February 28, 2011

My Portable Career

I'm a teacher. Well I would be if I had a teaching job. Or could find a teaching job. I am certified to teach elementary school and had intended on finding a job once we arrived at our next duty station. Well, now that we're headed to Japan, that is a lot easier said than done. After looking at the website on where and how to apply to work in the Department of Defense Education System, I saw that the only overseas jobs available for new teachers are in Guam and Puerto Rico. That's quite the commute from Okinawa. We will not be out there for another 5 months, which is shortly before school starts, but knowing that there are very few jobs and many more people than that applying for them, the outlook that I will get hired with no teaching experience is looking unlikely. Boo.

Hence, I am forced to evaluate my other options. What the heck am I going to do for 4 years on a tropical island in the Pacific with no career? My husband will deploy, my babies will grow up, go to school, and I will be left with what? In researching and reading about what other wives do, and what other jobs are available, I learned that many of them run their own businesses out of their homes. There are photographers, artists, hairdressers, jewelers, and so much more. I realized that this is a moment of opportunity. I have a chance to pursue something that I may never otherwise do. So I started to think about the things I am good at. I started to think about what I used to do in my "spare" time that made me happy. I write. I draw. And I'm good. I am truly, honestly going to pursue one of my dreams of writing children's books. I am doing this.

So with renewed fervor, I rummaged through my many boxes of art supplies. These are things that I haven't even looked at since my brother died. I found my pencils, my sketch pads, all of my precious things that have been packed away for 4 years. I had to make a pilgrimage to Hobby Lobby to replace some of the items that were damaged, or missing, and of course purchase the holy grail of art supplies, Prismacolor colored pencils. I almost bowed down right there in the isle filled floor to ceiling with drawing supplies. It is my Graceland. However, losing the respect of my 4 year old in the Hobby Lobby was a less appealing option!!

Upon returning home, after my children were napping, I sat down on my couch and began to draw. Though some of my skills are rusty and need further practice, it all came flooding back. Visual images poured from my fingertips through my pencil and onto the page. Yes, this is me. This is something I was born to do. If I can't teach in Okinawa, I can do this. I don't need to apply for the job. I don't need to report to the office at any specific time. I won't need to worry about who will pick up my kids from school or gymnastics. My inspiration comes from life itself, and now it's one that has many positives on the horizon.  So months before we are actually in Okinawa proper, I am beginning what I hope can be my career for the next 4 years. Happy drawing!

February 22, 2011

Okinawa or Bust.

Years after beginning this process, we've finally received confirmation that we are headed to Japan. Our holding pattern is no more. We have a destination, a purpose, and an end in sight. It is time to compile the mental lists I've been making into something more concrete, such as which household items we will take with us and which ones we can part with. My elliptical, for example, will have to be sold. To say that we have to downsize is an understatement. We will be moving into a house that is more than likely about half the size of the one we live in now. A small sacrifice for the adventure on which we are about to embark.

I know little about what we are actually getting ourselves into. The only information I have is what I've read on the internet from a handful of websites found using Google, most of which are pretty informative. I know that they drive on the other side of the road, and we have to take a driver's ed course in order to get a Japanese driver's license. I know we will be given a crash course on the local language, culture, and customs. I know that we will be residing on a tiny island in "Typhoon Ally". And I know that everyone who has lived there for any length of time has loved it.

There is much to do before we actually pack up our house and ship our stuff, which the Army will do for us. And the prospect of a 10+ hour flight is more than daunting with a 1 year old and a 4 year old. But we've been given a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience something that not many people can or ever will. We've been given the chance to immerse ourselves in a culture and life that is so very different from the one we know, and we'd be fools not to embrace it.

I definitely have many misgivings about living on the other side of the planet. For one, it's unfamiliar. It's very far from my family with whom I am very close. And the how's and when's of traveling back and forth from the states is a slightly scary process. But then my adventurous side kicks in. We can learn to dive in one of the most immaculate and best places to do so. We can easily travel to China, Taiwan, Australia, and many more "fantasy" vacation spots. There truly are a multitude of unique experiences right at our finger tips and I can't wait to touch them and take it all in.

