Tag Archive | quotes

Deployment: It’s a Balancing Act

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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: PTSD – A New Acronym

If you missed the first three installations of my PTSD Awareness series, you can find them here:

An Introduction

Steps to a Better Future

Erasing the Stigma

Psalm 23 Trail-PTSD

I thought up a new meaning for the PTSD acronym: when faced with this challenge, we need to ask for Patience, Trust, Strength, and Divine grace.

That was inspired by my favorite resource thus far: the book Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home by Marshele Carter Waddell.  As I said last week, this is not a battle to fight alone, and I would not have a positive outlook right now if it weren’t for help I found outside myself.  I read Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home during the last few weeks of Lent this year, and I began to find a spiritual meaning within the pain of PTSD.  As I read, I highlighted paragraphs, made note of Biblical passages, and felt comforted when I read of other spouses who were seeing and feeling the same things as me.

If you have a loved one with PTSD, I highly recommend getting this book especially if you are coming at things from a Christian perspective.  Below are some of my favorite passages:

“A warrior’s hurtful words and actions are not excused, but it helps to know that usually the soft targets are not to blame.  Refusing to take your warrior’s anger personally is a key step…We can’t resolve the warrior’s issues, so that leaves one option for the here and now: identifying those things that we can affect or control and developing the inner resources to maintain a balance.” ~p. 68

“There are two types of PTSD sufferers: those who see PTSD as their new home, who have no intention of getting well or moving on, and those who are committed to passing through, who desire to get well and are teachable.  The lie is that a vet and his/her family will never get out of this darkness, that his/her new, permanent address is in the valley of the shadow of PTSD.  God tells us the opposite.” ~pp. 140-141

“Many Christian physicians, psychologists, social workers, and ministers believe that PTSD is not only a mental wound, but equally, or even more so, a spiritual wound as well.  Trauma of any kind can cause a fissure in the soul of a man or woman.” ~p. 148

But one passage that resonated in my heart the most was this:

“Jesus knows a warrior’s heart and can make it whole again.  He also recognizes the cry of the warrior’s family.  Our Warrior, who was wounded for our ultimate protection and freedom, has promised to present us perfect, complete, and spot free to our heavenly Father one day.” ~p. 27

This put a whole new face on the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus for me.  There were so many times that I had thought, I feel so alone with this.  But I was failing to remember the One who understands it all, the One who has waged war on our behalf, and the One who can heal all wounds.  What was also comforting to me was that He knows and completely understands The Warrior.  I know my limitations.  I know that I will never truly “get it.”  I’ve read books like On Combat and On Killing, I’ve watched documentaries and movies about war, and I’ve listened to The Warrior’s stories….but those things can NEVER amount to actually experiencing the trauma.

Passing Through Someplace Dark” is Mrs. Waddell’s new definition of the PTSD acronym; and as we do that we should pray for Patience, Trust, Strength, and Divine grace.  No matter what stage of PTSD we are in, each new day is a chance to renew our strength and hope for healing.

~Malori~

Military Mondays: Memorial Day 2013

“Greater love has no man than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

~John 15:13~

Today is Memorial Day, the day we remember all fallen warriors of our military, from all wars and conflicts in United States history.  While pop culture hi-jacks this holiday weekend for store sales, barbecue parties, and the “unofficial start of summer,” we need to set all that aside and focus on exactly why we have this vacation day.  It is so much more than having a relaxing, fun time.  The families of our fallen heroes know this the best, and the loved ones of current military servicemembers know that Memorial Day could become extremely personal in the future.

The Warrior, my dad, and I went to a Memorial Day service this morning.

The Warrior, my dad, and I went to a Memorial Day service this morning.

My family and I have been going to this for years, since I was little.  It made a big impression on me and has always been important, even before becoming connected to the military.

My family and I have been going to this for years, since I was little. It made a big impression on me and has always been important, even before becoming connected to the military.

