Archive | March, 2015

Can Time Apart Be Good for a Marriage? + A Few Thoughts on Deployment

Have you ever spent time away from your spouse?

becca-elliott-commissioning

A younger version of us on the day Elliott was commissioned.

Maybe you were surprised at how easy some things were without him around. I’m betting most of us have. Marriage is hard work!

Earlier this year, my husband was deployed for one month, which sounds long to some and short to others, depending upon what is normal to you. But still, no matter what your normal is, a month is a month. It’s 30 days and 30 nights without your husband going through the rhythms of life with you: greeting you after work, helping you put the kids to bed, spooning you as you fall asleep, waking up with morning breath, kissing you goodbye for the day.

It’s a month without someone checking in on you, hearing the nuances of your day (both praiseworthy and not), parenting with you, and holding you accountable.

Can a break be good for a marriage? Can a deployment be a positive thing?

For us, I think it was good in some ways. Here’s why:

First of all, for us, this deployment was long anticipated. Elliott had wanted to do a “combat” tour ever since he joined the Army, but he’s been in for five years and has volunteered to go many times. And he had never gotten that chance.

For any service member, there is camaraderie in a real deployment, and there is honor in serving “over there.” So when Elliott found out that a SEAL commander needed him, urgently but probably briefly, in the Middle East, I was genuinely and truly thrilled for him.

Of course my next question was, “For how long?!?!”

Elliott said it would be a month at the most. I nodded, relieved. I thought I could handle a month.

That month apart had its really low points. I want to make that very clear! Most of them involved tired children bawling, “I want Daaaadddy! Daaaaaaadddddyyyy!” some time after 7pm. I didn’t always like the person I became at that time of day. I’d rather not ever meet her again.

But it also had adventure and renewed purpose for Elliott, and that was good for him. He is a better soldier because of it, no doubt about it, and a wiser and better man.

And here is my second point about why deployment was good for us.

That deployment had adventure and renewed purpose for me, too.

There was something about being the only adult in the house that was empowering as well as freeing. Gone were the questions like, “Is he going to do that? Or do I have to?” If the trash needed to be taken out, I had to do it. If the diaper was dirty again, I was the only one changing it. If the car or the garden or the kids or the neighbors or the government or the landlord or someone needed something…

… it was all on me.

And it was hard, yes, but in some ways it was so simple. I just had to get it done.

There’s also freedom in letting things go, especially in the kitchen. When Elliott is home, we eat dinner together as a family every night, and I work hard to make healthy, varied meals. That preparation of a main dish and a couple sides, though, routinely takes me over an hour every evening. Because 4-6pm is also post-nap-grouchy time with the kids, it’s often the most stressful time in my day.

Now, Elliott has often told me to not stress about dinner, to serve us leftovers and raw fruit and vegetables before cooking more food, and to eat things before they go bad. He also likes PB&J sandwiches for lunch every day. He’s easy to feed and easy to please. He is not holding me to this full-dinner standard. I am!

Without Elliott home, I didn’t focus quite so much on my role as home chef. As in, I barely turned on the oven. I made a lot of pasta, and I also made this weird sauerkraut and sausage thing he doesn’t like but I love. Mostly, though, we ate a lot of leftovers, a couple rotisserie chickens, and Trader Joes pizza. We cleaned out the freezer, too, which really needed to happen.

“Cleaning out the freezer” is actually a metaphor, I think, for a how a lot of wives approach their husbands’ deployments or long business trips. Just like moving or having a baby, the purging and nesting instincts kick in when your routine is disrupted. I found myself doing things I’d never do in my normal, everyday routine.

Some of them can be good. Some of them can be fun! Like watching chick flicks. I watched a lot of chick flicks the first two weeks of Elliott’s deployment. What is is about lonely nights and chick flicks? They go together like salted caramel ice cream and… me, that’s for sure.

That disruption in routine can also inspire me to take on new projects and start new things. One big change I made during Elliott’s deployment was that I applied for a writing job at a local online newspaper. I think I still would have applied whether he was here or not, but it was fun to share the exciting developments with him from afar, too. He came home to a wife who is now a paid writer for a local paper, an official reviewer of films and critic of restaurants, a local columnist with new co-workers. It gave me a boost of confidence and can-do-it attitude right at the end of his deployment.

