>MilSpouse Essay

>The other day I opened my email box and found this:

I would like you to consider submitting an essay for my latest project. More information can be found here: http://militaryspousebooks.blogspot.com, and on the FB page “Military Spouse Books”. I’ve read a bit about your military experiences, the deployment, and especially your R&R tips. I’m working hard to gather essays from Army spouses, combine them in a book format, so that we can share our experiences with spouses who may follow in our footsteps.

First thought: “whoa, really? She thinks I have something worthwhile to say”?
Second thought: “it’s too good to be true”, nobody would spend money to publish an essay written by me. I mean, it’s not like I talk about controversial topics or blog for world peace; no, I talk about my boring mundane life. So, why me?
 
So, I sent her an email with some questions I had. I wanted to get a better understanding of this project. I wanted to know if it was real! I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Here are the questions I asked:

First off, I need to tell you that I am not an Army wife, I’m actually a Navy wife although my husband is working with the Army now during deployment.  

Assuming you still want my input I have listed a few of my questions to help me make a decision.


Have you written other books? If so, what are the titles, I would like to take a look (if I haven’t already read them).
No, I have not written other books, only articles and columns. I think there’s some info in my bio (posted on the website), but I’ve been doing print work for many years, editing newsletters, etc. I’m working on this project now under mentorship of a few folks. It will be reviewed by them before it is ever printed. Last week I changed my focus based on some amazing insight from a few ladies. They started this project a few years ago, heard about my project through their spouse club, pretty much have handed me their stuff and said, “Run with it!” My original plan was okay, but I’m honored to have their efforts behind this, as well.

Will you be using our real names or can we remain anonymous?
You can use your real name or choose to remain anonymous. That’s up to you.

Are all the contributors from the blogging world? If so, will you publish the name/link to our blog? Can we opt out of that if we choose?
No, not all of the essay contributors are bloggers. While bloggers like to write, and can be very good at writing, they can also be younger in age and experience. I’m looking for a wider range of experiences as military spouses. I’m getting a good number of contributions from my friends, their friends, etc. But the response from bloggers has been amazing. Then it hit me, DUH, bloggers already write and share their experiences! I’m interviewing a bunch of my friends BECAUSE they don’t want to write, aren’t in the practice of writing. I’ll have to transcribe and edit their responses, with their approval, before publishing. But it will be worth the work. 😉
I wouldn’t have a problem listing a contributor as anonymous. Contributors can also opt in or out of listing their blogs (with or w/o description, in addition to their biography). I know a few bloggers who wish to remain anonymous, and will only list their bio w/o their blog info. That way they feel more free to keep blogging. Photos, headshots, are also optional. To be honest, I don’t even like having my picture taken, so I can absolutely understand why some may not want their photos attached to their biographies.
If published, do the contributors receive a free copy? 😉
Essay contributors absolutely receive a free copy of each book that contains an essay of theirs. Depending on the number of essays collected, there will be one book, or three, based on the stated categories. I also plan on donating free copies to Army libraries, and to all military libraries if we actually sell enough books. I would also like to offer a good number to bloggers to giveaway via their blogs, if that’s something they would like to do.
Upon receiving your responses I will plan to blog about this opportunity; may I share your responses to the above questions?
Thank you for your interest in this project. You are welcome to share whatever I’ve posted online, and in this email.

She also gave me some additional info aside from the answers to my questions.
20 years ago I was a scared, new-to-the-Army wife, felt very alone and nervous about everything. I didn’t grow up in the military and didn’t know anyone in the military. When I tell people now that I was shy and afraid to talk to others, they don’t believe me at all. My strength has come from my faith, family and friends, and in that order. The Army life has been a tremendous rollercoaster, and it’s also been a huge blessing. My goal is to gather stories from others so we can ALL share what we’ve learned, and reach out to others who may follow in our footsteps.
Write from your heart, what matters to you. Look at the three categories, the writing suggestions, and see where you might fit in w/your essays. I find it helps to take a notebook with me to write down things as I think about them, so I don’t forget. And then you can help fine-tune the writing, make an outline maybe. I suggest you write about what is familiar to you first. THEN maybe pick a topic that is less familiar to you and share your feelings and thoughts. Survival during deployment is relevant now, but it could also tie into survival overall, being flexible, independent, and how that has helped you in other areas, too. What resources (military and civilian) have helped you get through the deployments? What is life like between deployments, when the unit is at home? What differences have you noticed between Army and Navy living, family support, functions, etc?
I have a general outline of the direction I would like the books to take, but it will depend really on what people have to share.

