phone, she called back and said that his in-person interview was scheduled for the next day at noon.

He went to the interview and was home about two in the afternoon.  He said that it was a very good interview, and that they didn’t want him for the analyst position for which he’d applied, but instead wanted him in their corporate offices as a manager – a much higher pay scale than the original job.  They told him that basically the job was his to lose.  He just had to get through a technical interview.  Gregg wasn’t worried about that.

They expedited the technical interview and it was scheduled for Wednesday morning at 10AM.  It was a conference call with several people that lasted about an ninety minutes.  At 5PM, there was a follow-up phone interview and Gregg discovered in the course of the interview that he was speaking to the President of the corporation.  As their call ended, Gregg was told that a decision would be made that evening.

About twenty minutes later, he got a phone call with an offer.  This was less than 60 hours after the original screening interview with the recruiter.

He  got on a plane Friday to go back to Afghanistan.  About a week later, he signed the offer letter and put in his notice and, as this post gets published, he is traveling and en route home.  He will arrive here Monday and will start his new job the following Monday.

For the first time in our nine-year marriage, he will be working a “normal” 9-5 job about twenty minutes from home.

We know God is bringing him home.  His kids need him.  I need him.  He needs us.  His absence has been too too long.  We are so thankful for the job he’s had when so many are losing jobs and we aren’t going to begrudge it.  But we’re so very thankful to God for this new job and this opportunity to live a “normal”, day-to-day life together.

I am happy to be ending this series, and I pray that if you are reading it to help foster your own separation, that your end will come soon as well.

 

Hallee


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My Limit

Last week, I had poison ivy on my hand.  Within the mess of allergic reaction, a sore appeared.  I thought one of the poison ivy bumps got infected, but apparently it’s something else.  Yesterday (Tuesday) I posted a picture on Facebook, and a huge discussion ensued – words like “brown recluse” and “staph infection” were bounced around.

Just the thought of a brown recluse spider bite makes my stomach hurt.  Staph makes Kaylee almost hysterical.  After she saw the conversation posted on Facebook, she called me so upset.  “That’s what so-and-so’s sister died from!” she said in a panic.  I calmed her down.  Aside from the queasy thought of arachnids, I feel fine, and used that as the catalyst to soothing her fears.

After getting off of Facebook and talking my daughter off of the proverbial ledge, I went to make breakfast.  Turkey ham and cheese omelets were on the menu.  When I opened my fridge, the two dozen eggs I bought the night before were not there.  I went out to my van – not there, either.  I was quite flabbergasted.  We had fried turkey ham steaks and toast for breakfast, and I made a mental note to go buy eggs.

The same day, I had repairman came to my house to fix my dishwasher.  This dishwasher we bought at Lowe’s.  It was quite expensive.  Almost $700 plus installation, but we thought that it would be the last dishwasher we would have to buy for a long time.  The repairman said the dishwasher is working fine – the problem is that it’s been installed incorrectly.  The drain hose wasn’t where it should have been, it got crimped, and developed a hole.  That hole leaked water for the last 18 months into the floor under the dishwasher and into the cupboard below my kitchen sink.

Now the floor is so soggy under the dishwasher that it moves, and there is mold growing in my cupboard under the kitchen sink.

The reason I had no idea what this looked like is because this is what we had to take out of that cupboard for the repairman to get to that place:

I called Lowe’s and had the man who answered the phone speak to the repairman, who made it quite clear that the entire problem was the incorrect installation.  He even said, “Get out the manual and turn to page 8.  That’s the proper installation.  Not what I’m looking at here.  The men who installed it obviously didn’t look at the installation guide or they never would have done what they did.”  The man from Lowe’s said his manager would call me back.

After the repairman left, I was making lunch for my kids.  As I was slicing bread, I was thinking of all of the things that could be wrong with my hand – staph infection, spider bite – and thinking about dealing with the floor and the dishwasher and the cupboard and my hands started shaking and a panic feeling started welling up inside of me.

