Tuesday, March 15, 2011


When I was about nine or ten years old, I experienced the first big shift in my life. My mother finally convinced my farm-loving father to move into a neighborhood in the vicinity of town.

This was HUGE. The farm, and all it entailed, was all I knew. A lot changed.

My pony went. In its stead, I received my first Schwinn bicycle from Bicycle Bill’s in Vermilion, Ohio. It was that burnt brown color; a ten-speed. Clearly this was meant as a trade-off.

There were others. My dad bought a bigger boat. He named it “Compensation.”

My mom received her house in the suburbs; away from the farm. I’m sure I didn’t have a firm grasp on the full meaning behind that name, compensation, but I get it now.

Give and take over a life time of togetherness, I believe, must balance. I’m a big believer in the pendulum. And, for the most part, it does. But when the bar begins to swing away; too far for me to grasp, I begin my retreat.

It’s happens often enough that I recognize the symptoms, although, I still haven’t managed to wipe them out, completely.

When Rick goes TDY or on a long deployment, our lives begin to shift away from the comfort I’ve created and with which I’ve worked hard to surround us. In response to this intrusion, I begin to construct my perimeter wall; an emotional barrier with which to shield any potential hurt or hardship lurking out in the distance.

It’s what I do. Not intentionally, but it's my coping mechanism; my atonement.

I know others who follow similar patterns. Some spouses make large purchases, again, somehow in restitution for a sense of loss.

“This American Life,” from Chicago Public Radio, had a segment last week titled, Will They Know Me Back Home? It features a dramatic read taken from excerpts of a book about military life. One of the vignettes includes thoughts from a wife coping at home, while her husband is deployed for a long period of time. I related so strongly, it prompted me to recognize some of my behaviors of late, anticipating an extended absence.

I’m rusty — out of "deployment condition." The guys call it "readiness." My military spouse went from rarely being home to rarely being away from home in recent times.

I need to polish my armour; remember how to embrace the change, and wait for that balance to come back full center.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Do you ever wake up feeling anxious, but you can’t quite peg it?

Sometimes you can’t identify a feeling until you’re able to relate it. I woke up today feeling off; my heart rate was up more than usual. I’ve been told I have an amphibian-like heartrate; really really s-l-o-w, so I notice when it’s up a pace, or two. And I hadn’t yet had an overage of coffee, so I knew it couldn’t be caffeine induced.

I was less than patient with the dog and getting the kids ready for school and out the door this morning, but for no reason I could identify.

I looked at my calendar, but I haven’t missed any appointments (yet). I started a new journal of all my lists associated with our pending move. This brought on by recent bouts of sleeplessness. I’ve been unable to turn my running ticker off at night of all the things that can only be answered with time.

So I try and keep present, and not look too far down the road. I haven’t developed any outward signs of feeling stressed (I remember an unrelenting tick in my eye right before our wedding). But driving home just now, I remembered a moment in time when I felt similar.

It was years ago when we lived in Cambridgeshire, England. I was driving from our home in Ely to Mildenhall in Suffolk where the base is located to meet with friends. Behind the wheel I thought I was having a heart-related issue. It came on suddenly. I couldn’t breathe. I panicked. But there was no where to pull off the very narrow (in America it's width would have sufficed for a one-way) B-road I was traversing; only deep ditches on both sides, so I kept driving with all three kids strapped in the back.

We arrived at our destination safely and, upon seeing my friends, I burst into tears. They understood. I didn’t have to explain.

Turns out I wasn’t alone. Several of my co-horts were having similar symptoms and episodes. It was reported then that emergency visits to the flight clinic were on an upswing for these afflictions.

It seems we were all stressed out, but we weren't associating the physical ramifications. At this point, our husbands had been gone for weeks, and we still hadn’t heard from them. We didn’t know where they were, or whether they were safe. But we all thought we were managing.

Today I know my husband’s approximate where-abouts, and I believe he is relatively safe, so that’s not it.

Preparing for our return to a place where so much happened brings a lot back to the surface. Simply prepping for an overseas PCS can be tricky. But I have perspective now, which I couldn’t possibly have the first time around. Hopefully this will be enough to balance out the panic moments.

If not, it I were to meet with my beloved co-horts today, and burst into tears without any apparent reason, I know they’d understand. It’s not only the active-duty members who develop bonds of closeness out of shared experiences, which cannot possibly be matched in the civilian world. They often refer to each other as "brothers."

This is the same kind of matched understanding (I imagine) brought by any heightened experience in life, shared equally by and with others.

I cherish these relationships — my soul sisters — no matter how far and wide we’re presently scattered.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I'm reading Waiting for Superman, right now and, in it, the film-maker author Davis Guggenheim talks about the convergence and impact of seemingly unrelated topics.

That struck a chord. I thought, "Yes!" when I read that statement. I think he terms it "illumination by collision." I'm presently having one of those head-on impressions regarding my son.

For me, it's taken years to come to a crux. So bear with me.

Shortly after our son was born, his “adoptive grandmother”/our neighbor (his nagymama) said something to me, which I’ve thought about now and again throughout his life, and a lot more recently. In essence, if not exactly, here's what she said:

Remember to be in his corner. There will come a time when he comes into conflict with someone of authority, probably a teacher, and you need to let him know you’re on his side.