So, what do you all think? Sounds like a neat idea. I think I am going to start putting together ideas. The link to her site is near the top of this page, so if you are interested go ahead and contact her. She’s very nice, trust me. She is also very quick to respond to emails which is nice (I hate waiting around for answers, lol).
 

>The Right Kind of Distraction

>As I’ve mentioned before; I’ve had a hard time readjusting to life after R&R but things are going better. In fact, I am pretty sure I’m back to “ok” status now. They say the trick is to stay distracted. That is good advice; advice that I have given out on many occasions. “Keep busy”, “distract yourself with fun activities”. While this is still good advice, there is an element missing from those phrases. I think I have found that the BEST distraction is the one you are unaware of. The situation/event that takes up quite a bit of your thoughts leaving little time to sit there and think about missing him.

As you probably already know, I am in New England. We have been hit with a conveyor belt of snow storms over the past few weeks. It started with a storm in December that they called a Blizzard. It’s funny to think about that now, because that was the smallest of all the storms. I think we got about 10 inches, if that.

We then had a storm come shortly after R&R that dumped just under 3 FEET of snow. Since then it has been one after another. The schools in the area have cancelled or delayed more often then I can count. In fact, this is week 4 of my semester and I have only been to class once; and this week looks like it will be cancelled again. We have about 4 feet of snow on the ground, with snowbanks taller than my truck.

I love weather, I love snow, but at this point…. it’s getting dangerous.

I have learned how to read the NOAA maps and all that; GFS, NAM, SREF…. I know what qpf, zr and the 850’s mean… I know just enough to scare me.

About a week ago the news started talking about the importance of getting the snow off the roof. The next day I went out to check my roof, and I saw over a foot of ice beneath a couple feet of snow. As the week went on I heard more and more stories about collapsing roofs. Two in my town this week alone!

We are forecasted to get another storm starting tomorrow into Thursday. I have been watching this evolve and I have gotten more and more scared. To the point that I tried to stop looking at the models. I was like an addict though, waking up at 0300 to get the latest runs.

Anyway, the local mets have finally started talking about the potential for a lot of ice which is a problem because everyone has hit the stores with the intention of buying EVERYTHING. You cannot find a shovel, ice pick, snow blower, sheer pins for snow blowers (mine is broken and I need a sheer pin to fix it), even gloves and hats are a rarity. I was lucky, I did find salt, but that was the last of it. Most people are sold out.

So, here I sit,, with a roof full of ice and snow, a broken snow blower sits in the garage and a single shovel sits next to it because all the other shovels are buried under four feet of snow.

I am worried about my roof, I’m worried about the ice taking out power, I’m worried about shoveling the driveway, I’m worried about falling on the ice…. I’m concerned that this is going to be a really bad storm.

I’ve been concerned for a few days now, but you know what I realized this morning as I drove home from the 4th store that had no shovels??? I haven’t been sad. I’ve been stressed, but not sad. The weather has been my distraction, and I didn’t even realize it.

Wish New England luck getting through this storm unscathed. We’re in for a monster storm.

>Cookie Care Package

>First, I’d like to encourage everyone to head over to the Marine Parent’s page and link up. She’s hosting the Military Monday blog hop. It’s a great way to meet other MilSpouses and loved ones. Hope to see you there!

So, today was nice. The boys and I decided to make cookies to send to DH. Of course, after the first couple minutes I was left alone in the kitchen to finish up, but it’s ok; it’s the thought that counts and they DID want to do it. They are boys, there is only so much baking I can expect them to be excited about. They did decorate the boxes though which is good because I am not a very good artist.
We started out with the Pecan Bars, they came out great. It was my first time making these and I think it was a successful venture.
Then we made the Snickerdoodles. They came out great; as always. I don’t remember where I got the recipe, but it is good.
We then made Oatmeal Raisin Cookies which are DH’s favorite. I don’t like raisins but he says it’s a good recipe so I’ll take his word for it.
He wants photo paper but he said he doesn’t want me making a special trip to the store just for him. I told him I already had some at the house (not true) so I planned on going to the store today to get it. Well, I forgot some stuff at the grocery store so I decided to just get the photo paper tomorrow when I go out. That means I won’t ship this out until Tuesday. It also means I have more time to bake some different recipes.
I have to read a couple chapters for Peds but I think I should work on my care plan tonight rather than reading. It’s due Thursday but I always put it off and then stress out the day before. I want to try to avoid doing that if at all possible.
More snow coming this week. The kids have had more snow day in the past two weeks than we did the past two years combined. In fact, I don’t think we had a single snow day last year. Crazy!
Things are looking better. I have had a rough time since R&R. I have missed him so much that I have been less than functional. Today I feel better. I am not completely out of my funk, but I have made a significant improvement. I haven’t cried today or even felt like I was trying to hold back tears. That’s a good thing. Let’s hope I’m finally adjusting; I can’t keep going through my days like this. I have to get back to normal.