A group of bag pipers played Amazing Grace as part of the riderless horse tribute, which is one of the most moving things I’ve ever experienced.  Hearing Amazing Grace on the bag pipes is emotional enough, but couple that with honoring our fallen heroes – I didn’t actually cry, but my throat hurt.  However, we are wise to remember the words of the renowned General George Patton, which Master of Ceremonies Keith Self quoted:

“It is foolish and wrong the mourn the men who died.  Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”

It is natural to feel sadness when loved ones die, and it is always heartbreaking to lose one of our warriors.  But instead of becoming stuck in our sadness, we need to celebrate the lives of our heroic military members.  We need to be grateful that our country was blessed by their service, that they had the courage to give the ultimate sacrifice so that we and future generations might live in peace and liberty, in the greatest country the world has ever known.

God Bless our fallen heroes!  To you we are eternally grateful.

~Malori~

Financial Fridays: Tips on How to Prosper

Last week, as I was doing mindless data entry, I was listening to Dave Ramsey podcasts.  I have a subscription to “My Total Money Makeover” website (www.mytotalmoneymakeover.com), which includes forums, online budgeting software, and commercial-free access to podcasts of Dave’s radio show.  Lately I have been too busy to spend much time on the forums, but I have all my budgets stored on the site (since June 2011) and enjoy listening to the podcasts when I need a shot in the arm.

I was listening to the show from February 28, 2013, and in Hour 1 Dave outlined five things people should do in order to prosper:

1) Stay out of debt

2) Be on a budget

3) Be a giver

4) Be a saver

5) You have to learn to work with other people.  You must build quality relationships with others, and that starts with your spouse/significant other.

So how do we accomplish these five steps?  Here are my thoughts on them:

1) Getting into debt is dumb.  (Oooh, nice alliteration there.)  Some people say that “debt is a tool,” but that is a lie we tell to make ourselves feel better about our stupidity.  Debt does not help you get ahead – it only hinders you.  Think about ALL the things you could do if you didn’t have debt or loans.  I often think about how much money I’ve lost towards payments in the past three and a half years (ya know, just about $70K) and realize that I would be sitting pretty right now if I would’ve been paying myself with that money – in other words, saving and investing.  The borrower is ALWAYS slave to the lender – that is a spiritual, philosophical, metaphysical fact.  So if you have been stupid enough (as I was) to take out massive amounts of debt (or even if you were only a little bit stupid), acknowledge the facts and start cleaning up your mess.  Usually this involves “getting mad” or having a fire lit under your butt for any number of reasons.  Make concrete goals for yourself – for example, I want to reach X amount in debt by X date.  (My current goal is getting to halfway, which is $70,000 by Easter.)  Or, think about what you want to do once you become debt free, and set milestones along the way for mini-celebrations and victories.  Find what motivates you, whether it’s pinning up a picture of your dream home, journaling about your successes and frustrations, or listening to DR podcasts.

2) You CANNOT get out of debt or be prosperous without a budget.  I know there are people who think they can keep all this information in their heads without writing it down,  but I beg to differ when it comes to budgeting one’s money.  (Sorry to all you men who pride yourselves on mental list-making!)  Before I made a written budget, I was doing fine.  I was paying my debts on time, I wasn’t over-drafting on my bank account, and I wasn’t a spend-a-holic.  But guess what?  “Doing fine” often means “being mediocre,” that is EXACTLY how I was.  I was not gazelle-intense about paying off debt or allocating my spending and saving dollars.  As soon as I began living on a budget, I felt like I actually had more money, and I also was more motivated to make more money.  Now, making a budget every month is a deeply ingrained habit.  I would feel naked (or, at least my money would) if I didn’t budget for a month.  I check my online budget at least once a week, as I do my checking account, to make sure I’m on track.  If I need to change something, I go into the MyTMMO budgeting software online and alter whatever category it is, making sure my spending equals my income.  (Of course, married people need to consult with each other before making any major changes to the joint budget.  What qualifies as “major” depends on each couple and their income.)  And yes, I admit: budgeting has become a hobby.  (Lame, I know.)

3) The last lesson of Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” course is entitled “The Great Misunderstanding.”  In this lesson, he talks all about giving – why we should do it and why that is the key to our financial well-being.  He gives this analogy: sometimes, we feel like if we walk around with a clenched fist, tightly hoarding our money, we will have more money.  But if we have a clenched fist, nothing can flow into it.  However, if we have an open hand (i.e. are givers), we have the opportunity to receive as well.  When we give, we exercise the truth that we are made in God’s image – because God is the ultimate giver.

