By elaine | January 28, 2014
When I was teaching a breakout session at a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, I posed a general question to my group comprised mostly of women spouses. I asked, “When you first hear that your husband is coming home, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?” A hand darted into the air, followed by a woman emphatically answering, “How the h— did my a– get so big!” As you can imagine, the entire room erupted into laughter…primarily because they were ALL thinking the same thing! This led to a lively discussion about sex, image, and intimacy when you’re finally back together. We discovered that for some couples – often those who had experienced multiple deployments – it was easy and natural to get back to the way things were. For others, this was a time of apprehension, concern and a “nose-dive” in self esteem. Here are some of the suggestions that were offered during the session to help make this very important time better for both of you. This has never been a problem for us or for me. I always felt that if you put the other person first in his needs, he always wanted to please or treasure you in return.
- For your self image, please attempt to stay active both while you’re apart (get a gym membership and make time) and together when your spouse returns. Get bikes, hike or join a co-ed sports team. Make working out a priority so that all of a sudden you don’t find yourself thinking that it’s too late.
- I discussed issues with intimacy vs. physical actions with others. I learned that intimacy really is different from the physical act of lovemaking.
- For some reason I found that when we increased communication about daily household needs, it seemed to increase our closeness.
- Understand that there are likely to be high expectations on both sides. Reduce the pressure on each other.
- The two of us stayed close during the deployment through frequent communication. We would even exchange information about what our time back together would be like.
Lastly, on page 97 of my book The Road Home, I had fun sharing a list for your first sexual encounter together. It’s short, sweet, fun and directly from “those who know”.
- Think creatively.
- Remember the time factor: don’t rush, if possible.
- Watch for competition for your attention, such as kids, the TV, and other environmental distractions.
- To jump start romance, try an adult “boutique shop.”
- Schedule your time alone.
- Tell each other how you feel.
- Talk about the first time you met.
- Get a hotel room with a deep tub!
- Be respectful of each other.
- Give each other a massage.
- Bubbles – from a bath and champagne.
- Show constant, subtle, verbal and non-verbal signs of affection.
And my favorite (in his exact words)
- “Dim the lights, light a candle, and go at it like rabbits!”
Not sure I can do better than that! Enjoy this time and each other.
By elaine | January 21, 2014
At a Yellow Ribbon workshop recently, I asked the group to respond to this question: “When your spouse returns home, how do you go about feeling comfortable with each other again, and resume good communication?” Here are a few of the answers I received:
- Always make it a priority to keep communication open during deployment. It really helped bridge the gap when he came home. Anything helps – texting, email and Skype or Facetime. But also understanding (not getting mad) at the times that he was not able to talk to me.
- When I returned, I made sure to ask my wife what I could do to help around the house. I didn’t just sit around.
- We made sure we spent good quality time together right from the start. I know some people differ on this, but we talked about his experience, and my feelings about the deployment. That open communication helped us both understand each other and what we both went through.
- I got this idea from Pinterest. I created “date sticks” each with a different date idea on it in different price ranges. They were for date days, nights, getaways or even short moments together. When we wanted time, we picked a date stick from the pack.
- Together we took the Four Lenses training so we better understood our personality types. That helped us see things from the other’s “perspective.”
- We took it slow and hung out at home. I asked a few initial questions and then we would go out (away from home) and talk about daily things. That was a better way to get to know each other again.
Thanks to everyone who contributed their thoughts and ideas.
By elaine | January 16, 2014
Happy New Year! By the time you read this, you’ve probably heard that more times than you can count. But there’s something exciting about each new year. No matter how the previous year turned out, it seems as if January 1st ushers in lots of new possibilities, both in tasks and relationships. These articles I’ve been writing over past months are all about connecting. I look at connecting as improving relationships, with ourselves and others, through tasks and activities. So I guess that’s why I like each new year; it’s a new commitment to improving our connections and relationships.
For January 2014, we’re going to look at connecting with your “charitable heart.” Over the years people have stepped up to help you out when you needed it. There’s something very special about being able to be of service to another person, whether you know them personally or not. A rewarding way to begin 2014 is to find a small way to help someone.