I really liked the person I was when I just got things done – rather than the person who waits, calculating, mentally nagging, wondering if and when my husband’s going to step in and help out. I want to have a servant’s heart and a can-do attitude about life. Both of these qualities are beautiful, and I know that such an attitude – when correctly applied and received – is much more encouraging, inspiring, and refreshing at home.

And it’s amazing to make things happen! Like applying for the kind of job you’d like to have. Getting projects done. Becoming the person you’d like to be.

Now. ALL. THAT. SAID!

I have one more, final, most important thought.

It is very easy to walk away from this post (or these thoughts, for me) and think, “Maybe being apart for a month was really good! Maybe I could even be a better person if we were apart more, and I could be a better, more accomplished, more can-do wife when we’re together.”

And that attitude, I realized, is toxic.

Marriage is about togetherness. In a Christian marriage, it’s a union of two people who, with all their rough edges and quirks, are committed to helping each other become more and more like Jesus, more and more holy. And the process of becoming more like Jesus is not about building ourselves up, having our personal space, having our freedom, having our “me time.”

No, it’s about laying ourselves down.

It’s about becoming one flesh. It’s about loving one another through thick and thin, through all the changes of our lives, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.

When Elliott and I made those marriage vows, we committed to living life together for the ultimate benefit of the other for the glory of God. We knew it would be hard, and that we would both change, and that we would need to adjust and accommodate. We are diamonds in the rough, and by constantly rubbing against each other – over the breakfast table, on long plane flights, through major holidays, in bed at night – we are revealing the diamonds within.

I still think the deployment and the time apart was good. We really did enjoy a lot of things about that month, and we both grew as individuals. I think it genuinely was healthy for us as a unit, too.

But I refuse to think that being away from my husband is better than being with him. I love him, and there’s not much else that compares to belonging to him in this life. And I know choosing him is right, every time. I vowed to do so, to build a marriage with him for God’s glory, and the rewards are eternal.

Have you ever felt this way about time away from your spouse?

Has time apart been more healthy or more damaging to your relationship?

45 :: in Army, deployment, marriage, military life

Portraits of My Children: 09/52 to 12/52

becca-garber-gil-portrait-12-52 Strawberry picking at Suzie’s Farm yesterday afternoon.

 The 52 Project: A portrait of each of my children every week in 2015.

Obviously keeping up with this “portrait a week” thing is verrrry difficult for me! I’ve only shared here and here, meaning this post makes a whopping three updates. The year is still young, though, so I shall not be deterred… yet!

Week 9

I’ve already shared some photos from Week 9 of Elliott’s return, playing in the snow, and hiking with friends, but here are two more from that week:

becca-garber-52-project-week-9 Lena: On a whim, I started reading a chapter book (Little House in the Big Woods) aloud to Lena for the very first time in February, and she was totally hooked. Since then we’ve enjoyed multiple chapter books, including one she enjoyed with just her daddy after he came home (My Father’s Dragon). She begs me to read to her every morning, before her rest time, right after her rest time, and before bed. While we read, she frowns thoughtfully, thinking and processing, and you can see the wheels turning in her mind as she absorbs these wonderful stories.

Gil: We were at a local pizza joint when Gil discovered his “pocks” (pockets), and is it just me or does he look just like a future Lawnie with his orange and blue outfit? UVA Class of 2031!

Week 10

becca-garber-lena-portrait-10-52 Lena: My parents (“Grammie” and “Poppy”) came to visit for a week, and during that time my mom got out the sewing machine to help me with a few projects. Afterwards, she taught Lena how to make bean bags! I have so many memories of learning to sew on my grandmother’s and mother’s laps, so this image is precious to me.

becca-garber-gil-portrait-10-52 Gil: I wrote about this photo more extensively in this blog post, but it captures such a stage of life for my children. Right now we visit our local nursing home every Thursday, and on this particular day Gil and Lena were both especially helpful with delivering pancakes to each resident and waiting patiently for their turn to eat. They are both growing in patience and compassion at the nursing home, and it is beautiful to see.

Week 11

Image-1-1 Lena: Continuing with the theme of chapter books, this photo is from an evening trip to the library because Lena wanted the next installment of Pippi Longstocking as well as “Finocchio.” I laughed and told her she meant “Pinocchio,” because “finocchio” is the Italian word for “fennel.” She continues to call him “Finocchio,” though, and who am I to correct these small touches of the Italian influence on my children?

becca-garber-gil-portrait-11-52 Gil: On Saturday, March 21, Elliott and I took the kids to the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering downtown. A lot of the booths and displays were way over our kids’ heads (and mine…), but some things were super creative and perfect for them. They had fun with miniature science experiments all day! Both of them got the coolest face painting job ever, and Gil even got to dress up as a mad scientist.

