Back To Real Life


Paul went back to work yesterday and I’m sad. I like him so much and I have loved having him all to myself the past month or so. Since he came home we’ve eaten lots of sushi and visited family and gone to baseball games and put finishing touches on the house and watched movies with the kids.

Some of the best moments this month were watching Paul in the ocean. I know when he comes in after a few hours in the surf, his mind will be calm, he will feel centered and his eyes will look young again.  Plus, it’s just fun to watch him surf. He looks so great out there!

We’ve had a good time. It makes me look forward to retirement.

I took that picture of him when we were at San Elijo last week. How I adore that handsome face!

Our reintegration has been pretty smooth, both as a couple and as a family. It has been much much better than last time. Maybe it is because our expectations have been different or maybe we have established coping skills or maybe the kids are just older, it is probably a little bit of all of that. Whatever the reason, I am grateful and content.

Peace after turmoil, comfort after distress and joy after despair and discouragement; emotions, hard fought for, feel incredible.

I feel whole again.

Interestingly, our awful move actually made the family transition easier. Normally, Paul is the odd man out trying to fit himself into already established schedules and patterns. Because of the move we all found ourselves in the same boat as we adjusted to our new surroundings. Now, I am a long way from calling the move a good thing but that part ended up being positive.

Spring Break is this week. Usually for Spring Break I have the days packed with activities, but the kids need a rest. They’ve worked hard, juggling school and the move and their dad’s return and extracurriculars. They’ve hardly had a minute to breathe since Christmas! Man! I’m proud of them! I think they just need to sit around in front of screens all week.

I haven’t been able to see past Paul’s return for months now. It feels strange to be thinking about the future again. I need to take this time, before school starts again, to make some plans and figure out what direction our little family will go now.

I better get started!

He’s home!


The day is here!  

Ribbons are hanging in the trees, the house is clean inside and out, we are all presentable and I feel ready.  

Its time to go and get him.

My heart pounds as we drive to the airport and as we wait at the gate.

Is the plane on time? *check flight tracker* They’re 8 minutes early!

Will the photographer be able to find us?

Instagram of the kids waiting.

How’s my lipstick?

The plane landed.

The news crew is here.

He’s at the gate!

Be calm and answer their questions.

Don’t say “um”.

He’s getting off the plane.

“No, I don’t want to wear the mic.”

Where is he?

Are these people from his flight?

I can’t see up the ramp!

Dan, how far do you think you could make it up the ramp before the TSA lady tackles you?

That’s him!  Those are his boots!  That’s his smile!

I run.

The TSA lady warns me not to cross the line.

I stop and then Paul gestures to run anyway.

He’s home!  He’s safe!  I can touch him!  He’s real!  I don’t want to let go!  Its over!

Hugs all around, happy tears, relief.  The relief is unbelievable.

Paul says a few words to the news crew.

It can’t stop looking at him, touching him.  Is this real?  Am I going to wake up?

We head to baggage claim and finally home.

Photo by Terry Hurst Photography

Survival Mode and Beyond


For me, survival mode means just trying to get through the day.  There is no looking to the future a month, a week or even a day ahead.  Do what has to be done now and just make it to bed time.  It means buffet style dinner because setting the table it too much.

It means I can’t worry about the project due next week, we will just focus on the the homework due tomorrow.  It means Dan needs a haircut and there isn’t any bread for lunches, and it means someone doesn’t have the right t-shirt for the field trip and I feel like a failure.  At the end of some of these days I wonder why I even try.

The worst part of it for me is that my children are the ones who are most effected.  Grades have slipped.  Opportunities have been lost.  Any self-improvement this year has been sporadic if it has happened at all.

These are the subtle consequences of war that nobody sees; nobody talks about.

Happily, that part is behind us now and we are looking forward.

Finishing up Christmas, being at the threshold of a hopeful new year and realizing that I am solidly in phase four, has given me an energy I haven’t had in a very long time.

The number one change made?  Lists!  I have a list of things the kids need to do before they get any screen time.  Among other things, Dan needs to practice the horn, Gloria needs to knit a square for a blanket, Sara will finish one lesson of code.  We were all spending way too much time in front of one screen or another and now that time, is just a little more measured.  I feel like we’re all back on track.

Adding to that energy, is the excitement  that Paul will be home soon.  My mind is racing constantly with errands and projects that need to be finished before he gets home.  I’m cleaning out closets and organizing drawers and making lots of trips to the Goodwill.  There’s weeding and planting and cleaning up to be done in the yard.  The carpets need to be cleaned and the baseboards need to be washed and if I showed you my “to do” list you would make fun of me.

Regina said, “Rachel, I didn’t think that Paul cares if all the cupboards are cleaned out.  I think he’ll just be glad to be home.”  “I know, it is mostly for me so that when he comes home I can relax and just focus on him and won’t be worried about all the little chores that need to be done.”

The funnest project I’ve started is redecorating our bedroom so that Paul will have a comfortable, peaceful place to retreat as he reintegrates with the family.  He didn’t have that last time and I think it would have helped a great deal.  I am working with Decorist and they have given me the best ideas and insights!  I just order the print above (that they found) as part of that project.  It is by Kimberly Blok and it perfectly sets the tone for the room I want.

What do you think?