- Is your son or daughter a member of a Scout troop or youth fellowship at church? As a group they can step up to provide babysitting (of course with adult supervision) for a “parents night out”. Find a community location and have the children dropped off for a few hours of fun and games while their parents have a date night. This same group can offer a hand in mowing lawns, raking leaves, or making small repairs for the home of a deployed soldier’s family.
- Help with a literacy program in your area to encourage someone to learn how to read. If you enjoy reading, volunteer to read to young children at a local school or daycare center. When you’re reading aloud, remember to “become” all the wonderful characters in the book through your voice and facial expressions. Kids love to see you be a part of the story.
- I love this charitable idea one woman sent to me: She was soon to give birth to her first child and her husband was deployed. So the community held an old fashioned bake sale and raised enough money to fly in one of her relatives to be with her instead! There were smiles all around for that one!
- Where can you volunteer? Even a few hours a month can make a big difference to the organization or people involved. Put your organization skills to work for your local Hospice, Humane Society Shelter or Goodwill store. Volunteer at the VA hospital to honor those who have served. Churches can always use free help from maintenance to childcare to working with women’s and men’s groups. Get your kids together and volunteer to serve dinner at a homeless shelter. We did that on New Year’s Eve and it was great to see the kids “giving” instead of “getting” over the holidays.
- For personal reasons, I support Gift of Life Transplant House, a home away from home for those awaiting transplants and their support persons. People are there for a long time. “Guests” of the house love to receive notes that let them know they are not forgotten. We write “thinking of you” notes and send them to the staff to be delivered to the guests as they are needed to brighten up a few lives. How about doing the same for the families at Fisher House or the Ronald McDonald House?
- Have a few extra dollars? Make a donation for coverage of a single night’s lodging for those in need at any of the support homes mentioned in the suggestion above. It doesn’t take as much as you think. For example, $30 covers 1 nights lodging for those at Gift of Life. Look into the cost of lodging at the other venues…you might be surprised.
- Can you sew? Make a quilt for Quilts of Valor. Their mission is to cover all combat service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing quilts. Review their specs and requirements at www.qovf.org.
The best part of connecting with your charitable heart is that it feels great! You can make a difference in the lives of people you may never meet. The above suggestions and ideas utilize your skills, your talents, and your passion. Enjoy 2014 and thank you for making it a better year for someone else.
By elaine | December 13, 2013
December is a month when I tend to reflect on things. I look at all I have in my life and wonder if that’s the true definition of Success. I’m pretty lucky, so most of the time it is. In church last week, the minister talked about how we define success for our own lives, and then he took it a step further. He asked if, along with living a successful life, we were also living a significant life! That was something I hadn’t thought of before – the need to have both success and significance in our lives. If your family is together this Holiday season, then December will be a wonderful time of the year! We also know that it can be a challenging time for families who are separated by deployment. This season of celebration is also about connecting with those around you. Whether your family is together or not this Christmas, try doing something significant this season for others – something that helps someone from whom you expect nothing in return. If you do this with your kids, you help teach them what a difference they can make in another’s life.
- Help organize a local toy drive for less fortunate families in your community.
- Volunteer as a family to serve supper at a homeless shelter.
- Throw a party through your FRG for community families needing a bit of cheer.
Connect with other military families who are apart this Christmas and would love assistance as the days get more hectic. The following ideas were inspired by or taken from the book “I’m Already Home…Again”. Military wives offered these suggestions:
Christmas Shopping with young children – “When both parents are around, it’s easy to slip away to shop for the kids. When it’s suddenly a single parent home, it’s hard. I’d like a friend to offer to watch my kids for an afternoon so I can go buy their toys. Here’s the catch – take them to YOUR house. Why? Because then I can sneak the gifts into the house and even wrap them without being bothered.”