4) The only way we will have money is if we work for it and if we save some of it.  This includes investing it wisely.  Certainly we cannot save EVERY penny we make (see #3 regarding hoarding), but having an Emergency Fund is a necessary part of life.  Dave suggests having 3-6 months of expenses saved, and those with a bigger, more active “security gland” will have more saved up.  Then, when Murphy visits your door, it is not a crisis trying to pay for the emergency.

5) I love how blunt Dave is: “Don’t marry a self-centered brat” and “Jerks don’t get ahead,” he says.  He also reminded his listeners that “being able to work well with others, beginning with your spouse…is a direct indication of your future prosperity.”  1 Peter 3:8 says it a little more gently: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”  Married couples NEED to communicate about their finances, as well as those thinking of or planning on getting married.  The Warrior and I began talking about our personal finances just a few months into our relationship, so we have been transparent with each other from nearly the very beginning.  As ridiculous as my debt was, I did not hide the fact from him that I had over six figures in student loans.  We regularly give each other updates on our spending and our debt levels.  (I am proud to say that The Warrior is just a couple months from becoming completely debt-free!!)  We do this because we are aware that the #1 cause of divorce are money problems.  It is hard enough to maintain a military marriage, so add financial troubles into that mix and we could really have a disaster on our hands.  Financial readiness contributes to mission readiness, and this applies during deployment or in garrison.

I could keep going on and on about finances, but since it’s 11:52 PM on Friday I had better wrap it up!  I will close with this reflection, which keeps everything in proper perspective:

“Take good care of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; For wealth does not last forever, nor even a crown from age to age.”

~Proverbs 27:23-24

~Malori~

Financial Fridays: Faith and Finances

20130208-132848.jpg(How’s that for an alliterative title?!?)

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my financial journey in a nutshell and how I got to the point I am now. It would be foolishness and a lie to say that I did it all by my own power…because that just is not the case. It might seem unusual to combine faith and finances, but as a Catholic Christian I believe that it’s a very basic concept. God cares about us, even about the way we handle our money…I might even say, especially about the way we handle our money. In reality, the money is not really “ours,” as with all material possessions – it is God’s money and He has appointed us to be managers of it.

A prime example of this is the Parable of the Talents, which can be found in Matthew 25:14-30. This is where a master entrusts money to his servants and later comes back to see how they managed it. Each servant was given a different amount, but the master expected all of them to be wise stewards of the money. When the master returned, two of the servants had been hard-working and wise, doubling each of their amounts. But the third had been fearful, had hidden his money, and did not multiply it. At the end, the master says: “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.'”

And so it is with us. God wants to us to be prosperous, He wants us to multiply our money, and He wants us to be responsible with it. It seems there is a general mindset within the Christian community (and in the current American culture) that if you’re rich, you must be a greedy, bad person. If you were truly holy, you would be groveling on your knees, begging for food. Those are the really good people of the world…right?

But not necessarily. Money itself is morally neutral. “The love of money is the root of all evil.” (Timothy 6:10) So as with all material possessions, money can be used or favored in the wrong way. However, this does not forbid us from acquiring a wealth of it.

God also has things to say about debt. NEVER is debt shown to be something beneficial; it is always something God instructs His people to avoid. One of the most direct Bible verses is Proverbs 22:7, which says: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” The pretty much sums up how all of us in debt are: we are living in bondage! So Sallie Mae and Discover loans are my masters, and I am their slave. Until I pay back every penny I owe, I will not be free. And that is a huge motivator! I want to be autonomous, I don’t want a debt company telling me where my money MUST go. I want to spend, save, and give freely.

Proverbs 22:26-27, Psalm 37:21, and 2 Kings 4:7 are good references as well. So what are we supposed to do if we ARE in debt? Well, Proverbs 6 says this:

“My son, if you become surety to your neighbor, given your hand in pledge to another…do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s power; Go, hurry, rouse your neighbor! Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids; Free yourself like a gazelle from the hunter, or like a bird from the hand of a fowler.”