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas


It was day or two after Thanksgiving 2005, Paul was going to deploy to Iraq within the week.  We had done all the paperwork.  We had prepared the children.  We had discussed what  would happen if . . .    We had done everything we could think of.  I was sad, anxious and scared.  I started clenching my jaw.  I clenched so tightly and for so many weeks that by the time Paul was leaving, I couldn’t open my mouth wide enough to eat a peanut butter sandwich.

That day we were headed to Ft. Hood for something, a last minute errand.  We were at the the train tracks on Ft. Hood Street and Veteran’s Memorial Boulevard watching a train go by.  The DJ on the radio talked about the song Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  

He told us that Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas was written for the movie Meet Me in St. Louis, in the 1940’s.  The lyrics were really dark, reflecting the war weary mood of America at the time.  Judy Garland was supposed to sing the song in the movie, and she did, but she thought the lyrics were too dismal for the scene to which the song belonged.  She asked the composers to change a few of the lines; they did and the version we most recognize is the one we she sings in the movie.

The DJ was going to play a different version.  It was recorded by Frank Sinatra for troops who were still fighting in WWII with a mix of the original lyrics and alternate lyrics. When Frank sang, ” . . . Next year all our troubles will be out of site . . . “, it reflected  the mood in the car and I cried and we both wished for “next year” to arrive quickly.

Although I never really liked that song before, it holds bittersweet significance for us now.

These are the lyrics, Frank Sinatra sang and they are the ones I like the best.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away

Once again as in olden days, happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us, will be near to us once more.

Someday soon, we all will be together, if the Fates allow
Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

These are the original lyrics.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last
Next year we may all be living in the past

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Pop that champagne cork
Next year we may all be living in New York

No good times like the olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us no more

But at least we all will be together
If the Lord allows
From now on, we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Judy was right, kinda dark wouldn’t you agree?  The photo at the top was taken when I dropped Paul off for OIF 05-06.    I’ve had all these memories running around my brain as we decorate and try to have fun with our traditions without our Dad and wanted to get them written down.  Thanks for indulging me.




When it comes to what I can do and what I can handle during deployments, I seem to go through several phases.

Phase One:  I’ve got this!

Of course there are more than a few days of sadness and cookie eating but then I pull myself together and face the months to come.  I plan trips and projects and activities to keep us all busy.  I continue with all the commitments we have in place and even add a few more.

Why not?  Paul’s is gone.  All that time I spend with him is now freed up to do other things right?


I miss Paul, especially on the weekends but I am energized and I’m facing the deployment like a champ! I work hard and play hard and every minute is full and Man! I get so much done!  This phase lasts about 4-6 months, overlapping a bit with Phase Two.

Phase Two: Survival Mode

During the first part of Phase Two I am still trying to juggle all of our Phase One activities but I’m getting really tired.  I mean exhausted tired.  I mean my feet are heavy, everything is hard, warming up leftovers in the microwave is too many steps, tired.  Most of the time I am just trying to get through the day and make it to bedtime.

Every morning, I mechanically face our day and I methodically check things off my list as we accomplish them.  If, however, anything goes wrong or something unplanned is added, it is almost impossible for me to adjust and I completely melt down.  I get angry and sad and feel like I’m letting down everyone around me, especially my kids.


I can’t do everything right, and then my view of things gets skewed so I feel like I can’t do anything right.

This brings me to the second part of Phase Two, depression.  I find it hard to get out of bed.  Nothing sounds good to eat. There is nothing to look forward to.  Everything feels like a chore, even things I normally enjoy.  I see nothing but the long months stretched out ahead of me like eternity.  And I can’t find any good anywhere.  I just want Paul home, period.

I feel isolated and completely alone.  Minutes feel like hours, hours feel like days.  This part just sucks.

Then something magical happens; I start telling people no.  First with embarrassment and a feeling of failure and then with a feeling of empowerment and control.  Who am I trying to impress anyway?  I start making my life easier.  I pare back our activities to the absolute minimum.  Instead of signing up for the next sports/drama/music season, we take a season off.  I stop volunteering at school and at church.  We spend a lot of time in front of screens.  A lot of time.  The kids stop having friends over regularly.  Sleepovers are not even considered.

Phase Three: The Light at the End of the Tunnel  or Let’s Do This!

Although there is some overlap with Phase Two, Phase Three happens almost overnight.  All of a sudden, I can see the end.  I am counting in weeks instead of months, and then days instead of weeks.  I am thinking of the goals I made when Paul left and the time feels short.  I have to abandon some goals but work hard to finish the others.  I feel energized again and happy.  I am full of hope and excitement and I’m looking forward to our family being reunited and finding our new normal.


I don’t take anything else on and I feel brilliant that I’ve simplified so well.  As I plan our time and commitments in the coming months, I am also considering the time when Paul will be home and more of my attention and focus will be needed here inside these four walls.

Phase Four:  He’s Coming Home!

This phase is the shortest but also the most emotionally complex.  I will write more about this as we get closer.

*Spoiler: It will end with something like this.

high five

I just hit Phase Three and I’m feeling good.  I’m ready to face the holidays and the changes that are coming up in our family.  Things are good, well except that my sewing machine is broken but even that I can deal with.  We may get through this yet.