February 18, 2011


I have butterflies in my stomach. Today is the day he comes home. Except that I have no idea what time to expect him. He hasn't been deployed, he's been undergoing the most difficult portion of his training to date. I can't go pick him up, and there is no prideful march across the field while we stand waving flags. I'm at home just waiting.

Everything is done. The kids are clean, the floors are swept, mopped, or vacuumed. The laundry is done and folded, and I've laid out some comfortable clothes for him. There is nothing left to do but wait. My heart jumps at any sound out on the road. The mailman, UPS, FedEx, the neighbors. . . my heart accelerates and I  am at the window to see if it's him. Today is the last day, and I'm riding a fine line between nerves and tears. Each time that it's not him I want to fly into a child-like rage, as if that would make him get here sooner.

I am nervous to hear about what he's been doing the last several weeks, nervous to see what he looks like. I know he'll be too tired to do much, and I will try not to overwhelm him with what we've been doing while he's been away. It almost feels like he's been gone for months. I check my watch for the 10th time in as many minutes. This day is dragging by.

The anticipation of this day is overwhelming. Where is he?

February 9, 2011

Saving the Pink M&M's

"Nicholas! Use your walking feet please!" I shout as my son runs full speed down the hallway of his school. He's not listening and he's headed for the door. My hands are full of his artwork and other papers, his hat, and my daughter is on my hip. Clearly running after him is out of the question. 

"Wait for Mommy!" I call out sharply, and several parents and staff turn to look. I finally make it to the door where he is waiting for me. . . then he takes off full speed across the full parking lot. Great. I'm gritting my teeth trying to keep my composure while at the same time walk/running and losing my grip on my daughter. I drop everything but the baby. OK. While I stoop to pick up my dropped things I've got my eyes on him, but if someone's not paying attention and pulls out of their parking spot too fast. . . I don't even want to continue that thought.

We make it to our truck and he disappears around the other side. I think my teeth are fused together from me grinding them so hard. I walk around, let my son in, and strap the baby into her seat. I get into the driver's seat, take a deep breath, (he knows better than to do what he just did) and let him have it.

There was the beginning of the end of the day and it did not get much better from there. It was filled with my son blatantly not listening to a word I said, whether I asked, stated, or told. It's days like these, when I know my husband is not coming home at the end of the day, that my patience wears thin and it truly is a conscience effort to maintain my composure. And in order to be honest, I have to admit that my composure does go by the wayside sometimes. But most of the time I just try to remember that my 4 year old is working hard at searching for his place in the world of confusion of his daddy being here, then gone, then here, then gone. . .

Tonight while I made dinner, my heart was heavy, and my head hurt like someone had smashed it between two cinder blocks. I knew, just knew that meal time was going to be a battle and frankly I didn't have the energy for it. But I donned my armor and rallied. I got a full dinner in the kid. Whoopie.

If he finishes his dinner I give him a bag of fun sized M&M's. Yes indeed. I have resorted to bribing my child to eat his food. In true form he took 25 minutes to eat 15 M&M's. As my teeth started to grit again due to the fact that I needed to get him to bed so I could have some "me" time to decompress from the day, I heard it. My sweet little boy's voice.

"Mommy? Do you want one of my m-and-m's?" I look over at him. He's holding one bright fuschia candy in his little hand. I take it and pop it into my mouth.

"How did you know Mommy needed some chocolate?" I ask him smiling.

"Because I do too." He says and smiles. Then he pauses and says, "I will give Daddy the pink ones."

"But Daddy's not here remember? He has to sleep at work for a little while longer." I can see the wheels turning in his head. He gets up from the couch, and runs into the kitchen. I can hear him open the drawer where his dishes are kept. He comes back a minute later. He has put all the light pink M&M's in one of his plastic bowls, and I notice that he's not eating them. "Whats wrong with the pink ones?" I ask him.

"I'm saving them for Daddy."

