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Deployment: It’s a Balancing Act

everyoneserves250button

Today’s post for Blue Star Families is all about maintaining balance in our lives during deployment.  Is there a magic formula to use in order to be healthy in all areas of our lives?  Unfortunately there is not, and I’ll be the first to admit: I am NOT awesome at maintaining balance, and I daresay it gets worse during a deployment.

My auto-pilot mode during deployment is to become a work-a-holic.  I have my momentary, tearful pity-party right after saying goodbye, and then it’s grindstone time.  But I will admit that in the last month of the first deployment, I literally worked myself sick.  I succumbed to a bad case of the flu (I am rarely ill) and was down and out for five days.  It was like my body was screaming at me, “Malori, you’re outta control, so I’m gonna MAKE you stop and rest whether you like it or not!!”  (I didn’t like it.)

So during this deployment, I’m making more of an effort to maintain a healthy balance with my life.  That is why I made it a deployment goal to nurture friendships one to two times a month.  Hanging out with friends and family is a healthy way for me to de-stress (yes, I’m an extrovert), and I didn’t do much socializing last time because I was working so much.  Do I sometimes feel guilty taking time out to stop working?  Yes.  But I know it’s good for me and I should do it.

Other ways to maintain balance are by exercising, eating healthily, and getting adequate sleep.  Especially during a stressful period of time (hello deployment!), these three aspects are vital.  On my goal list is to take 10 Krav Maga self-defense classes this fall, and I’m also continuing the gluten-free diet I began in January 2012.  As for sleep?  Well, I’m pretending that copious amounts of coffee and concealer can take care of that – so I can definitely be more diligent about sleeping more.  A restful, minimum night’s sleep for me is six hours, but nine is optimal.

How can one make the best effort to reach balanced goals during deployment?  By writing them down and making them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.  Goals do a person no good if they are merely bouncing around in the stratosphere.  Early in our relationship, Mark taught me the SMART principle and it has proven to be very sound advice!  Whatever your goals are, I highly encourage using this acronym.

Even though it’s pretty stressful, deployment can be a unique time for us as military wives to work on our goals and even our long-term dreams.  We can look at the deployment and know we have a finite amount of time during which to accomplish great things!  Our lists will be different, but the things they will have in common are the incredible drive, commitment, and pride that military families possess.

~Malori~

Follow Blue Star Families on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and build a support network so you can keep your family and personal community strong throughout the duration of the entire deployment life cycle.

Henry Ward Beecher

Please click HERE to view my disclosure statement, in compliance with FTC guidelines.

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Military Mondays: The Harsh Realities of War

I’m one of those spouses who WANTS to know exactly what happens in war.  I don’t know how common that is, because I have heard both sides: needing to know and not wanting to know.  It all depends on personality and your coping style, but my coping style definitely hates being left in the dark.

I’m the Army wife who is attracted like a magnet to the TV when the word “Afghanistan” or “terrorism” is mentioned; I’m the Army wife who watches documentaries like Battleground Afghanistan and Restrepo; I’m the Army wife who would prefer to read a raw, honest saga of a journalist embedded with fighting soldiers, rather than the latest issue of “Military Spouse Magazine.” (Disclaimer: That is not a rip against the magazine, it IS a great resource and I enjoy their articles!)

Furthermore, I don’t just want to know what happens in war generally.  I want to know specifically what is happening to my own soldier.  I know to not pepper him with TOO many questions, but when he opens up about combat (whether it’s about his previous tour or his current one) I listen attentively and soak up every word.  I want a visual picture painted in my head.  I want to know when things get really bad.  But most of all, I want to understand what he is going through.

But that is where I get tripped up and frustrated.  The cold fact is that I will NEVER understand.  No matter how many times he repeats his stories, no matter how deep he may let me look into his soul, I will NEVER GET IT.  Only another veteran can completely understand him.  Only another veteran can look at his eyes and know the pain he’s suffered.  Only another veteran can say, “I get it. I know.”