This has happened once before.  In 2003, when Gregg came home from his first tour in Afghanistan, about two days after he got home I had a total collapse panic attack.  The weight of handling everything just crashed in on me and for some reason, I broke down.

For a minute, I stepped aside and had to close my eyes and breathe, slowly, and calm myself down.  The time until Gregg’s plane arrived seemed interminable, almost imaginary.

Calmer,  I served lunch, then I left the kids with a friend and went to my doctor’s appointment for my hand.

The doctor’s first thought was brown recluse spider bite.  But, there’s a telltale black center that doesn’t exist on my sore, so he’s not treating it as that.  He’s treating it as, “It’s obviously infected, but I don’t know what it is, so we’re going to try a few things.”

This called for action.  At the pharmacy, I bought some therapeutic medication.  I had it consumed before I drove the 1.8 miles to my house.

Within minutes of getting home from the doctor, I spoke with the manager at Lowe’s.  She says that it’s been 18 months and their warranty is 12 months.  So, too bad on us.  “You should have known there was a problem,” the manager told me.  Yeah.  I ‘should’ have known.  She’s obviously never met me.  What do I know about dishwasher installation and the proper placement of hoses, and why should I know when I paid them $119 to know for me?

As I was reading through the installation warranty information I had (because while I may not know a thing about drain hoses, I’m all about paperwork – and I got paperwork) my friend, who is totally awesome and was making Kaylee’s bed for the company I had coming this weekend, came into the kitchen and asked what Lowe’s said.  I tried to speak and totally broke down.

I had about a thirty second crying jag.  She hugged me and said, “I would have broken down a year ago.”

I wiped my face clean and said, “It doesn’t do any good.  Nothing productive just happened.”

She knows me too well to argue about how good crying can make you feel, etc., because that’s not me.  Instead, she smiled and loved me anyway.

She left and Gregg called.  He couldn’t get on the flight out of his area to the main air base in Bagram.  Which meant he couldn’t get on the flight out of Dubai – he would arrive in Dubai 8 hours after his flight left.  Which meant he couldn’t possibly be home by Thursday.

Calmer, dark chocolate in my system, 30 second crying jag, nothing more could possibly go wrong today kind of mentality, I was fine.  FINE.  I reached my limit, broke, and now I guess I have a new limit.

It took 20 minutes on the phone with Delta, a $199 fee, and he’s reconfirmed and coming in 16 hours later than originally planned.  And that’s okay.  He’ll make it in time for the boys’ birthday party, he’ll see the family coming in from out of town, and he’ll be HOME.

And, I really really really can’t wait to hand him a phone and let him handle Lowe’s.  Because he’s much better at such things than me.

Hallee


I’m so grateful for your visit, today.
You would bless me if you added me to your Subscribe via any Reader feed reader or subscribed Subscribe via Email via email.
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Surviving Separation: Accepting Help

This is part ten in a series about surviving separation from your spouse. Read all posts in this series.

Gregg and Hallee - 1 week after his return from Afghanistan in 2003

Gregg and Hallee - 1 week after his return from Afghanistan in 2003

Gregg and I have been married for nine years. We didn’t live together until our first anniversary. Three months after we married, he deployed to Afghanistan. A couple of years later, he changed his military specialty and went to school 400 miles away for eight months. A couple years later, he went to another school, even further away, for six months. On top of these extended absences, his civilian job had him away from home for months at a time, when he would come home on Friday night and leave again on Sunday.  He is currently in Afghanistan again, this time as a civilian contractor, and has been working there for 26 months. We have spent more time apart than together, so we have learned how to have an abiding, intimate relationship even though we’re, at times and currently, thousands of miles away from each other. This series will provide you with little tips and hints we’ve picked up along the way.