Shopping with older kids – Joyce has 2 children, eight and 10 years old. “Traditionally, I would take the kids shopping so they could buy their own gifts with their own money, for my husband. Then he would take them out to shop for me. Now he’s not home. I’d love someone to offer to take the kids to the mall so they can secretly buy their special gifts for me.”
Don’t forget me – The Holidays can get lonely. Others assume that you want to be left alone so you may get fewer social invitations. Actually, people probably don’t know what to say to make it better so they feel awkward. Include the spouse in appropriate events and let each decide how and when they want to be involved.
How about some nice gifts for a family that will be spending the Holidays apart:
Do you have pictures of their family that they might not have?
- Make copies and put them together in a collage, photo album or even a monthly calendar. The funnier the better for this time of year.
- Make pictures into refrigerator magnets.
- Glue photos onto an 11X17 piece of paper in a fun way and decorate it. Then laminate your work of art and give to kids as placemats.
Rubber stamps – Go to a craft shop and make a fun, personalized rubber stamp that has a child’s name on it. He/she can use it to “stamp” every letter written to a deployed parent.
See how easy? Use some of these fun suggestions to get started, and then YOU think of some other creative ways to make the Holidays warmer for someone close to you. By doing this you’ll see that SUCCESS + SIGNIFICANCE = LIFE! Happy Holidays.
By elaine | November 19, 2013
This morning, about to leave for church, I grabbed my good coat off a hanger and began to slip it on. Unfortunately, my sweater sleeves were too bulky to go into the sleeves of the coat. Frustrated, I hung it back up and grabbed the oversize fleece jacket that I usually wear when running. I knew that my sweater sleeves would fit, but I was very uncomfortable wearing such a casual jacket to church. Oh well, it couldn’t be helped. As I put the car keys into the jacket pocket, I felt something different. I pulled out my driver’s license! How long had that been in the pocket? I hadn’t worn the jacket for almost a week, and wasn’t planning on wearing it in the near future. While it might not seem like such a big deal, in this circumstance, I let out a “whoop” of joy! There was a reason for that. The next morning I was leaving on a week-long business trip with an early morning flight. I would have grabbed my purse on the way out the door, thinking that my license was in my wallet. I can imagine being totally freaked out when I wouldn’t be able to produce my identification at check-in! That would have been a huge problem, and my worst nightmare. I was incredibly thankful and relieved that I had chosen the sweater with big sleeves, put on that old running jacket and best of all, stumbled upon my license in the pocket. What a gift that chain of events was.
November is a month for connecting with the things, people and circumstances you are thankful for. In many households, before Thanksgiving dinner begins, there is a ritual of going around the table and telling others what you are thankful for. Usually we hear answers like family, a good job, and sometimes even that your football team won…all great responses. This year we’re putting a twist on that game at our house. Everyone is going to share a “little wonder” that happened to them that they are thankful for – one of those small things that happen to let us know that we’re on the right track. If your family is going through a deployment, you might not be thankful for that “big” circumstance that takes you apart. But can you look for things to be grateful in that circumstance? Maybe a child has “stepped up” and helped out more than expected or maybe you found solitude in a few moments of alone time to catch-up on a hobby. Share something that makes you smile, “whoop” for joy, and recognize that all those little “gratitudes” pile up into a great day. This year, I just might tell the story of my driver’s license!
By elaine | October 22, 2013
In the last post, we began talking about the connections in your life. We started with your kids. There’s another relationship I want to address. That’s your relationship with…YOU! Connect with you. When we spend so much time doing things for others, the first relationship to bite the dust is the one we have with ourselves. Carve out a few minutes to connect to the dreams or vision you have for your life. In 2002, when I began my work for military families, people thought I was crazy. After all, we hadn’t yet entered into the conflict with Afghanistan, so none of my friends saw a need for what I wanted to do. Then a business partner told me this: “Don’t give up on your dreams, just because someone else doesn’t share the same vision.” That changed things for me. I moved toward what I wanted to do with my life at this moment, and how it would help both me, and others around me.