I DON’T know, and during Mark’s first deployment that especially caused me great anguish because it was a very rough tour.  He was violently engaged with the enemy.  He was knocked out in a rollover accident.  He had to shoot a puppy to death because it might have been rabid.  He looked death in the face numerous times.  Those are things I cannot fathom, even though I wish I could.  There have been times I’ve truly wished I could go to Afghanistan, just so I could understand him better.  In all honesty, if I had the opportunity to travel there as an embedded journalist, I would.  And at one point, I was trying to get a contractor job over there so I could quickly pay off my student loans…but also so I could see a TINY bit of reality.

However, one of the puzzle pieces to being a good military wife is to understand what my role is.  My role is to be his support, his rock, his love.  My role entails being patient, unshakeable, and a good listener.  He may be a warrior in the traditional sense of the word (his name even means “God’s Warrior”), but in my own way, I am a warrior too.  We each have unique warrior qualities that complement each other and give strength where the other is weak.  Even after our military life is over, we will fearlessly face life head-on….together.

Warrior_Wife

Deployment: A Family Affair

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As I wrote in my previous post for Blue Star Families, my father-in-law Nick suffered a massive heart attack and subsequently underwent a successful triple bypass surgery.  The initial grim prognosis triggered emergency leave, coordinated and paid for by the Red Cross, for Mark and his twin Matt.  For two weeks, the three of us were the “crisis management team” for the Mayor family: establishing the Nick Mayor Benefit Fund and online donation website, creating and updating our Facebook page, meeting with Nick’s employer and family lawyer, engaging the community and donors, and interfacing with the media to better advertise the fundraiser for the mounting medical bills.  We even organized a benefit event that was a success, considering it was planned in less than a week!  My mother-in-law, Jeanine, held the primary caregiver role, visiting and assisting Nick in the hospital every day.  She is now acting as his in-home nurse and is doing a fabulous job!  We each found our unique roles during this crisis and we couldn’t have gotten through it without working as a team.

Even with a “normal” deployment, it is healthiest for all involved if each party knows their roles.  I feel if the deployed servicemember is in a relationship but is unmarried, roles can be a little more complicated and feelings might get hurt easier.  During Mark’s first deployment (November 2011-April 2012), we were engaged and I understood that I didn’t have a “right” to information or being connected to anything “official.”  Matt was first point-of-contact (POC) for news, and their parents would’ve had the “right to know” before me.  (The military doesn’t care about unmarried significant others!)  But before the deployment began, I had already established open communication with both Jeanine and Matt.  When Mark was in the rollover accident in February 2012, for example, Matt contacted me and told me everything he knew.  Jeanine and I also talked and texted frequently.

Since Mark and I got married at the courthouse before this deployment, I am a military dependent and the first POC now.  However, the lines of communication are still open between his parents and myself, and I understand my responsibility of informing them of vital information.  At the same time, it is important to have boundaries and not be TOO communicative.  Whether the soldier is married or unmarried, feelings of jealousy could arise if one party (the soldier’s partner or parent) is under the impression they are not being properly informed.  As the married spouse, it is also important to know what is okay and not okay to share with your in-laws.  He may not want his parents to know when he is having a rough time, because that could cause them to worry more than is necessary.  However, each family will be different with these boundaries and that is only one example.

In the e-book Everyone Serves (downloadable for free HERE!), there are tips specifically for parents on pages 46 and 53 about handling their relationship and communication with their deployed child.  In many ways, deployment might be harder for the parents than for the spouse because 1) they aren’t as connected to official information, and 2) that tough soldier used to be their baby.  They remember holding him in their arms for the first time, helping him learn how to walk, seeing him off to school….and now that child is grown and holds a perilous job.  As spouses, we need to be a support to our in-laws and to make sure that they feel included in the deployment cycle as proud military parents.