>Sanity Intact… For Now

>You know the term “emotional roller coaster”? Or the phrase “deployment is an emotional roller coaster”?

I’ve heard these terms and I had an idea of what they meant. It’s not like I’m new to this life, but for whatever reason this is probably the hardest deployment we’ve gone through.

Recently I have felt like my face should be next to the definition of these terms in the MilWife Handbook. I have been on the verge of tears, I have been determined to accomplish things during this deployment, I have been excited to start planning for Homecoming, I have wanted to punch the calander for having so many pages left until Homecoming…. and that was just today!
I have so much I want to talk about but I don’t have time now. I am making dinner and then I have to read my Nursing textbooks. Maybe if I can get enough done I will be back, but until then, I’m just letting you all know, I’m here, sane, and somehow making it through. You all have no idea how much you help me. You are my friends, and it’s so good knowing that you are out there. I’d give you all hugs if my arms were long enough. But for now, virtual hug!

>Overwhelmed

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So, earlier today I blogged about being kinda sad, unmotivated, blah.
Boy how things can turn around; and not always in a good way either.
Shortly after I blogged the orthodontist finally called me back. I had left a message about Z’s new braces (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I had the kid’s braces put on Tuesday). Z’s been complaining about pain when he chews ever since. It has gotten worse instead of better. Anyway, long story short, the orthodontist said he needed to come in. I had to wait for B’s bus to drop him off first though. So, I’m all ready to go, waiting for the bus when the phone rings. It’s the school.
B’s bus was in a “minor” accident. No student injuries. Minimal damage to the bus. I FLEW to the truck. RACED to the intersection only to see the bus pulling away. Apparently I was one of the last of 13 parents to be called. I then raced home to wait for the bus. He finally got home and told me how the bus had cut the corner too short and crashed into a pickup truck at the 4 way intersection. I cried and hugged him and cried some more.
We then went to the orthodontist. That is when I found out that poor Z has been suffering since Tuesday. The braces were put on incorrectly. The orthodontist (the partner of the girl who put them on) was not happy. He fixed Z up and sent us home.
I made dinner. A nice dinner. Boneless ham with sauteed veggies and French Bread. It was pretty good.
I went to throw a load of laundry in my new washing machine and I found BROWN WATER IN IT! It’s my new front loader. I didn’t understand. Where would brown water come from. That’s when I heard it.
SWISHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
I open the door to the garage and the water is cascading from the ceiling. The entire 2 car garage has water coming from the ceiling. The light fixtures, holes in the ceiling, everywhere.
My pipes burst.
So now I’m sitting here. No water, no heat, no patience.
The boys are watching a movie with space heaters and electric blankets. Bro #2 wants me to go stay with him but for some odd reason I can’t leave my house. I don’t know what else could go wrong, but I feel like I am abandoning the house if I leave. Ridiculous, I know, but I can’t help it.
I am hoping my husband calls. I need to talk to him. I need him to tell me everything is going to be ok. I am feeling just a tad overwhelmed right now.

>I don’t have a reason

>I’m having kind of a rough day. Not sure why. Not bad, just blah.

I’ve paced the house all morning, I’ve picked up a few toys here and there, I called the cell phone company and took care of an overage charge. I kind of feel like I’m walking around in a haze, although I did break into tears while I was on hold with AT&T when the St. Elmo’s Fire theme song played. Don’t know why; it’s not like the movie has any sentimental ties or anything.

I guess I’ve been on the verge of tears for a few days now. I’m trying to act normal in hopes that I will start to truly feel normal eventually but once I’m alone…. I get this lonely, sad, aimless, unmotivated feeling back.

Yesterday I got my truck stuck and couldn’t get out of my driveway to get to clinical. My brother had a friend come over to drive me, then he picked me up and brought me home last night. After I ordered pizza he snowblowed my driveway for me and freed my truck. I was so grateful but at the same time I felt like such crap. I HATE depending on anyone like that. I don’t want to be needy. I don’t want people to have to go out of their way to help me.