From the very first time I did a presentation on an Air Force base, I’ve always dreamed of getting a chance to see what it would be like to fly in one of those jets like the ones in the movie Top Gun! That was about the most far fetched vision I could imagine. After all, I’m only a civilian with no flight experience. But I kept pictures on my wall and thoughts of flight in my head. One day, 6 years later, my office phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “I’m with the National Guard Bureau and I’m here to make the arrangements for your F-16 flight.” I couldn’t believe it! Thus began a lot of preparation, arrangements, and training, but every minute was more than worth it. It was the ride of a lifetime, and the culmination of a very big dream.
So the first thing to do is connect with your inner “self”. Think about what you’d like to do in the next day, week or even years. Maybe you’ve wanted to write a story or article. Maybe it’s signing up for a class to get that promotion at work. Maybe it’s just telling yourself that you’re going to find 20 minutes every day to read. Don’t let anyone tell you that your vision isn’t good enough, big enough, or important enough! It’s your vision…and your dream. Appreciate and cherish it.
By elaine | October 17, 2013
The dictionary defines it as; “to join, link or fasten together; to establish communication between; to have as an accompanying feature.” My job is to help people connect with each other, no matter the distance that lies between them. If I was asked for my own word that defines connection, I’d pick “strength.” I think of the strength of the bond we have with those we love, and the strength of our conviction to prevent bad things from getting in the way of that bond like arguments, growing apart, and physical distance. Today we begin a journey of posts to renew the strength of all our connections.
In each post I’ll pick one or two of our relationships and share insights and strategies for enhancing that connection, and most importantly, having fun with it. The first is the relationship you have with your kids. In my book “I’m Already Home…Again” we talk about over 100 ways for a deployed parent to foster a stronger connection with their child while separated. We’ll roll out a few of those later on.
But what about the parent left at home? When your day is consumed with work, problems and all the stuff that happens every day, what can you do to prevent your relationship from beginning to drift away? One of the most popular ideas I’ve heard for a parent returning from a deployment, is to reconnect with each child by taking them individually on their own “date night.” That’s great. But what about you and your children when you’re the parent at home? YOU go on a date night with each child! Find a time when it can be just the two of you, get a babysitter for the rest of the kids, and the two of you do something special. One key: remember to make the activity something that is special to that particular child. Yes, that may mean sitting front row center in the movie theatre on a Saturday afternoon for a showing of the latest animated feature, or shopping with your teenager. Just know that this is your time together…to connect. You can print cute coupons like these pictured by visiting http://lets-explore.net/blog/2011/12/a-year-of-dates/
By elaine | August 13, 2013
When you’ve let something go from your life for a while, it’s difficult to go back and write about it. But I’m going to do it anyway. Since military funding has taken a nose dive over the last 18 months, my message of support for military spouses hasn’t been reaching as many as it used to. Yesterday something came in my email that I knew had to be shared. It was from an Army wife who cared enough to share a family connection idea they use when her husband is deployed. She shared it so that others could learn about it too, and maybe let it find a way into more families. When you’re separated by deployments, you must fight for the strength of your family! Sharing ideas is a great way to show this. I’ve always been a good avenue for sharing those ideas, so I’m stepping back into the light to let you know about this one, and hopefully many more as time goes forward. This idea is from Jamie and here it is in her words:
Instead of doing the deployment chain as you suggested in your book which we actually did for deployment #2, we are doing a deployment tree. Especially since we’re starting in the summer with this, we’ve got green leaves that get pulled off first. Then as fall arrives, we’ll take the colored leaves that I purposely taped under the green leaves off, and of course lastly the brown leaves will get pulled off as winter arrives. One leaf gets pulled off each day that my twin daughters daddy is gone to again help them be able to visually see how much more time they have to wait until their daddy comes home. The white bag is what they put the leaves in. This way too, if I’m off a day or two I can ‘sneak’ hanging up a couple and I can save to recycle these if I ever want to do this idea again. We just made one pattern or two and traced and then cut a bunch out.
Thanks, Jamie, and it’s our hope that this idea and many more like it will become part of other military family routines.