~Malori~

Mark (near) and Matt working in the "Command and Operations Center (aka their parents' living room)

Mark (near) and Matt working in the “Command and Operations Center (aka their parents’ living room)

Army strong, Cav tough!

Army strong, Cav tough!

Nick with his sons and daughter-in-law :)

Nick with his sons and daughter-in-law :)

Saying goodbye at the airport...can't believe they are back in the 'Stan!

Saying goodbye at the airport…sometimes it was surreal being with them during what was supposed to be deployment time!

Follow Blue Star Families on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and build a support network so you can keep your family and personal community strong throughout the duration of the entire deployment life cycle.

Please click HERE to view my disclosure statement, in compliance with FTC guidelines.

Prayers For My Father-in-Law

I was planning on writing a completely different post for today, but I am going to put that off until next week.

For those of you who are believers, please offer up a prayer for Mark’s dad, Nick.  This afternoon, he had a serious heart attack.  He was working out at the gym when he collapsed and passed out.  It was a blessing he was in a public place – he needed a defibrillator right away because his heart had stopped, and then he was rushed to the hospital.  A stent was put in, but he is still in critical condition in the ICU.

This has been one doozy of a week.  As we military folk know, summer is the most violent time in Afghanistan, so it hasn’t exactly been Disneyland over there.  Calling Mark and telling him the news that his dad had experienced a heart attack was tough, but I’m thankful that he and his brother are there together.  It is extremely hard when something bad happens to a family member and relatives are spread out literally around the world…not to mention being in a combat zone!

This isn’t the most eloquent piece I’ve written, but I wanted to get the word out to my readers.  Thank you in advance for all your prayers and well wishes.  It is our faith and others’ support that holds us up in the rough times.  We appreciate you so very much and I am hoping to post positive recovery updates soon.

~Malori~

About one year ago when the twins visited home for Independence Day

About one year ago when the twins visited home for Independence Day

Deployment and Independence Day

Frisco Square flagsMark and I have never celebrated Independence Day together in person.  Each year we’ve known each other, he has traveled home to Wisconsin, to visit his parents and twin brother.  Because of the cost and lack of adequate vacation time, I never joined him.  So not being together on such an important holiday is normal…

…except that this time it’s because he’s in Afghanistan.

One can imagine my excitement about getting to Skype with him on the 4th of July!  It was the first time I was able to SEE him since he left, and I seriously believe that video chat is the most blessed technological invention ever.  That evening, I attended the FC Dallas soccer game for free, thanks to the DFW Military Wives, Fiances, and Girlfriends Meetup group.  But who knew that a soccer game could be so emotional.

At halftime, The American Fallen Soldiers Project honored one of our fallen heroes by unveiling a drawn portrait of him and presenting it to his family.  While they and a small group of uniformed soldiers were gathered on the field, a bagpiper played Amazing Grace as a slideshow played on the big screens.  I did not know this family, but I had a really hard time keeping it together.  I met up with Tara Crooks from the Army Wife Network during the fireworks show, and she expressed the same sentiment.

Since Mark’s first deployment and then working through post-combat issues, I’ve become a little more hardened, a little less emotional, and I don’t easily cry anymore.  However, when it comes to patriotism and our troops, events like these hit close to home.  Before I met Mark, I considered myself patriotic and thought I knew what patriotism meant.  But now, I am able to experience a deep love and pride that I never knew before.  I’m also able to appreciate more deeply the freedoms that our soldiers defend…because I have seen what Mark has sacrificed and is willing to give.

Before the game, I sat in Frisco Square eating some delicious barbeque.  (And yes, I made a point of patronizing the food stand that displayed a “Support Our Troops” sign!)  I asked a lady sitting next to me if she could take my picture, because “I’m here by myself.”  She asked why, and I proceeded to tell her about Mark.  She was genuinely interested and asked pointed questions about what it’s like in Afghanistan.  I gave her honest answers, according to what Mark has told me, and she was intrigued by stories from the frontlines.  Everyone is war weary and it’s too easy to tune out reality, especially if you’re a non-military family.  But the truth is, civilians want to hear about our soldiers, no matter the politics surrounding war.  They want to put real-life faces to what is happening, and I know this lady truly cared.