I want my husband home.

I guess that’s what it boils down to.

I miss him so much.

We’re on the downhill now, the back half of the deployment, this should be the easy part right?

So why can’t I be happy? Why am I sitting here typing this with tears streaming down my face? I have nothing to be upset about. NOTHING. Nothing happened, nothing broke, my kids are healthy and happy and my husband will officially be home this year (2011). So why am I moping around the house unable to really do any chores or run errands?

>Snowed in

> Today we got some snow.

Yes, those are two full sized grills underneath that snow. This picture was taken around 1100, it continued to snow until about 2030. You see that knob right there in the center of the picture? Yeah, you can’t see it anymore.

I went out with the intention of snowblowing this morning (to get a head start on it) but by the time I got out there it was already taller than the snowblower. I tried shoveling the top half so I could blow the rest but my back and arms were screaming after about an hour and I didn’t even make it back from the first pass.


I gave up. I was not getting anywhere. My truck is BURIED. I am not getting out of this driveway today. My neighbor brought his Super Duty pickup over to plow….. but he couldn’t even get to the driveway. I came inside put some scrub pants on (one of the perks of being a nursing student, your work attire doubles as jammies) and made dinner for the kids.
That’s when I realized
I HAVE MY FIRST CLINICAL TOMORROW!
I panicked! The semester started this week and my clinicals this semester are in a public school.
Just as I was about to get my boots back on and head out into the night to shovel my truck out, BRO #2’s girlfriend called. Told me to turn on Channel 3. And that’s when I saw it.
Just Another MilSpouse’s Kids Public School – CLOSED
Just Another MilSpouse’s Clinical School – CLOSED
Cue the beautiful harp music with birds flying in the background.
So what did I do next? Well, I grabbed myself a big ole bowl of Jubilee Ice Cream roll, sat my absurdly wide rear end on the couch and attempted to read Chapter 34 of my Pediatrics Text.
Well, I got through the first two pages but the game show the kids were watching on TV proved to be MUCH more entertaining.
I am going to head back out first thing in the morning with a shovel and just do as much as I can. I have plenty of Ibuprofen stocked so I can whimper tomorrow night, but I HAVE to get rid of this snow.

>How I Became a Red Head

>

I have been told, more than a few times, that I look like Kate Winslet. My mother in law was the first person to say it. Since then my husband reminds me periodically. I have been told by complete strangers at the grocery store or the mall. I don’t see it but perfect strangers have stopped me to tell me that I look “just like her”. I don’t see it at all.
It’s funny though because Titanic is my favorite movie. I have always been interested in the ship; the story of the sinking, the impressive size (for the time), the collection of people (high class all the way to steerage), etc. When the movie came out DH KNEW that he had to take me.
Funny side story: There is a scene in the movie where an older couple (most likely 2nd class) knew they weren’t going to get off the ship so instead they lay down in bed and held each other till the end. I started crying at that point and did not stop. I literally could NOT stop.
The movie ended, the credits rolled, we waited for me to stop crying but those pesky pregnancy hormones were in full control.
The lights came on in the theater… still crying.
We made our way through the lobby and to the parking lot…. still crying.
A few minutes into the drive home DH started making jokes… it didn’t work, even though I was laughing at how stupid I was acting the tears continued to stream down my face.
I cried for a grand total of three hours after the movie ended. It was ridiculous.
So, here’s how I wound up a redhead over R&R.
We had just put the boys to bed. DH turned on the TV and while he was flipping through the channels he found the movie Titanic. He called me over and we started watching it. He turns to me and goes “you really do look just like her, all you need is the red hair”. We watched for a few more minutes and he says “let’s color your hair, I think it wold be hot”. 
Now, I am not a fancy girly girl, I don’t color my hair, I don’t ever “do” my hair. In fact, there are days when I get out of the shower and put it in a scrunchie WITHOUT EVEN BRUSHING IT. I know that’s bad, but I just don’t have the time or patience to play with my hair everyday (especially during deployment, who am I trying to look good for?) This is my original hair color.
So, I asked him if he was serious, he said of course and I began looking online for pictures of Rose. I showed him a few different pictures of her with different shades of red. Of course he chose the DARKEST red. 
I asked him if he was sure and he just smiled. That was a yes.
So, the next morning I called and set up an appointment at the salon in the mall. I didn’t know if this place was any good, I don’t even know what makes a place good! I’ve never done this. In fact, years ago my mother took me to have highlights put in my hair. I wound up choosing colors that were IDENTICAL to my original colors. She spent over $100 and I came home looking exactly like I had before I left. DH didn’t even realize I had done anything. That’s how cautious I am. I am scared that any change will be too drastic and I will look stupid.
We went to the mall the next day, he dropped me off in front while he and the boys parked the truck. I told the stylist that my husband wanted me to have red hair. I showed her the picture and of course she told me that I look just like her (maybe she was just kissing my butt for a bigger tip, lol).
She explains to me that red is very hard to maintain; I’ll need to go in every 4 weeks and if I let it go I will turn either orange or pink. When DH arrived I explained that this could get expensive if I have to go in every 4 weeks. He told me to just do it.
The stylist pulled out the swatches for us to choose from. Wouldn’t you know it my husband picked out the darkest color on there. I wanted to go with the second to the lightest. I looked at him and his smile was huge; he was actually excited! That made me really happy, most guys aren’t into this stuff. He doestn’ ask for much, he doesnt’ tell me what clothes to wear, earrings, etc. He says he doestn’ care if I ask him which outfit looks better. For the first time he actually had an opinion, and it was strong.
I looked at the swatch one more time and finally said “let’s do this”. He was so excited he waited with me the whole time. He took 100 pictures. It made me so happy to know that I was doing something that he wanted. I would never have done this on my own. NEVER.
 