Week 12

becca-garber-portrait-lena-12-52 Lena: “Mama, when I die,” said Lena this morning, “Jesus is going to say, ‘Come here, little child!'” She has a very real faith, as far as it can be known at age three. She talks often about Jesus loving her and being her friend, and because death and heaven are a frequent topic of conversation in our house, she often speaks of being with Jesus after she dies. It is heartwarming as well as honest and true and inspiring to my own faith. I know things will not always be so simple, so very black and white, but unprompted statements like these give me great hope and peace. God is answering my daily prayer!

Image-1 Gil: I don’t know about you, but grocery shopping with the kids really tries my patience. Can I get an amen? By the end of our weekly commissary trip, there’s no room for either kid in the cart, and so they are all over the place. It’s times like this when having any more kids sounds craaaazy. But braver women than I have done it before… so maybe one day I’ll be ready!

——–

What have you been up to these past few weeks? Wrangling children in grocery stores? Playing in the snow? Teaching your kids something fun, like sewing or science or just how to wait patiently while you finish one small task? I’m all eyes! Do tell.

9 :: in 52 project, San Diego

Post-Deployment Family Fun Around San Diego

becca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-5

Elliott came home from deployment on a Wednesday afternoon, and his amazing commander gave him a four-day weekend to enjoy time at home with his family. Thank you, ma’am!

We spent the weekend doing so many fun things: hiking on Thursday, hiking on Friday (so basically Elliott’s ideal life), biking all over downtown San Diego on Saturday, and then topping off the weekend with beers and friends at Balboa Park on Sunday evening.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from our first weekend back together as a family:

becca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-7 Our first adventure on Thursday was at Cuymaca Rancho State Park, which is about a 45-minute drive east of San Diego.* Elliott had flown over those hills on his plane flight home, and he saw that there was a little snow left since SD had so much rain the week before. We went to find that snow!

*Side note: It is so weird to say something is “east” of your home when you’ve always lived on the East Coast and anything east is the Atlantic Ocean. I feel like I’m driving on the wrong side of the road or something every time I say, “It’s west of San Diego… oh no wait… I mean east, definitely east!”

becca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-3.jpg I love Gil’s face in that first photo! He can’t get over the crazy snow! He hasn’t seen snow since Mt Etna, our backyard volcano in Sicily. He got used to it pretty quickly, though, and Lena and Elliott went right for the snowball fights…

becca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-4.jpg … and building a tiny snowman. And Lena was so sweet to help her brother in the snow!

becca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-6 The most exciting part of the day was coming around a corner and seeing a fire truck. Gil was beside himself with joy… a FIRE TRUCK.

And then we noticed all the people working around the fire truck to clear the fire road were wearing orange jumpsuits with “PRISONER” on the back in large black letters. Yiiiiikes. We walked right past them several times as they were working on the road and we were hiking. I wasn’t too nervous, though, because I doubted prisoners with recent or horrific crimes would be allowed to work so freely, and because mostly I felt sad for them as we hiked past, free and whole and happy.

(And I’ve plugged it before and I’ll plug it again, but Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison totally changed my view about the American criminal justice system. It’s not at all like the TV show, and it is really, really worth a read.)

becca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-3 And then Lena and I made snow angels for the first time, “just like Laura did in Little House in the Big Woods!”

And then that evening we went to the beach for sunset just to say we went to the snow and the beach in the same day! Hurray for living in gorgeous California.

becca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-16 We met up at the beach with some of our best friends in Coronado, and it was so good to see Elliott back with our group and our kiddos. I’ve missed that!

becca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-8 The next morning we went with those same friends to eat brunch at The Cottage, a delicious breakfast spot in La Jolla. Afterwards we took our friends hiking at Torrey Pines State Reserve, which you already know from here and here that I love so much!

becca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-1.jpg becca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-9 Our friends Adam and Jackson… and blue blue blue sky.

becca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-13 The colors of the California coast.

becca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-14 The whole group! We have loved sharing life with this dear family in Coronado, and we’re so sad that they moved just this week back to Oklahoma. Stacy has been an incredible friend to me — authentic and kind and spontaneous and generous and real. We have loved girls’ nights and last-minute dinners and sunsets at the beach and so, so, so many hours together at the park and library and Bible study. Aren’t good friends such a gift in this life?!

becca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-12 The three I love the most in this world.

becca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-11 Watching a helo, as I’ve learned to call them here.

becca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-10 Jackson and Lena — two happy little friends!

becca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-15 Gil’s hat… I can’t even.

collagebecca-garber-after-deployment-family-fun-san-diego-2 … and pouting, just for good measure.

