Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Army Wife Network - Building Community - Army Style - Jan 2010

I think one of the hardest things about being an Army Wife is the constant change. New Post, new community, new set of friends… We constantly have to start over where ever Uncle Sam sends us. It means stepping out into the uncomfortable and making that connection with someone. Attending Chapel (or a local church), signing up for a class, or going to an FRG meeting…

I have a friend that says “bloom where you’re planted” and even though I laugh when I hear it, she is right. We need community, maybe even more than the civilian world. We need someone that we can call at 4 am when we get that phone call with a bad connection and then our Soldier doesn’t call back. Someone who doesn’t gripe about her husband going hunting and being away for a weekend when yours has been gone for 15 months! Someone who gets the struggles and fears (and yes, even the joys) of military life.

I will admit I like to watch “Army Wives” on Lifetime. I know it is not realistic. No, the Army will not send your Soldier to recruiting school just because he is set to deploy and you don’t want him to go. Nor will they send him home from the Sandbox for several weeks to work on your ‘marriage issues’. And it drives my husband crazy that there is always at least one that can’t get his beret on straight. However, I love how that groups is always there for each other. Good and bad times. That is community.

For me, it was MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). I knew that I had something in common with all the other women in the room – we were all moms. Even if there wasn’t another Army Wife for miles (we are few and far between in this Air Force town!), I knew I could have a conversation with someone who could complete a full sentence. And boy, did I need adult conversation!

The relationships that I have developed over the years with women all over the world because of MOPS have changed my life. When my husband was deployed, the local group brought meals and offered friendship. The ones far away sent emails and cards (sometimes even with cash because they knew money was tight). When communication was down and I hadn’t heard from my Soldier in days, they were there to listen and to pray.

So how will you make a connection? Take that step and say hello. Exchange numbers. Have a girl’s night out. Are you a mom? There might be a MOPS group on your Post. Start building community where you are today. I am so thankful that I took that first step and walked into a MOPS meeting. You will be too.

For more from Army Wife Network, check out their website at http://www.armywifenetwork.com/

Athena Goldinger Hall
Army Wife and mom to six Army Brats

Monday, July 12, 2010

Army Wife Network - Pre Deployment.. AKA His Brain Has Left the Building - June 2010

Deployment is hard. I know that. I have experienced the pain of separation and frustration of not knowing when (or if) he is coming home. However, if I can be honest for just a minute, I have to admit that for me, pre-deployment is even harder.

The months and days of knowing that orders are coming, but not knowing exactly when, of trying to plan life around the what-ifs and maybes. My Soldier’s unit is leaving “sometime this year”. It could be anytime from May to September and he (read: we) has to be ready. Try explaining that to six kids and one mother-in-law (not to mention all the relatives and friends that don’t get it).

If you have been through deployment, then you understand that his head leaves before his body. The mission takes over their brains long before boots hit the ground. That leaves the biggest challenge of pre-deployment: trying to keep your Soldier involved as part of the family.

How do we do that? How can we encourage him to get down and play with the kids instead of repacking his bag for the 10th time? How can we make memories and plan for all the details of him being gone? How can we get everything done that needs to be accomplished? For our family, it means lots of planning, lists and intentionality on my part.

For example, one of my goals before he leaves is to have new family photos. We had our last baby 2 ½ years ago and we still don’t have a family picture with her in it. If I want that perfect shot to hang on the wall while he is gone, then I need to plan ahead to get it done. It goes on my Must Do List, along with updating the power of attorney and our wills (we haven’t done that since the baby either…). To me, it is just as important.

Then there are the things that I would like to see happen before he goes, such as painting the house and re-seeding the yard. Of course, these are things that I could -if you know me, please don’t gasp out loud- handle on my own. Or at least, hire someone to do while he is in the sandbox. These things go on my Wish List. This is the list of things that I have to be willing to let go when something else comes up.

Family time is always important, but it is vital to us during pre-deployment. It doesn’t just happen though; we have to plan it. Our family sets aside one night a week when everyone has to be home (not an easy task with two teenagers!). Family nights vary from a holiday devotional to coffee at Starbucks or a silly movie, but we are always together. Cell phones are not allowed, not even for the grown-ups. Our kids may grumble, but I know they won’t forget these times.

I know with all the details, there is never enough time, but don’t forget to spend alone time with your Soldier. You need to bank all the extra time together that you can. Army deployments are long and they can drain even the best relationships. Plan date nights (again without the cell phones) and enjoy being a couple.

Nothing will ever be perfect for deployment and I know that we won’t ever ‘be’ ready, but the last thing I want my kids to remember was that dad was so busy, that he didn’t have time for them. If I want the days and months leading up to his departure to be filled with fun memories, then I have to be intentional with my planning, learn to relax my expectations and live in the moment.

For more from Army Wife Network, check out their website at http://www.armywifenetwork.com/

Athena Goldinger Hall
Army Wife and mom to six Army Brats

Army Wife Network - Beating the Deployment Blues - March 2010

Being a military wife isn’t easy. Long hours and even longer deployments, constant moves… We make adjustments and soldier on, but that doesn’t mean the stress doesn’t affect us.

According to a recent study done by the University of North Carolina, wives whose husbands deployed for more than 11 months are 24 percent more likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety and 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with acute stress or sleep problems than those whose husbands stayed home.