I was not prepared for how much the chemicals would sting. My eyes were burning, the top of my head felt as if it were going to melt right off; it was rough. Through it all though, my husband grinned from ear to ear. He was SO excited.
I don’t know how to flip this picture, but it was my favorite part of the day. If I have to go back once a month I will not complain about this part. Ahhhhhh, my hair getting washed by someone else; best feeling in the world.
The stylist said I should cut my hair because of split ends, I wasn’t happy about it but I agreed because she said she could curl my hair to look like Rose and that was obviously what my husband wanted. She didn’t though, she made my hair super straight. i don’t know if she forgot or what, but I did not look like Rose when I left. Anyway.
So, jokester that he is, my husband decided to take a picture of my hair to show me what it looked like. He must have played with the settings because I almost screamed when he showed me this.
When she was done the stylist told me that she had known beforehand that I had the skin coloring to pull it off, but she was surprised by how well it came out. She said that a lot of people try to go red but it comes out looking unnatural. She said “you came in here simple and boring; you are leaving sexy and hot”. LOL. That made me feel awesome.
On the way home he couldn’t keep his eyes on the road. He kept looking at me. I felt like a princess. I felt so good knowing that my husband liked the way I looked. I was on Cloud 9. He grabbed the camera and kept taking pictures of me.
My face doesn’t look too good here because all my makeup had come off. My mascara had started running down my face when my eyes were watering so I had to wipe it all off.
When we got home we tried to take a few more pics. He was totally in love with my new hair. I love that I made him happy. He doesn’t ask for much; but he knew he wanted my hair red.
So, that’s the story of how I became a Red Head on R&R.

>R&R Advice

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R&R is over, I don’t even need to tell you how fast it went. It seems like just yesterday I picked him up at the airport. It was great, not everything went as planned but fortunately I didn’t MAKE many plans so everything worked out. 
Despite the fact that we have been a military family for 13 years and have been through our fair share of deployments and separations, we have never been through R&R. The Navy only goes out for six months at a time; work ups and schools never lasted more than a couple months each. I had heard of R&R of course, but until this deployment never truly understood it. Sure, it’s two weeks of leave in the middle of the tour; yeah, I got that. What I didn’t get was how impossible it is to fit everything in, visit with everyone who misses him and adjust back into having him around – just to turn around and repeat the tearful good bye all over again. Don’t get me wrong, I would never even consider NOT taking R&R but it’s also not as easy as I thought it would be.
I hope we won’t have to go through a year long deployment again, but just in case, I want to remind myself of a few things before our next R&R.
Things I wish I had known/thought of before R&R