Accepting Help

I’m not a handy woman.  I can work things that don’t require a lot of mechanical know-how.  For instance, I can use a level and a measuring tape to map out a series of wall hangings that will be evenly spaced and properly hanged; however, that’s just math.  I’m good with math.  What I can’t do is use a drill, a chain saw, or any of the other multiple power tools and mechanical items in my husband’s workshop.

I have blinds that have been sitting on my bedroom floor for about a month waiting to get hanged in my bedroom windows and I can’t do it because for some reason the drill won’t drill the screw through the window frame.  I’ve tried.  Over and over.  It’s just how power tools work for me.  It’s almost a joke at this point.

It would be a much funnier joke if my husband were here to take over when I can’t get it done.

Last week, I was ready to till my garden.  For the first time in weeks it wasn’t raining.  The temperature was pushing seventy degrees at nine o’clock in the morning.  Kaylee was home to watch the boys while I worked a loud machine that would take all of my attention.  It was time.

I’d had a friend’s husband help me bring the tiller into the backyard for me about a week before.  It’s really really heavy and from the storage room to the yard with the garden, there is a series of four different up or down steps and stairs – impossible for one person to maneuver such a heavy and awkward machine.  Knowing it was impossible, I asked him to help me get it into the yard.  He happily agreed and we lifted, hauled, and worked it from point A to point B.

It had been sitting out there, waiting for the right weather to start working.  It was time.

So, I put on some gardening clothes, made sure the children were all content doing whatever they were doing, and went outside to the tiller that was sitting in the middle of the old garden.  I check the gas – full.  I checked the oil – clean.  I remembered from last year how to flip the choke open, turn up the speed of the motor, and pull the little handle.

Nothing.

Over and over again I did the same thing.

Finally, about thirty minutes later, I went inside and found the instruction manual for the motor.  I read it from the front cover to Spanish section.  How to store it.  Check.   How to bring it out of storage.  Check.  If it won’t start, check this out on the spark plug.  I went outside and looked at the spark plug – first spark plug I’d ever seen in my life.  Didn’t provide me with a whole lot of information because I don’t know anything about anything like that.  Went back in and kept reading.  “Sometimes, when you first pull it out of storage, you need to put a little bit of gas on the spark plug.”  I don’t even know what that meant, how to accomplish that, or how to not blow myself up in the accomplishment of said task.

After trying to pull the handle to start it over and over for another thirty minutes, I finally went into the house, to my bedroom, shut my bedroom door, and promptly started crying.

I’m not a crier.  This isn’t exactly a norm for me.

Finally, I vented.  I got on Facebook and accidentally posted this to my Hallee the Homemaker page instead of my personal page:

This 8000 mile separation from my husband would be a whole lot easier to handle if I could do simple man-things like starting a stupid engine. My plans to till the garden and get it planted today are thwarted by my inability to figure out why I can’t start the stupid tiller. Quite frustrated. My frustration is only compounded by the fact that I Really.Miss.My.Husband.

Within forty minutes, a friend’s husband was in my backyard.  I didn’t even know he was there until I heard the tiller start up.  I walked back there, and he said, “I poured a little bit of gas on the spark plug and it started right up.”

Now, I know he didn’t sit down and read the instruction manual for the engine from front to Spanish section.  He’s just a man, and he knows simple man-things.

Afterward, I was admonished by him and about ten other male friends who happen to read the Hallee the Homemaker Facebook page that I should have called.  I should have just picked up the phone and said, “Hey, male friend and/or male relative of my husband, can you come start my tiller for me?”

I asked for help to move it – because I knew the impossibility of me moving it alone.  But, I didn’t ask for help starting it, because in my mind, I SHOULD have been capable to start it.

So, instead of just asking for help, I let the frustration build up to an emotional breakdown until someone had to come without being asked to help.

I am so very thankful that there are people in my life who push forward and help without waiting for the invitation.  Because I’m foolish enough to get out there and till my garden with a hoe and a shovel before I’ll just ask.