So how can we beat the statistics? We have to be intentional about taking care of ourselves. Here are some tips and ideas for beating the deployment blues:

Eat Healthy

No one wants to cook for one and the kids just want macaroni and cheese, again. But resist the urge to have a bowl of cereal for dinner tonight. While not a cure for depression, eating a balanced diet can help you feel better. WebMD says that getting the daily value of Vitamin D (600 IU) increases the serotonin level in your brain and high protein foods, such as tuna, increase the chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, which can help you concentrate and boost your energy.

Get Moving

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise is more than just good for your body; it is also good for your mind. Exercising releases ‘feel good’ chemicals called endorphins that help boost your mood and may help relieve depression. Get moving today by joining a class at the gym on post or putting the baby in the stroller and walking around the block. Double the benefits by inviting your neighbor to join you and make a new friend!

Exercise Your Mind

If we aren’t learning, we aren’t growing! Why not put the time while your Soldier is away to good use? Try taking a cooking or scrapbooking or even an automotive class. Read the latest bestseller and join a book club. Have you been thinking about going back to school? Put your husband’s GI Bill to work for you through transfer benefits. In addition to learning something new, it serves as a welcome distraction (you can only watch so many NCIS reruns on TV) and gets you out of the house.

Make Memories

Life doesn’t stop when deployment happens and you shouldn’t feel guilty about moving forward. When you have children, you can’t – and shouldn’t – put your family life on hold. Take time to make special memories with your kids. Of course, don’t forget to record those memories for your Soldier! Start new traditions. Special mom and me moments are something your kids will remember for a long time and will help them beat the deployment blues as well.

Get Out of the House

Don’t mope around in your pajamas. Get dressed and get out of the house. If you ever needed a friend, now is the time! Have coffee or a girls’ night out with a friend. Short on friends? Time to make some new ones! Do you have little ones? Join a MOPS group where there are others who understand what you are going through. You don’t have to do this alone.

See Your Doctor

If you have symptoms that are affecting your ability to eat, sleep or enjoy life, make an appointment right away. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You want to be your best when your Soldier comes home, so take care of yourself today.

In the book What Every Mom Needs, author Elisa Morgan compares mothering to the pre-flight instruction to affix your oxygen mask first, before assisting others. In essence, you have to recognize your own needs and take care of yourself, before you can care for others. Don’t let the deployment blues get the best of you. Invest time into taking care of yourself and meeting your needs. You will be a better mom and wife for it.

Athena Goldinger Hall
Army Wife and mom to six Army Brats

Links for further information:

Web MD: Diet for Depression – http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/diet-recovery

Mayo Clinic: Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms – http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression-and-exercise/MH00043

Department of Veterans Affairs: GI Bill – http://gibill.va.gov/

Mothers of Preschoolers: Find a Group – www.MOPS.org/groups

Tricare Mental Health – http://tricare.mil/mentalhealth/  

Need a good book to read tonight?

Bad Girls of the Bible: And What We Can Learn From ThemHow about Bad Girls of the Bible: And What We Can Learn From Them by Liz Curtis Higgs for only $0.99? Awesome book by an amazing woman!

Or how about one of the other "dirt cheap" books for the month from Waterbrook Multnomah...

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: Finding Intimacy with God in the Busyness of Life

Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God

(Prices only good 'til the end of July.)

Here are a few FREE downloads from Amazon as well:

Critical Care (Mercy Hospital, Book 1)

Critical Care (Mercy Hospital, Book 1) by Candace Calvert
I read this one the other night for a quick read and was pleasantly surprised.

The Outsider: A Novel

The Outsider: A Novel by Ann H. Gabhart

My Beautiful Disaster (The Pathway Collection #2)

Remember, you don't have to have a Kindle  to read these (as much as I want one and the price has been reduced!) You can read them right on your computer or iphone. 

Please let me know as you find more free or discounted ebooks and share your thoughts of these in the comments. 



Thursday, July 8, 2010

A few FREE e-books for this week

Reading is a great escape for me, so tonight I am going to run away to the Highlands (after I send my kids to bed for the 100th time!).

Here are the new free e-books on Amazon:
(Please make sure they are still FREE when you download. Also, please post in the comments any others you find! I am always looking for a good book.)

Highland Blessings

Highland Blessingsby Jennifer Hudson Taylor

On Earth as It Is in Heaven: How the Lord's Prayer Teaches Us to Pray More Effectively

What Is the Gospel?

What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert



A bit of an overdue update...

I know I haven't posted in a while, but it has been insane around here. With hubby only being home a couple of weekends a month along with some traveling I have been doing for MOPS, there just isn't enough time to do anything else.

This weekend will be Mark's last 'real' weekend at home before he leaves for 14 months. We will have our family vacation at Disney World soon, so we will have that time, but the deployment keeps getting closer and reality is setting in. I don't want to do this. I am tired of hearing my 2 year old say, "I miss my daddy" and my older ones acting out in stupid ways. I know I don't have a choice in the matter, but stating my position makes me feel a bit better ;)

I know many of you are praying for us, along with all the other families preparing for this separation and I thank you. Throwing a prayer in for my attitude might not be a bad idea if you have the time.