Plan something for right after he leaves.
 – now you have to be careful here; do not make plans WITH anyone because you don’t know how you are going to feel and if you just want to be alone then having to go meet someone is only going to make you feel worse. Instead, plan something for yourself, something that you ENJOY doing, something that you look forward to but don’t usually allow yourself to do. Maybe order dinner from that super expensive Chinese Food restaurant, veg out in front of the TV and watch that Adam Sandler movie you’ve been meaning to watch, go to the spa and get a massage, whatever you wouldn’t normally allow yourself to do. This way, you will look forward to it.
Decide AHEAD of time who you are going to tell.
 – two weeks may sound like plenty of time but let me tell you; it’s not! Everybody is going to want to see him, of course family will want to visit, but friends will expect to see him too. Even if you give each person one day/night it adds up quickly and before you know it the time is gone and you haven’t spent much time together as a couple. People can be pushy and some people are really good at making you feel guilty. It’s important to remember that this is leave (vacation), it’s supposed to be relaxing and fun for him. Running all over the state to see this person and that person may prove to be more stressful than it’s worth. Instead, visit with family and maybe just a few close friends. You may not even want to tell some people that he’s coming home, that way they won’t feel neglected. Be sure to allow him to make this decision himself though; you can voice your opinion but make sure he has the final say.
Don’t make too many plans.
 – Planning to go to the museum, a concert, the mall, etc may sound like fun and he may typically enjoy doing these things; but R&R may not be the time to do them. I’m not saying not to plan ANYTHING. Just don’t plan too much; don’t fill up the days with this and that. Leave plenty of room for spur of the moment decisions. If you guys wake up one morning and decide not to get out of bed until noon…. then go for it. You might find yourselves sitting on the couch watching a movie and eating Dominos Pizza rather than getting all dressed up to go to a restaurant. Allow yourselves some wiggle room, don’t plan too much.
Take pictures every day.

  – you can’t have too many pictures. Take candid shots though; posing for the camera is fine once in a while but if you spend the whole day asking him to “say cheese” it will become quite annoying. Rather, grab pictures during conversations with other people (that way you’ll get your smile AND it will be genuine).

 Make a few dinners ahead.
 – a nice homecooked meal is great. He will thoroughly enjoy it, although spending two hours in the kitchen every night wastes a lot of potential quality time you could be spending with him. Early in the R&R make a few dinners that can be doubled (ziti, enchiladas, lasagna, etc). Prepare both pans, bake one for that night and wrap the other one up for another night. Ta-Daaaaaa. This way if you don’t feel like cooking one night you can just throw the pan in the oven and you’ve got yourself a home cooked meal without all the mess.

Make a list of things that need to be done.
 – he’s been gone a while so there are BOUND to be things that need to be fixed. Make a list of things that HAVE to be fixed while he’s home…. then cut it in half. If he gets around to doing more, great; but don’t make him feel like he’s nothing but a handyman.

Drop him off at the airport and then go.
 – this is a very hard good bye. When he comes home from deployments the “honeymoon period” typically lasts up to a month for us. R&R is half that time. This means that you will still be in the mushy, hand holding, not arguing stage. Letting him go again DURING the honeymoon phase is really hard. The good bye is going to be hard no matter what you do; dragging it out by going into the airport with him is only going to make it harder on BOTH of you. Instead, drop him off, hug him and kiss him, then get in the driver’s seat and go. Trust me. I know it feels like you want to spend every last second with him, but crying and snotting all over his uniform is not quality time. Just go.
Find his civvies BEFORE he comes home.
 – I completely take over the closet when he’s gone. C wears the same size clothes so most of DH’s clothes end up in C’s closet, other stuff gets shoved in drawers. He probably won’t be coming home with any civvies at all, and if he does it won’t be much. Make sure his clothes are ready for him; smell them, after a few months in the closet or in a drawer they may not smell fresh.
And that’s my advice to me. I will think of more as time goes on and maybe I will update but for now, these are the things that come to mind.
Do you have anything to add to the list? I’d love to hear your ideas. Everyone’s R&R is different just as everyone’s marriage is different; I’d like to hear what works/worked for you guys.