Patriotism and supporting our troops is so much more than flying our flag or slapping a yellow ribbon magnet on our cars.  It means actually becoming invested in what our military does for our country.  It means gathering as fellow Americans to recognize those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and those who are currently willing to give all.  I witnessed that in my hometown last week, and I am proud and thankful to live in such a supportive, patriotic community. ~Malori~

Sitting in Square

Eating some brisket BBQ in Frisco Square

Great view from the beer garden of the FC Dallas soccer game!

Great view from the beer garden of the FC Dallas soccer game!

Follow Blue Star Families on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and build a support network so you can keep your family and personal community strong throughout the duration of the entire deployment life cycle.

Please click HERE to read my disclosure statement, in compliance with FTC guidelines.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesdays: Independence Day in Afghanistan

Ind. Day Collage 2013

Since it’s July 4th in Afghanistan as I write this (11:16PM Central on July 3rd), I wanted to tell Mark and Matt THANK YOU for serving our country on this Independence Day!  I am so proud of you guys.  Stay safe – I know you’ve got each other’s 6.

~Malori~

Blue Star Families: Everyone Serves Blog Series Premiere

Blue Star Sticker-Intro

Welcome to the Blue Star Families deployment series!  Every week for the next five months, I and four other military spouse bloggers will be writing about our experiences with the deployment process in conjunction with the e-book Everyone Serves.  I’d first like to give a huge thank you to BSF for accepting me as a blogger and to my Army Wife Network colleagues for letting me know about this opportunity!  I’d also like to give a shout-out to the other military wives participating in this series: Jennifer, Jacey, Julie, and Reda.  Please check out their bios HERE!

Until a few years ago, I never thought I’d be an Army wife.  The military just wasn’t something familiar to me.  I was born and raised near Dallas, was homeschooled until college, and had a serious relationship with my violin, which I’ve played since three years of age.  The violin was my childhood passion, so I made the decision to pursue a degree in violin performance.  I graduated from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in 2009, returning to Texas because I got a desk job.  I got into a normal routine: working at the office, exercising (sometimes), paying my student loans on time, spending time with family and friends, reading, being a news junkie.  I was comfortable and settled….

…until I was introduced to the military.  Mark and I met online in March 2010, and a few weeks later, we met in person for a date.  He drove three hours to meet me, and that in itself was impressive!  However, I also was impressed by his intellect, his passion for our common beliefs, and his dedication to his job as an Army officer.  (Oh yes, small detail – his looks were quite striking as well!)  That first date led to many more, and a few months later, we knew that we had met “the one.”  We were engaged in December 2010, and this month (June 2013) we tied the knot at the courthouse.  Upon his return from deployment, we will have our church wedding and then ride happily into the sunset.

But, as we all know, military life is never that easy.  Deployment inevitably returns.  Lives are in danger.  Stress is a daily visitor.  The word “Afghanistan” pops out in the news like a neon sign.  But yet, we continue to live this life – not just in survival mode, but in thriving mode.  From the beginning of my military journey with Mark, I looked upon it as the biggest adventure of my life, as a unique opportunity to rise to its challenges.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced moments of feeling completely overwhelmed – but at some point, there is a chance to coast down the other side of the mountain.

This, our second deployment, has just begun – and I have to say that saying goodbye the second time around is much harder than the first.  But what is exciting to me is this: I also have the chance to share my experiences so that others won’t feel alone in the tough times.  I have an opportunity to serve my country and fellow military spouses by opening up my heart through the passion I have for writing.  For that, I am truly honored and grateful.

~Malori~

Follow Blue Star Families on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and build a support network so you can keep your family and personal community strong throughout the duration of the entire deployment life cycle.

Please click HERE to read my disclosure statement, in compliance with FTC guidelines.