In other words: MAKE A RUN FOR IT!! Go crazy! Make it your short-term goal that you will not owe ONE PENNY to another. Act like you are running for your life….because you are! You are running for your financial life! If I hadn’t become “gazelle-intense,” as Dave Ramsey coined the term, where would I be right now? I definitely wouldn’t be at the halfway point of paying all my debt off. I would probably still have six figures left! And I most assuredly would not have cut up my credit card.

We have to have a fire lit under our butts in order to get this thing done. Debt might get us what we want right now, and it might provide positive opportunities (such as my college)…but the ends doesn’t justify the means. There are other ways to get what we need and want, but the key is that we need to use commonsense foresight instead. This, coupled with faith, is what will get us to the right place.

God knows our every need, He can count every cent we owe. But He wants us to ask Him for help. He wants us to acknowledge that we are broken and need help. It took some practice for me to straight up ask God “please let me make more money.” But we must be bold in our prayers (while staying humble). We need to be hopeful and trust in His faithfulness, that He will provide opportunities and strength to get the job done. We don’t want to be presumptuous, but instead we should be faithfully expectant – in other words, we need to believe that God really wants to bless us if we follow His commands. And one of those commands is resolving to not fall into debt…and if we have, to resolve not to again. Paying off debt and saving, spending, and giving money wisely is ordered; taking on and remaining in debt is disordered. It isn’t sinful in itself, but we still aren’t living to our full potential when we are slaves to debt collectors.

I found that once I set my mind to becoming debt-free and boldly prayed for opportunities and more money, things started happening for me. It’s not a magic formula, and just because God doesn’t answer a prayer right away doesn’t mean a person is doing something wrong or that He’s not listening. But I guarantee He WILL help. Prosperity IS possible and attainable, and I can’t wait to see how my faith and finances will work this year!

~Malori~

 

Military Mondays: Remember Tomorrow…But Also Today

Tonight is the eve of 9/11….eleven years ago, America was going about her business as usual.  Families were sitting down to eat dinner, teens were doing their homework, parents were tucking their children into bed.  School had just begun a few weeks ago and the crisp excitement of autumn was in the air.  I don’t remember what I was doing on September 10th, but I certainly remember the next morning.

More than a decade later, we must ask ourselves: do we really remember?  Are we truly “never forgetting”?  Do we have special plans for tomorrow in order to pay tribute to those who perished?  Do we still draw the connection between 9/11 and the war our servicemembers are fighting?

Today in “The Early Brief” e-mail that I receive every morning from Military.com, I read this article: US Numbed to Troop Deaths.  I believe that title is absolutely true.  An average of one American trooper each day is killed in Afghanistan, but yet, the American civilian has sacrificed nearly nothing and probably don’t realize this.  The only civilians who sacrifice are military families.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not whining about this – this is just a fact, albeit a hard, sad fact.  The mentality of the American public is much different than it was than, say, in World War II.  My grandma knows what it’s like to sacrifice for a war effort without even having a family member serving.

Troop deaths, most of the time, are only a blip on the radar screen of national news.  If it’s a local guy or girl that is KIA, the local news probably pays homage.  But other than that, it’s hardly mentioned or noticed.  In the Military.com article, Max Boot, who is a military historian and defense analyst, says that ” ‘Few, it seems, do [care], except for service personnel and their families…It is almost as if the war isn’t happening at all.’ ”  Exactly.

Marine Lt. General John Kelly (whose son was killed in Afghanistan almost two years ago), says that ” ‘Only a tiny fraction of American families fear all day and every day a knock at the door that will shatter their lives.’ ”  I know exactly what that fear feels like.  (Although in my case, it would have been a devastating phone call from his mom or brother, since I’m not married yet and therefore not included in next-of-kin.)

What does this have to do with 9/11?  A lot.  We need to remember tomorrow – all the innocent people who died, all the firefighters and policemen who sacrificed their lives saving others, and all our military, past and present, who have been sent to the Middle East because of the terrorist attacks…and especially all those who have died defending our freedom.  But 9/11 should also spur us on to remember every today, because 9/11 is still impacting our lives and the lives of our military.  Vacations and “casual Fridays” don’t exist in Afghanistan….what will you do to honor them?

~Malori~

[Picture taken on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by yours truly]