>A Fairy Tale

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Once upon a time there was a girl; she lived in a big castle with lots of family. Life was good; plenty of food, blankets and love to go around. One day, the king of the castle left. The girl and her siblings were never quite sure if their father left by choice or if he was forced to leave; but the result was the same… he was gone. Their mother, the Queen of the castle, tried for a time to interview potential Kings but no suitor proved worthy. It wasn’t long before the Queen decided that rather than search for a replacement King, she would search for the secret potion that would provide her with the magical powers needed to handle all the young children and the castle upkeep all while never feeling an ounce of loneliness or the need for companionship.
The Queen tried many potions; none of which were what she was looking for. Each potion had a different effect on her. The Girl and her siblings began making a game out of who could guess what their mother would turn into when she tried the next potion. One day they came home from playing in the fields and found the Queen had turned into a rabbit. She hopped around the castle for the rest of the night; by the next morning she had morphed back to her old self. The children laughed about the rabbit; it was, after all, amusing however not all results were funny; some were scary. A few weeks later the children found the Queen lying on the floor with an empty potion bottle next to her. She was a flounder; and fish cannot be out of water for long. The girl raced to her mother, scooped her up and ran her to the pond out back to throw her in. At some point that night they heard wet footsteps enter the house and the children knew that the potion had finally worn off and their mom was back. After many attempts, the Queen attempted to drink a different type of potion.She lay down on her bed and fell into a deep sleep that lasted many years. Occasionally, she would awake for a few moments but she soon fell back to sleep. The castle became messy, the siblings became disobedient and the girl was scared.
The girl missed the King, she missed the happiness in the castle, the comfort she felt when she heard his voice booming through the hallways, the protection he offered his family. The girl hoped every night for a miracle. She dreamed of the King coming home; but that was not to be.
Over time the girl began to feel lonely. Even though the castle was always filled with her siblings, she felt lonely because the one person she knew could wake the Queen and stop her from experimenting with the potions was not going to come back. The food supply was short and the love that once was abundant now was in short supply. No matter how many people surrounded the girl; the only thing she ever felt was loneliness. It was consuming her. Her siblings were hungry but she was just a little girl and she had no money to buy food, nor did she know where to find it.
Most nights the girl would sit in her room and fantasize about a prince saving her from this cold and lonely castle. She imagined the prince would protect her and comfort her the way the King had protected and comforted his family. She longed to feel cared for, to feel safe, to feel loved.
Years went by and the girl’s miracle arrived on a horse wearing a dark blue saddle. He was a good man with many friends and a big heart. He introduced himself to the Queen during one of her infrequent periods of consciousness, he then befriended all of the girl’s siblings. Once he was accepted by the family he asked for the Girl’s hand. The marriage was planned for the next day with very few preparations. There was no special dress, no ring, no flowers; just the girl and a man who was going to save her from the loneliness.
After the short ceremony the girl walked through the town feeling safer than she had felt in many years. It was as if the man had placed a coat over her shoulders on a chilly evening. She was protected, safe and very much loved this man for making her enjoy life again. He showed her the new home she was to live with him in; it wasn’t much, but it was theirs and she was happy.
The next day the town bridge collapsed, the townspeople asked the man to help and because he was such a good man; he agreed. The man would have to leave his girl to go fix it. She knew she would miss him but she also knew how important that bridge was to the town. She kissed him goodbye and began her long wait for him to come home. When he arrived home he brought news of his intent to begin a family with her. Child after child blessed the man and his girl. But then another messenger arrived on their doorstep notifying the man of the need for his assistance to rebuild a house that had been destroyed by wild centipedes. The man kissed his girl and all of his children and left to repair the house. The girl waited patiently for the man to come home; she cared for their children and tried not to let the old feelings of loneliness creep into her mind. She was the best mother she could be but she knew that their sons could not learn how to be a proper man from their mother. The boys needed their father to teach them how to be good men. The girl did the best she could to raise them to be men, but she couldn’t be sure she was succeeding.
The townspeople began to rely heavily on the man and began to call him to assist in many different ways all around town. The girl knew he loved her and their children and would protect them whether he was physically home or not which is why she waited for him each time he was called away. The feeling of the coat on her shoulders on a chilly evening helped her get through many nights alone in that house.
One time a nearby town asked for the man’s assistance finding a lost pancake in the corn field. It took the man a long time to find the pancake but, of course, he finally succeeded. When the man came home his girl could sense that something was different. The man had changed. Something had happened while he was searching for the pancake. Suddenly, the girl began to feel lonely even when she sat next to the man. The man did not talk to his girl and slowly she began to feel less protected and safe when she went out. She was not sure that the man would have the energy to protect her while he was out doing good deeds for the rest of the town. She was scared that she would be left alone to care for their children but (just like when she was a little girl in the castle) she did not have the means to put food on the table or pay for their home. She didn’t want to be alone, she didn’t want to feel abandoned. Little by little the feeling of the coat on her shoulders was lost and the loneliness crept in.