By elaine | May 29, 2013
I just finished being a guest of Semper Feisty Radio with the amazing hosts, Kristine and Jackie! What a great time. These are two wonderful women here to share and talk about issues facing Marine families in all phases of deployment. Among other topics, we discussed my book The Road Home which is on Mrs. Amos’s First Lady of the Marine Corps Recommended Reading list and some of the ideas in it for families looking for ways to make their homecoming more fun and meaningful. Of course all that is still based on the idea that you stay connected with each other while you are separated by that deployment. You can’t expect a relationship to pick up exactly where it left off if you’ve done nothing to keep it strong while apart. There’s a lot to think about when working on a smooth reunion and reintegration. In the book we talk about money, returning as a single Marine, and changes – even subtle ones – that occur.
On the show we had a great discussion about sex and intimacy upon return. First, you are not alone in thinking that maybe you gained a few pounds or what if we don’t “connect” like we did before. Trust me, they are universal feelings. My advice is to not be so hard on yourself…he or she is going to love you just the way you are, and for that first “connection”, whatever happens…it’s OK! If it’s your first deployment, don’t work yourself up too much about it. Sometimes all the plans in the world fall through, and the reconnection “just happens” in the way it’s supposed to. Maybe it turns out to be a stop at a motel on the way home rather than the candles and flowers ready to go in your bedroom at home. It will be fine! Here are a couple more ideas for intimacy directly from the chapter “How the heck did my butt get so big” in the book The Road Home:
1. Have a love affair – by dating again. Make a list of fun “date” things to do together during those first few weeks at home. Find things that are free or inexpensive, things that you can do “on a whim” and even places that you can save up for that will take you away for more time.
2. Chat with the kids to help them understand that “mom and dad just need some alone time together” and that it doesn’t affect your relationship with them at all. If you know THEY will be ok with it, it will take some of the stress off of you both. Consider a sitter for a couple of days away.
3. One returning husband wrote a love letter to his wife, put it in a clear plastic bottle and floated it in her bathtub when he got back! Yep, it got the fires going.
4. Finally, based on responses I heard in a session I was facilitating at t family conference, page 97 in the book lists 15 quick easy ways to “set the mood” for lovemaking. I’m sure you’ll find a few that will work for you.
Thanks to Kristine and Jackie for letting me share these and other great ideas with you. Look for the book in your exchange, on Amazon or at www.ImAlreadyHome.com. I hope you find lots of ideas to enhance your relationships with each other and those around you. Thank you for your service!
By elaine | January 16, 2013
Take a look at this picture. What are the people doing? If you said something as simple as meeting and talking to each other, you’re right. What’s so unique? No one’s texting, or plugged into an iPod. In this post, I want to talk about talking. Recently I had a huge email problem and discovered that for almost two weeks no one had been receiving any of my emails…and I didn’t even know it! I never received any notifications. The emails were going off into the clouds somewhere. As the email issues were being worked on, I was left to utilize an avenue of communication we used to use all the time. The telephone. Honestly, I don’t like talking on the phone. Like most people, I’ve gotten used to shooting off an email and waiting for a reply. I was uncomfortable getting back on the phone, but I did. I called and talked to people…almost as good as “face-to-face.” Most of the conversations were casual and comfortable even though they were focused on business. My loss of email forced me to pick up the phone; something that has, over time, been relegated as the “last line of defense” in making business contacts.
In this world of technology, you see people relying on impersonal devices to make personal connections and build trust. I believe that genuine trust is built through personal connections. There’s an app on your phone for almost everything from music to books to games to doing your banking. Those are what apps are for. When it comes to creating trust with another person or deciding who you feel good about doing business with, my philosophy is simple. Trust – there’s NOT an app for that! (The name of a new program, too) Directed towards both my military families, and business contacts, the next posts will look at specific ways to make and maintain connections, focus your communication and cement trust between people. I’m pretty practical and down to earth, so the ideas I share will be the same. In the meantime, take this challenge: The next time you sit down to write an email, consider picking up the phone instead.
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