My boy was a toddler when she said this to me and already showing his independent nature by stealing out of the house and over to hers for the cookies he learned she would give upon his knock. He was little more than a year.

Now, looking back, we might have clued in sooner of his escapist tendencies, because it was when he was about eight months old when he no longer stayed in his crib. (Bedtime has never been easy with this kid. Still isn't.)

We learned this one night when he showed up at my edge of our bed. Not really seeing him, I sensed his short self.

We were so perplexed, because his crib was high and UPSTAIRS (and he was so young!). So we snuck up and watched him. Shortly after we left him in his crib, he hooked his leg and swung himself over the top rail and literally dropped to the floor; in no time flat. Soon after, we went for a futon replacement.

His Houdini-like qualities continued to take shape.

He escaped out of the house around 20 months, and was found in the middle of the road by some random stranger who was not so gracious about how my tiny boy may have found his way there without my notice. I was changing a diaper. I had no idea he could have the capacity to unlock the door and leave.

We promptly raised the locks on all exit doors.

When he was two, he broke his thumb whilst attempting to open a giant, heavy gym door and escape his playgroup at daycare.

At five, he literally left his British nursery school sight UNSEEN and ran all the way home, about half a mile, through council housing. I was just leaving the house to pick him up and opened the door to find him there. Red in the face from running, he blurted, “I just wanted to make sure you were here!”

(We realized then he had separation anxiety, because a few months earlier during his birthday breakfast, Daddy got a call to work and still hadn’t returned. That was the onset of the current Iraq conflict)

A year or so later, a behaviorist in his British primary school (his third) tagged him as potentially having Asperger's Syndrome (which is on the Autism spectrum). So we had him tested. He didn't have autism; instead, we discovered he was exceptionally bright and, it turns out, very bored in school.

Our son has never been an easy kid, but he hasn’t had an easy life, either. It’s been an ongoing journey, learning to be his advocate, while nurturing who he is, sometimes with Daddy; sometimes without. He’s in his fifth school as a sixth grader.

He’s twelve now, and it seems the time may’ve arrived to take those early words from Nagymama to heart and step into the ring. But let me first add the other seemingly non-related topic:

Recently I’ve come across several studies, and real-life/real-time personal examples, which support something my husband’s been saying for a long time: in an effort to pay due attention to girls, minorities, etc., boys, in particular, are getting left behind.

For those who doubt, or who need to see the claim in quantifiable data, here is a portion of an article I pulled from John Leonard, who is executive director of the American Swim Coaches' Association (ASCA). I met him at a clinic recently. He brought the subject up again there. The following is pulled directly from Leonard:

In an article by Janice Shaw Crouse in “American Thinker,” she writes; “the male-female ratio on college campuses has changed dramatically. Women outnumber men by 4-3. Men currently make up only 43% of college graduates.” According to USA Today, 135 women receive bachelor’s degrees for every 100 men. That imbalance is predicted to widen in the coming years. This creates huge social issues between educated women and the under-educated, immature/irresponsible young men who make up their marriage prospects.

At the clinic, the discussion transcended from a backstroke focus to working with boys, to the emasculation of boys in society as a whole. I’m not prepared to take on the subject here, but it certainly resonated with me, and I keep thinking about it. It was then I realized the subject of educating our boys goes deeper than my household, even though I'd read articles before.

Now I return to my boy, and here's the collision.

Recently, my school-loving son has once-again returned to his escapism tendencies, only this time it's more of the cerebral sort. He's beginning to retreat into himself. Maybe it's his age. Maybe it's something more. Maybe I'm trying to make too broad a connection.

He's shared throughout the year different experiences where, in my interpretation, the ability to act like a boy both in his classroom and school-wide, has been usurped. There are no contact sports allowed at recess. When the boys are seen as being "too rough," which means when they rough house at all, they are made to write something the school terms "reflection sheets." As I understand it, these are accounts of what the school deems bad behavior given by the offenders and the possible consequences. (The boys told me they simply write the worst version of what possibly could've happened just to get the whole process over with.)

Yesterday he came home from school and told me his class diverted from their regular curriculum to watch videos on bullying in a special health lesson — he thinks due to a war game one of his friend's created on paper.

Let me say — these aren't rough boys. They're all part of a GT program, and while they love to actively debate and press issues (I coach several of them; been the catechist of many in church and taught Junior Achievement in class), and can be rambunctious, I don't see them as the fightin'/bullying type. While I have no problem addressing the subject of bullying in general; I do take issue with reacting to a war game creation by making the students watch bullying videos.

And here rests another connection. What also came up in our swim coach clinic, is a statistic (for which I don't have a source) that skateboarding seems to be one of the last, male dominated, activities where boys can go, create their own rules and get physical with each other without parental or adult interference. Could this be true?

It's a complex subject. Education in general; society as a whole; boys in particular. Advocating for our children isn't easy. My son certainly isn't innocent in pressing buttons and trying to negotiate himself out of accepting responsibility for his behavior, but lately his accounts of his experiences at school are downright scary. Maybe some of you can relate.

Are we squashing our boys? For those of you who have no boys — that marriage reference kind of hits home, doesn’t it? Exactly who and what are we shaping are boys to become?