The next day we biked through Coronado to the ferry, and then we rode the ferry across the bay to downtown San Diego. It only takes about 10 minutes, but it’s so much fun! Once on the other side, we spent the day at a splash park/awesome playground, the New Central Library, and Seaport Village, a quaint (but touristy) seaside shopping area. If you’re wanting to visit San Diego, these are all wonderful places to go with kids!

becca-garber-splash-park-san-diego-1.jpg becca-garber-splash-park-san-diego And finally, on Sunday we went here, an amazing outdoor restaurant in Balboa Park. I didn’t take a single picture, but it’s one of our favorite places to hang out with our kids and friends. I don’t know of many places where you can drink fine beers and let your kids play in the grass… of a sculpture garden, no less! Highly recommended if that’s your jam. ;)

——–

Time apart from your husband — and doing every social activity by yourself — will make you SO grateful to have your husband back and home and with you! Friendships are more fun when you can share them with whole families and your whole family, don’t you think?

1 :: in 52 project, Coronado, deployment, hiking, San Diego

Raising Compassionate Kids :: A Taste of the Real World

raising-compassionate-kids “You guys live in paradise!” my dad exclaimed this evening after listening to me rehash my day. “You walked to the park in the morning, the beach in the evening, you’re going to the zoo tomorrow, and all in this perfect weather…!”

We laughed, knowing he’d barely hit the highlights. Raising kids in Coronado is a dream come true.

But Coronado is just a steppingstone for us in the long road of life. Much as I want to live life here to the fullest, I also want Lena and Gil to know that there is a world beyond Coronado. It is an incredible world, with diverse and fascinating people, and it is valuable and beautiful.

I want them to know that every day of their lives, even before they can understand what they are learning, so that their natural instinct is to respond with compassion, responsibility, and love.

So recently I began to look for ways to do that. I had two constraining criteria, though. Lena and Gil are almost four and barely two years old, so I needed something that would be age-appropriate for them. I also wanted to be able to walk.

Believe it or not, finding something wasn’t hard. As many of you know, I’m a nurse (currently on a hiatus to raise babies and write), and I have spent a lot of time in nursing homes. Most assisted living facilities have regular activities and volunteer opportunities.

In January of this year, I did a Google search for “assisted living Coronado,” and only one result popped up. I pressed “call” under the listing for the Coronado Retirement Village to ask if they had an activities director. Within seconds I heard the bright and cheery voice of Ally, activities director extraordinaire.

Five minutes later, I had a date and a time to join the residents for a Thursday morning crock-pot cooking class.

The first morning we showed up, I was nervous. Would Lena and Gil behave? What would we do? Would residents be mostly bed-bound, or walking around the facility, or lucid? I really had no idea.

Also, even though we had walked to almost every corner of Coronado, we had not walked to the corner that included the assisted living facility, and we were on unfamiliar ground.

But I shouldn’t have worried.

The facility is beautiful, sparkling clean with big windows overlooking Tidelands Park and the bay. That first day, Ally greeted us and took us upstairs to the two community rooms filled with books, a vintage bingo set, a couple of TVs, and plenty of comfortable seating. We passed quiet private rooms where staff members were fanning clean sheets over beds.

Clearly, we had stepped into a bustling little community, less like a hospital than a well-run apartment building.

IMG_7280 We have continued to visit the CRV every Thursday morning this spring, and this past week we made chocolate chip pancakes with the residents. I watched as two-year-old Gil carefully carried a paper plate with a pancake to each resident, and then held it still while three-year-old Lena poured a dollop of syrup onto each pancake. They waited patiently to serve everyone, and then they sat down to eat a pancake of their own. Later, they delivered cups of water, and then returned to gather up the trash.

Next Ally got out various games in the community room. As I watched Lena and Gil blow bubbles and various residents pop them, I realized that I had brought my children to just the right place. The residents were delighted with my children – most of them forget and are newly delighted each week. They also enjoy playing the same games and eating the same snacks that my preschool-age children do.