Instantly I no longer needed time for me because I wanted to spend the rest of the night in that moment. In that one bowl of 4 pink M&M's that my son was saving for his dad was all of the unconditional love and trust in his heart. I picked up my little boy and hugged him so tight. His Daddy is always in the front of his mind, missing him, wanting to be with him, and lately wanting to be just like him.

Tonight I spent some extra time on bedtime. We read an extra story, and sang an extra song. Tonight I spent a little extra time filling up my son's heart with the love he's saving for his Daddy in those pink M&M's.

February 5, 2011

Rainy Day Blues

It has been raining here for two days, which I suppose is not so bad considering that the rest of the country is snowed in. Normally I really enjoy rainy dreary days where the family can cozy up inside the house and just be together. It's a great excuse to do a whole lot of nothing. Too bad one big part of the family is missing today. Him.

Aside from the 34 degree chilling rain, the day was perfect. My little boy made me a much anticipated heart during arts and crafts at school. I got the best smile, and the tightest hug as it was presented to me when I picked him up from class. For once he ate all of his meals, no fights or arguments. My baby ate well, was pleasant for most of the day until she got to tired to function. . . BED TIME!

Now that both kids are asleep, there is the cold, rainy night ahead of me. At first I was relieved to have the quiet time for myself, but now, while I sit here alone in the silence, bored with the tv, too tired to read, my mind too busy to sleep, I miss him terribly. Especially on a dreary night like this one. I miss his arms around me. I miss sipping our wine while our living room fills with the sounds of our laughter. I do not want to go upstairs to our empty bed alone. But I will.

Sure he isn't in harm's way. But he will be soon enough. It's what he's training for. He may not be deployed this time, but he sure is gone. He just left, and there is light at the end of this particular tunnel, but the fact that he's been in and out of the field since October has thrown my schedule, my routine, and the kids' out the window. I won't get a phone call, or a letter while he's out, nor will I expect one. I know better than that. I have to admit that this holding pattern we are in can now officially be classified as a rut.  I feel like we're going forward with out really going anywhere at all. I can only imagine how he feels.

So tonight I will write, and eventually I will make it upstairs to sleep alone in our bed. Maybe I'll find a good crappy movie to watch and fall asleep with the tv on. Tomorrow the rain is supposed to keep on coming, but there is an end in sight. My mind is beginning to quiet, so I suppose I'll head to bed. At least I get to sleep in the middle.

February 4, 2011

Finding What Works For You

After years of being an Army wife I've learned that you really have to find your own style so to speak. When your husband is gone you have to figure out how to survive. Speaking from experience, you may not figure it out on the first few weeks, or even months of the first deployment or other long separation, but I promise that eventually you will.

I've tried too many things to count to get me through the lengthy times away from my husband. Each wife has her own hobbies, pass times, parenting styles, and interests. Some wives get deeply involved in the FRG (family readiness group) which is just military speak for a family support network. Some wives move home to be with their families, some wives become involved at church. There is a whole world of activities and things to do to get through. The key is finding a place for yourself in the world without your spouse.

It's taken me a while to figure out how to get through the separations and still have my sanity. For example, I blog. I write to share my experiences with women like me. It's always nice to know that you're not alone when you feel that way, with no family near by to help take care of the kids. That is just one of the ways I survive. But what I do to keep myself together and get through each day is different from what the wife next to me may do.

At every post you go to, there will always be the wives who volunteer for everything, take all the pictures for home comings and other events, cook all the food for the luncheons. And then there are the wives who don't want to be involved at all. I've found my place somewhere in between. I love to volunteer to be part of the family groups. It helps me stay connected to what is happening to my soldier while he's gone. But I like to do things where I am removed from the Army as well. I also enjoy my solitude.

To let you in on a little secret, sometimes my house is a mess. Some days I just plain give myself a break. I don't fold the laundry, I don't worry about the dishes, or mopping the floors. I let my 4 year old have cupcakes for dinner. I just spend the day having fun with my children. They need it as much as I do. On these days I am a kid too.

No matter what gets you going, always remember that there are others out there that are going through the same thing that you are. You are not alone. I've found that the internet is a military wife's best friend when looking for people or places that appeal to me. So if you feel alone, look around. We're out there.