Now I just need to remember to ask for someone to come  work the stupid power drill to hang my blinds, and I’ll be set for the next seven weeks before Gregg is home.

 

Hallee


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Spring Has Sprung!

Well, actually it officially sprang Sunday, but this was the first available date for this post.

I love every season as it approaches.  I enjoy snow and winter, I enjoy heat and summer, I enjoy harvesting my garden and autumn…so WHY am I so excited about spring this year?

Because I feel like this is officially the home stretch.  Gregg will be home from Afghanistan by June 28th – no specific date yet but an “I’ll definitely be home by” date.  Which means: I just have to endure one more season without him.

We have one more softball season he’ll miss, one more Spring Break trip he’ll miss, one more child’s birthday he’ll miss.

Remember my calendar that I have hanging on the side of my refrigerator?

One last row and we’re at the end of this year’s calendar and at the end of this separation.

Then NO MORE.

Missing him is getting harder.  I feel more emotionally down with it than I did a year ago or two years ago.  But I feel like the first day of Spring was a goal to trudge toward, and now that we’re here, I just have to hang on and enjoy the ride downhill.  (Of course, if you notice all of the blue writing through these next 2 months, you’ll see our softball schedule – this week will begin 25 double-header games.  I’ll be so busy that time may actually fly.)

So, yay us!

 

Hallee


I’m so grateful for your visit, today.
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Surviving Separation: Abiding

This is part nine in a series about surviving separation from your spouse. Read all posts in this series.

Gregg and Hallee - 1 week after his return from Afghanistan in 2003

Gregg and Hallee - 1 week after his return from Afghanistan in 2003

Gregg and I have been married for over eight years. We didn’t live together until our first anniversary. Three months after we married, he deployed to Afghanistan. A couple of years later, he changed his military specialty and went to school 400 miles away for eight months. A couple years later, he went to another school, even further away, for six months. He is currently in Afghanistan again, this time as a civilian contractor, and has been working there for 24 months. On top of these extended absences, his civilian job had him away from home for months at a time, when he would come home on Friday night and leave again on Sunday. We have spent more time apart than together, so we have learned how to have an abiding, intimate relationship even though we’re, at times and currently, thousands of miles away from each other. This series will provide you with little tips and hints we’ve picked up along the way.

Abiding

My dad and I were talking last weekend.  He retired from 3o years in the military, and spent much of his career away from home.  We were talking about the strength in marriages that survive separations and deployments, and I mused how this 10-year war has probably taken a toll on the military marriages more than people realize.

My dad said that in his career he saw a pattern.  The spouse leaves, and the spouse left behind creates a whole new life. Part of it is a defense against loneliness.  Part of it is a way to make time go by faster.  But, new jobs, new hobbies, new schedules open the door to new friends, new intimate circles, and more often than people will admit, new lovers or friends of the opposite sex.  This creates a whole new life of which the absent spouse is not a part, and when he or she returns, isn’t necessarily welcome.

In the meantime, the spouse who is gone is living a life of such stress that until you live it, you have no idea.  You are on a high alert status constantly, with intermittent moments of action.  Or not.  But just the alertness alone takes a toll on the soul.  Friendships develop, brotherhood and camaraderie become coping mechanisms, and faith is either lost or found depending on the individual.  When he or she returns, it’s to an unfamiliar place and to a different spouse, and he may not feel like it’s where he belongs.

I saw a friend whose husband will be home for R&R soon mention that she was afraid of what their relationship would be like when her husband was home, because sometimes when she sees him he’s like a stranger at first, and it intimidates her.

How can we possibly prevent that?

One way is to constantly abide in your husband or wife.  On my birthday, a colleague of my husband’s got on the phone to wish me a happy birthday.  He said, “Your husband talks about you so much that I feel like I know you.”  We changed churches when Gregg was home on R&R one time, and he has never been an active member of that church – but I can guarantee you that every single friend I have there feels like he’s gone there his whole life.  I talk about him all the time.  I think about him all the time.  I tell him, either on the phone or via email or letters, the details of my life – the day-to-day mundaneness.  He is a part of my life whether he is here or not.  I am a part of his life even though I’ve never been there.

It works for us.  The times we see each other, within moments it feels like we’ve never been apart.  Before we’re even home from the airport, I forget what it’s like to not be breathing the same air as him.  The lonliness is gone, the isolation is gone, the despair is removed.

Johnathan is two, almost three.  When he was born, Gregg worked out of town on an extended contract.  The next job he got was further out of town.  Right after that job, he had to be in Ft. Gordon, Georgia, for six months.  As soon as he finished that school, he left for Afghanistan.  Jeb’s entire life, Gregg has been this idea – the man on the computer, on the phone, in the pictures, then man who comes every few months and goes within a few weeks.  But he is Jeb’s DADDY, and Jeb knows that means something.  We were looking at pictures yesterday, and he sat in my lap and said, “That’s me and my Daddy.”  There is no part of Jeb’s life that is untouched by his Dad, and even without his physical presence we have made him such a part of his life that he knows who Daddy is and what that means.

Gregg was on video conference one day and I had to leave the room.  Gregg saw Jeb doing something and reprimanded him.  I heard Jeb say, “Yes, sir,” and immediately stop what he was doing.  It was awesome and affirmed that whatever Gregg and I are doing with this absence and our children, we’re doing it the right way.

Abide in your spouse.  Talk about him, talk to him, make hima part of your life. Stay away from friends of the opposite sex, despite any modern ideas of erased gender lines, so that there is never any temptation to ease loneliness nor any hint of suspicion that could damage and enhance insecurities.  If you have a new job, new friend, a new church – bring your spouse along with you in your heart.  Make him a part of your life in all aspects, so that when he returns, he slips right into his spot and a clearly defined role in your life.

You can survive separation.  It is temporary – a drop in the bucket of the time of your life and your marriage.  You’ll get through it, and one day forever from now, you’ll forget how hard it was and how long the days were or how much longer the nights were.  Abide in your spouse.  Keep him there with you in all that you do.

 

Hallee


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Surviving Separation: 6 Days From Today

This is part nine in a series about surviving separation from your spouse. Read all posts in this series.

Gregg and Hallee - 1 week after his return from Afghanistan in 2003

Gregg and Hallee - 1 week after his return from Afghanistan in 2003

Gregg and I have been married for over eight years. We didn’t live together until our first anniversary. Three months after we married, he deployed to Afghanistan. A couple of years later, he changed his military specialty and went to school 400 miles away for eight months. A couple years later, he went to another school, even further away, for six months. He is currently in Afghanistan again, this time as a civilian contractor, and has been working there for 22 months. On top of these extended absences, his civilian job had him away from home for months at a time, when he would come home on Friday night and leave again on Sunday. We have spent more time apart than together, so we have learned how to have an abiding, intimate relationship even though we’re, at times and currently, thousands of miles away from each other. This series will provide you with little tips and hints we’ve picked up along the way.

Six Days From Today…

This is a picture Gregg took a couple of months ago from a hotel patio in Kuwait.  Two weeks ago, he received instructions to attend a week-long class there again.  He said to me, “It would be cool if you could come.”

To which I responded, “It really would!  How much fun would that be?”

To which he said, with barely a pause, “Then make it happen.”

Two weeks before travel date, I had airline tickets in hand, children distributed, and hotel reservations made.  Now I’m just counting down the days and figuring out how one dresses for Kuwait in January.

I cannot wait.  Look at this beautiful view.  This is our hotel and we’re hoping for a room with a patio like this one.

One full week – just the two of us.  A few days into my stay, he’ll have to start attending his class.  But, that’s okay.  We’ll have dinner together and nights together before he has to be back at class the next morning.  That will give me all day those days with nothing to do but write or blog and look forward to my husband walking through the door that evening.

It’s hard to explain to you the ache and emptiness he and I have existed with on a day-to-day basis for the last two years, when just the thought of sharing meals together and sleeping in the same bed for seven straight days and six straight nights makes us giddy with excitement.

We’re counting down the months now; six more months and he’ll be home for good.  So, we’ll steal this week together, and the kids and I will steal a week with him in Europe over spring break, and those six months will be broken down into mere weeks — I’ll come home from this and count down the weeks until Spring Break.  The kids and I will come home from that and count down the weeks until June.

We’re on the downhill stretch right now.  And in six days, I’ll be boarding a plane and begin my journey to break that stretch up just a little bit.

Hallee


I’m so grateful for your visit, today.
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Surviving Separation: Dealing with It

This is part eight in a series about surviving separation from your spouse. Read all posts in this series.

Gregg and Hallee - 1 week after his return from Afghanistan in 2003

Gregg and Hallee - 1 week after his return from Afghanistan in 2003

Gregg and I have been married for over eight years. We didn’t live together until our first anniversary. Three months after we married, he deployed to Afghanistan. A couple of years later, he changed his military specialty and went to school 400 miles away for eight months. A couple years later, he went to another school, even further away, for six months. He is currently in Afghanistan again, this time as a civilian contractor, and has been working there for 21 months. On top of these extended absences, his civilian job had him away from home for months at a time, when he would come home on Friday night and leave again on Sunday. We have spent more time apart than together, so we have learned how to have an abiding, intimate relationship even though we’re, at times and currently, thousands of miles away from each other. This series will provide you with little tips and hints we’ve picked up along the way.

Dealing with It

We’re smack dab in the middle of what they call “The Holiday Season.”  Thanksgiving is behind us.  Christmas is looming.  I mailed Gregg’s birthday box Monday — the third year in a row I’ve mailed him a birthday box instead setting the table with the birthday table cloth and kissing him Happy Birthday.  I have a 4-year-old who tries desperately to believe in Santa Claus despite the fact that we don’t even talk about Santa Claus in our house.  When I tell him that Mommy and Daddy are Santa Claus, he has now become convinced that Daddy will come at Christmas like Santa.

A piece of my puzzle is missing.

I want to cry and wail and kick and scream and tell the holidays to go away.  I want to whine to my husband about how “hard” it is.  It’s so “hard” to do this thing – raising these children and living this life – without him.

Then I stop.  Then I remember.  I am in our home.   I’m sitting on our couch with the Christmas tree blinking right next to me.  Our son is sitting against me, watching television.  Our other children are sleeping upstairs.  My home is filled with the smells of home cooked, consciously healthy food.  I’ll hug our children, talk to them face-to-face, interact with them, share meals with them, laugh with them.  At night I’ll go sleep in our bed.  On Sunday I’ll walk into our church, hug our friends, worship with our church family.

I have an amazing life and I have nothing to complain about.

For the third year in a row, my husband will receive a birthday box packed by his wife and children instead of sitting down at his table with the Happy Birthday table cloth covering it and his children singing “Happy Birthday” to him.  He will receive his Christmas stocking stuffed with beef jerky and smoked salmon instead of putting together toys and stockings for his kids.  He’ll go to work and do his job on Christmas because war doesn’t stop just to celebrate the birth of our Savior and King.  He’ll do it because that’s what he has to do in this season in our life.

And he’ll do it without crying and wailing and kicking and screaming and telling the holidays to go away.  He’ll do it without whining to me about how “hard” it is.  About how “hard” it is to do this thing – this living day in and day out in a war zone; this eating crappy food and being thankful for how much better it is than the last place; this not being able to sleep for more than an hour at a time because just a few hundred feet from where he lays his head, fighter jets take off in full after burner; this not being able to touch his children, kiss his children, actively raise his children; this sleeping in a single bed with a thin lumpy mattress, suspended off of the ground to keep the cobras and spiders out of his bed.

I don’t have it hard.  My heart aches, my soul yearns – but I have it easy.  So, I can deal with this season, and I can do it without crying to him about it and making it even harder on him, making him feel even worse for doing what he has to do for his family.

Hallee


I’m so grateful for your visit, today.
You would bless me if you added me to your Subscribe via any Reader feed reader or subscribed Subscribe via Email via email.
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Surviving Separation: The Written Word

This is part seven in a series about surviving separation from your spouse. Read all posts in this series.

Gregg and Hallee - 1 week after his return from Afghanistan in 2003

Gregg and I have been married for over eight years. We didn’t live together until our first anniversary. Three months after we married, he deployed to Afghanistan. A couple of years later, he changed his military specialty and went to school 400 miles away for eight months. A couple years later, he went to another school, even further away, for six months. He is currently in Afghanistan again, this time as a civilian contractor, and has been working there for 18 months. On top of these extended absences, his civilian job had him away from home for months at a time, when he would come home on Friday night and leave again on Sunday. We have spent more time apart than together, so we have learned how to have an abiding, intimate relationship even though we’re, at times and currently, thousands of miles away from each other. This series will provide you with little tips and hints we’ve picked up along the way.

The Written Word

Our church had a couples’ retreat a few weeks ago.  Our Sunday School teacher and his wife went, and the Sunday after the retreat, he posed some hard questions to individual members of the class.  To me he said, “Hallee, how can a marriage stay strong in the face of extended separation like yours and Gregg’s has?”

It took me a moment to answer.  I had to think of all of the ways that we abide in each other, and all of the ways we stay close and loving, and a lot of it boils down to the written word.

Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, uses a term “love tank” in his book.  How to fill your spouse’s love tank…when your love tank is feeling empty…etc.  When Gregg has been too busy to stop and write even a quick email to me for days , I’ll feel my love tank start getting low, despite the time on the phone with him, despite the gifts I’ve received mail order, despite the prayers we’ve said, despite the work he’s done on the blog.  Just a quick “good morning” from him will boost my love tank to full.  When I see a number next to his name in my email filtering program, I get excited.  Before I even open it up to see what it is, my heart rate increases, my stomach gets a little giddy.  I love love getting email from my husband.

Gregg and I are both writers.  We type very fast, we can get our thoughts and feelings down (I started to say on paper, but we typically don’t do it on paper, we typically do it electronically), and we do it often.   As writers, we often send long emails.  Some (most) are love letters.  Some are working through a problem or a potential conflict.  Some are making plans for the future.  Some are ministry ideas.  Others are prayers.

Sometimes it takes me days to write an email, there is so much I want to say and I want to get it out just right.  Other times, it takes me minutes — typing very quickly and just sending him some love in the middle of my day.

Whatever it may be, we write, and we write to each other as often as our schedules allow.  I believe that God equipped us to sustain our absences by giving us the gift to write.  If it wasn’t for the ability to communicate this way, I truly don’t know how our marriage would have survived.

When my teacher finished listening to me talk about it, he paused, then wrote on the board the one word summary he’d been writing for each person who spoke.  Mine was “communication.”  We communicate, as a couple, probably more than other couples who are together all the time.  We talk about things, hash things out, work on the future – and we do it constantly.  It is a way for us to bridge the separation and to talk when the other person isn’t available to listen.  I think the habits of communication we’ve established will carry forward into the next phase of our lives – the phase that doesn’t have us apart more than together.

Hallee


I’m so grateful for your visit, today.
You would bless me if you added me to your Subscribe via any Reader feed reader or subscribed Subscribe via Email via email.
You can also become a fan on Become a Facebook Fan Facebook or follow me on Follow me on Twitter Twitter. I would love to see more of you!


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