For about an hour each week, bringing preschoolers and assisted living residents together is a wonderful playtime for both of them.

becca-garber-assisted-living-coronado.jpg As the weeks have gone by, Lena, Gil, and I have learned names, personalities, and life stories. The kids know what a walker is for, and a wheelchair, and that some people just doze off in the middle of a game. During our visits, the kids know that they are in second place and that their job is to be friendly and helpful. They hear the same questions repeated every time we visit, sometimes multiple times per visit from the same person, and they are learning to respond clearly and politely, saying, “My name is Lena. This is Gil. He is a boy, and I am a girl.” They are learning to call the residents “our friends.”

For us, our local assisted living facility has been a gentle way to teach our kids that not everyone looks and talks and acts just like they do. I love seeing my children look at this part of the world with compassion instead of confusion or fear. The genuinely kind staff and residents are a joy to count among our friends in Coronado, too.

I’d love to know — as you think back on your childhood, what formed your mindset about “normal” and “comfort zone”? What did your parents or teachers do well (or not so well) to help you think compassionately about the world?

14 :: in Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom Series, Coronado, motherhood, thoughts

On Becca’s Bookshelf // February Edition

Recently Updated250 Don’t you love how I stuck those wonderful children’s books in there? ;) I thought that might make some of you smile! And since they took more than 10 minutes to read aloud to my daughter, I decided to count them so that I can remember some of the sweetest things I read in 2015.

Here’s the rundown of what I read in February:

  • Burial Rights by Hannah Kent — My Australian friend Clare wrote to me, wondering if I’d heard of this novel. “It is one the best books I have read in a long time.” With a recommendation like that, I put it on hold at the library right away. And Clare was right! It is based on the true story of a young Icelandic woman who is involved in the murder of three men, and she was the last woman to be beheaded in Iceland in the early 1800s. The author first heard the story of Agnes Magnusdottir when she was a high school exchange student in Iceland, and — at the age of 28 — she published this fictionalized account. It is a breathtaking debut and has received critical acclaim around the world. I loved this window into a frozen, unknown land through Kent’s beautiful writing. — 4 stars
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White — I think Lena (who will be four next month) was still too young to appreciate the beauty and complexity of this book. However, she still enjoyed the story, and the book dazzled me. I loved the raw honesty about life and death and growing up, and the last lines brought tears to my eyes. If you need a refreshing dip back into the simpler, black-and-white world of childhood, I would highly recommend reading this book again. And if you have a mature four-year-old or older, drop everything and read this aloud with him or her! — 5 stars
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart — I picked up this book and literally couldn’t put it down until I turned the last page at 1am. Gripping and shocking and desperate and sad, but also beautiful and tender. You will enjoy it if you love New England summers, young adult fiction, and reading about the real, raw pain underneath the smooth surface of a person. Gut-wrenching, so be prepared for a hard story and incredible plot twists. — 3 stars
  • Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink Dense and intense! It is the story of one hospital during Hurricane Katrina where one doctor and two nurses (and maybe others) euthanized several very sick patients. The story is, of course, much more convoluted than that, and it is fascinating to see media, morals, and medicine collide in the smarmy wake that Katrina left behind. Make sure you’re up for 450 pages of detailed, vibrant reporting about medical ethics, disaster management, and legal quandaries. 4 stars
  • Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod — I already shared part of this book here and gave away a copy of it with the author, so you know I enjoyed it! Paris Letters isn’t for everyone, though. Janice is telling her own story, and some may find her narrative style heavy-handed and her life choices questionable, much like Lunch in Paris. Still, I was inspired that she made her dreams come true (to quit her job and travel the world) and still dreamier things followed (like her very own wedding in Paris). — 4 stars
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder Better than I ever remembered. What beautiful, simple, soothing writing about a sliver of time in American history. Lena and I snuggled under blankets and traveled back in time into the cold Big Woods, where Ma churned butter and Pa played his fiddle and Laura and Mary learned about sugar snow and hog killing and harvest time.  These books are such a gift to subsequent generations, and I can’t wait to read them aloud for years with my children. — 5 stars

Have you read any of these books? Any other suggestions for this little book-loving community on this blog? You have already suggested some wonderful ones… thank you!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
23 :: in good reads, On Becca’s Bookshelf, Uncategorized

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes