I didn't want to live in Kansas. Not for 12 months. Not even for 12 minutes.
Obviously, I was wrong about Kansas. And Missouri, as well, for that matter, since we live less than a mile from the state line. And so I have come to trust the process. Whether it's God's plan for us or the Army's, we are not completely out of control, but we are not wholly in it, either. We must make our wishes known and then accept and bloom in the coming year. And so this note, my 400th post on this blog, is addressed to my fellow Milspouses across the world on the third day of the new year...because my fellow Milspouses made the last night of the last year so knee-walking fabulous that it took 2 days to recover.
Let me be the first or the twentieth or the eighty-fifth to say Happy New Year! I don't know how 2015 fared for all of you but I hope it was mostly agreeable even if it was rarely boring. Most of all, I hope you awoke on January 1 of 2016 with a song in your heart and a sense of boundless energy for what will be asked of you in the coming year. And if that didn't happen, I hope that at least the neighbor children showed up at your door after you showered and put on a bra to deliver your son's favorite fleece jacket left behind from the night before. I think that's the most any of us can hope for...that the doorbell rings after you've put on a bra.
I know the coming year holds even more changes for our family, most of which have yet to be revealed. We speculate and hope but at the end of the day, we simply don't know until we know. And I know it's the same for yours. Our stages of military life vary so drastically that it seems impossible to feel a sense of camaraderie, to swap similar stories so effortlessly. And yet, we have bonded over something as simple as how much dirt a pair of combat boots can track through a house. (Seriously, I think they looked at tank tread and thought How can we put that on the bottom of a boot?) But many of us know the feeling of finding a favorite pair of shoes buried under a stack of books in a box. Or the look on your spouse's face when they find us flat on our backs, flapping limbs and making packing paper angels under the dining room chandelier. We are raising kids, gasping at how quickly our kids have grown, moving for the first time or the last, finding comfort in the routine or feeling annoyed that it's interrupted too quickly. We all know what it is to have a closet dedicated to pro-gear and a duty to a mission greater than ourselves. The new year may be full of changes for you, too, or more of the same, at least for another 12 months.
If you are due to move this year, I wish you a flawless PCS. May your driver be on time and not a day earlier or later. May his crew clear the FBI background checks and arrive fresh and ready to work, even when the temperature threatens to hit triple digits and the humidity is already there. May Transportation honor your previously agreed upon delivery date and never once threaten to put all of your stuff into storage for some undetermined amount of time, not to exceed the next time you're due to move. May they not throw your handcrafted burlap tree skirt in the bottom of a box marked "Garage Liquids". May your moving truck be solid, routinely serviced and able to handle the task at hand. And dear God, may they send a truck big enough the first time around. May your new home feel comfy and cozy, even as the unpacking stretches into weeks and then months. May you find the energy to complete your gallery wall, even if you can use number of months instead of number of years to define your time there. May you only need post-it notes to remind you of what's in every drawer and cabinet for a maximum of a week. Unless, of course, you are learning a new language and your cups are now tassens. May you locate the grocery, pediatrician, public library, school, dentist, gym, church, auto repair and no less than 3 coffee shops with relative ease. May they all be conveniently located to your home, just as you had planned. May you find at least one friend who is not crazy, is not trying to defraud the government, understands that their kid is not perfect, will sweat with you, laugh with you, and offer to babysit when all you want is to see Star Wars before it comes to Netflix, will encourage you to take Mommy Time and discourage you from letting the military control 100% of your life 100% of the time. May you never want to leave and when it comes time, may you find the strength to do all of this all over again.
If you are staying put in 2016 but looking at a move down the road, may you find a way to continue to live in the moment, experiencing some things for the second year but seeing each one from a new perspective or diving a little deeper than the first time around. May you finally have your home arranged and decorated exactly as you want it and have enough time to enjoy it in this "finished" state. May you say hello more than you say goodbye. May you see the virtue in helping new families find their way around, asking nothing in return except a tiny chunk of good Karma. May you have the foresight to begin buying gallon baggies in bulk when they go on sale now. May you relax in this state of calm, simply relishing in the routine of day-to-day life as many experience it regularly but is rare for military families. May your best friend PCS the day after you.
If you are staring at a deployment this year, please know that we are a grateful nation. Every single one of us. Even if we don't shake your hand or hug your neck or even say the words. May you always feel lifted to a pedestal that is impossible to tumble from. May you have casseroles delivered to your door, offers to watch your children whenever it's convenient for you, a good cry when you need it and a good laugh when you don't. May you not feel compelled to watch any show produced by Shonda Rhimes until the end of the deployment or any Homecoming videos, especially between Thanksgiving and New Year's. May you always have a project and a bottle of wine to get you through the day. May your days be short and those nights in an empty bed even shorter. And may your children be obedient, patient, understanding and sweet in an unexplainable, almost other-worldly kind of way. Most of have been there, many of us more than once, some of us quite recently. It's Hell but there is always one of us to walk through it with you. Separation makes the heart grow fonder is absolute BS that prints beautifully on a Hallmark card. Separation makes you bitter and resentful and lose sight of why we are doing this in the first place. But many babies are born 9 months after Homecoming so it can't be all bad.
If you are leaving or retiring from the Milspouse lifestyle, let me hopefully be the first to say Thank You for your tireless service and sacrifice during a time when it was popular to be a Milspouse but not at all easy. If you have been serving for any length of time, you've probably endured at least one deployment and several moves. You may have moved overseas or across the country or simply lost track of how long it's been since you've been home. You've probably heard more than your fair share of references to Army Wives or The Unit and you still feel utterly misunderstood by Hollywood and your extended family. You might be packing trinkets that have traveled thousands of miles or discarding furniture that is being held together by extra screws, several layers of duct tape and a prayer to survive one more move. You are leaving a life that has grown comfortable even when uncertainty was the only certainty. And, without a doubt, you will be missed. May your new life be as blissful as you imagined it would be. May you find a well of patience when asked, for the 20th time, where all you have lived. May you resist the urge to move again after the first 24 months, and for every 12 months thereafter. May you stop storing everything in baskets and plastic bins. May your children's first questions of a new friend be something other than, "What's your name and when are you moving?" May you feel the freedom to register to vote, buy a house, volunteer for future events, join boards and councils, feel grief when someone leaves your community. May you find home.
This year, more than ever, I have felt the blessings that military life sometimes bestows upon us. I have made friends, had experiences and discussed ideas that would have never been possible without this year. I've watched our son grow, in all ways, stronger because of the people surrounding us. This life demands much of us but it gives much to us, as well. 2015 was a year of sadness and joy, goodbyes and hellos, love and loss, burnt dinners and the best butternut squash lasagna recipe ever. It was a rollercoaster ride with the very best of my MilSisters riding in the car beside me. Sometimes it feels like a sorority of sacrifice but I hope we always feel more like a sisterhood of service.
With love, admiration and the very best of wishes,