The thought of feeling lonely again terrified the girl. One night wile the man sat reading a book the girl attempted to start a conversation with the man. He was not interested in talking to her; he wanted to finish his book. The girl went outside, she walked to the big Oak tree in the yard, she paused and looked back at the house. The man did not appear at the door looking for her. She didn’t even know if he knew she was outside. So she began walking. She passed through the town center, then the town line and eventually she was lost.
Time passed, and the girl repeatedly thought she had found her way back home but each time she realized she was in an even stranger place. Just when the girl was becoming cold and hungry she heard footsteps behind her. It was the man. He HAD been looking for her after all and he had found her. At last the girl felt the feeling of the coat around her shoulders and she allowed the man to lead her back to their home. Unfortunately, the man would have to leave again as soon as he brought his girl home though. He was needed in the center of town to fill in a giant crater after a particularly heavy cloud dropped from the sky the night before. He kissed his girl, packed his bags and left her alone in the big house again.
This time was different though. This time the girl knew that no matter what happened, where the man went, how long he was gone for he would always come looking for her if she got lost. The coat was on her shoulders again and although she missed him terribly she knew that he loved her and their children. She knew that he would always come home to them.
The crater proved to be much bigger than originally thought and the man was gone for much longer than ever before. The girl did her best to care for all their children, she kept the house in good repair, and she even attempted to learn how to knit. Months later the man requested a small amount of time to come home to his girl and their children because he missed them terribly. He knew he would have to go back to the crater, but he was excited to make the long journey home.
When he arrived the girl was happier than she could ever remember being. She had not yet had a chance to fully apologize to the man for getting lost that night. She wanted so badly for him to know how much she regretted making him come look for her on such a cold night but she couldn’t find the words. Instead she tried to show him how much she loved him so he would know that she would never get lost again. The girl opened her mouth to say “I love you” but there was a knock at the door. It was one of the townspeople there to thank the man for all his hard work. After the man closed the door the girl attempted to tell him again how much she loved him but there was another knock on the door. This time it was the girl’s siblings, they wanted to each give the man a handshake because they were so proud of the work he had done.  Each time the girl would try to talk there was a knock at the door.
The girl waited for her turn. She had to be patient. Each person that came to the door only wanted a small amount of the man’s time, but cumulatively it was a large amount of time. As the clock ticked toward the hour in which the man would have to leave the girl became sad. When the man finally had a moment to sit with his girl she couldn’t say anything because she knew he would be leaving her alone again very soon. The fear of loneliness paralyzed her. She put on a smile and turned her head so he couldn’t see the single tear that fell down her cheek. He hugged her; and went back to work on the crater.
The girl put on a smile and went on about her days as she always had but at night she longed to be like everyone else. She wanted the man to hold her hand when she walked through town, she wanted him to teach their children to be as good a man as he was, she wanted him to put his arm around her to protect her rather than having to wear a metaphorical coat throughout life.
At last the crater was filled. The man came home with big news. He had decided that he had helped the townspeople so much over the years that he was going to focus on his family from that day forward. The man and his girl were quite happy in their home watching their children grow. They laughed and talked and the girl had almost forgotten what being lonely felt like.
When the letter arrived the man and his girl were caught completely off guard. It was the town requesting the man’s services again. They explained that he was the only man that could successfully push the square peg through the round hole in a large swimming pool filled with grape juice. Of course, this was an important step in the whole process of creating the first self propelled chicken nugget so the man agreed to go.
The girl kissed the man gently, told him she loved him and turned to walk back into the house. She was met with an amazing sight. Their sons were grown and they intended to go help their father. Each one of them stood there in front of the girl with confidence and maturity. Each one of them was as noble a man as they could be. Each one of them was just like their father. In all the time the man had been off helping the town their sons had watched from the front yard. They watched how he always put the town before his own needs and wants. They watched him tirelessly help strangers and they watched him struggle to hold back tears each time he left his girl and children. They watched and learned. They recognized that one of the most important parts of being a good man was ensuring that his family knew they were loved. The man did not want his girl to be lonely but he had no choice. He was the only person who could help the town when in need. It may have taken some time, and his girl may have gotten lost one night but he made sure that he found her. The man made SURE that his girl never doubted his love and always made sure that she felt his coat around her shoulders when she was chilly. Their boys had grown up to be just like their father.
Sharing the man with the rest of the town was not always easy but being in love with a hero is well worth it. The love shared between a Town Hero and his girl is stronger, more intense and more wonderful than any other love on Earth because they never take it for granted. The children born from this type of love are a special breed too; they witness first hand what it takes to be a good man and they will make their parents proud everytime.
The End