Monday, April 30, 2012

Making New Friends

Democritus once said, "It is not so much our friends' help that helps us, as the confidence of their help." I heard this quote several years ago and have been convinced of its truth. Last weekend, I went back to North Carolina to visit my husband. I decided to come a couple of hours earlier to see my friend in Raleigh. We keep in touch, but I had not seen her for over a year. When I called her to see if she could pick me up at the airport, I was sure she would change her plans and agree. I was sure that she would be excited to see me. And she was. David and I received the warmest welcome from her and her family. It was an amazing time! 

We also visited my teacher of English and David's teacher of Russian, who happens to be the same person who introduced us to each other and gave me the happiness of my life (my husband.)  She has been a wonderful and faithful friend for years, and I know she will always help whenever we need it. I have several great friends who I know I can always count on. This confidence of their help helps me tremendously.

If you have ever moved, you know that once you unpack your boxes, install Internet, and settle down, your soul starts longing for some human company. My husband is my best friend, but, being a soldier, he cannot be always with me (at least physically.) My Mom is also my best friend, but she lives in Hawaii. What do you do when all your friends are in different states or even in different countries?

I have noticed that the older I am, the harder it is to make friends. It is also difficult to make acquaintances. I like to be quiet and listen and rarely make the first step. I have always been a little jealous of people who can strike up a conversation with anyone and be likable right away. I need time to open up; if someone makes the first step, I will make the second. 

As my David is preparing to leave, I am hoping to make new friends. I am actually planning on ACTIVELY pursuing it. Work, church, yoga class, and facebook groups are some of the places to start. Maybe I will even get a dog (not really a human company, but company nonetheless.) Any idea how I can find friends without being awkward? 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Mom's Turkey and Veggies Casserole

This is my Mom's recipe of a very easy and tasty casserole. She likes to come up with new ideas for food, and this is one of them.

You will need:
- 1 carrot
- 2 medium broccoli
- mushrooms
- 1 onion
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 1 pack of Philadelphia cheese
- shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup of milk

1. Spray the baking form and spread ground turkey in it

2.  Cut mushrooms and spread on top of turkey

3. Add broccoli

4. and carrots

5. Cut an onion and spread it evenly

6. Take mayo, Philadelphia, and milk

7. Mix the ingredients in a blender

8. Pour the mixture over the veggies and turkey

9. Spread shredded cheddar cheese

10. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and bake for 75-80 minutes

11. Enjoy a healthy meal!!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Deployment Threats

During the spring of last year, we went on A Weekend To Remember marriage getaway. It is a marriage conference organized by FamilyLife that teaches couples how to have a successful marriage and a family. Usually, couples with problems visit such retreats. We did not have any problems in our marriage, but I, being a planner, decided to prepare us for the challenges ahead. My husband David, luckily, did not object to it at all. It was a wonderful conference, and we learned a lot. I will be talking about some of the principles we discovered there in the later posts, but today I wanted to share a book that we got at that marriage retreat. It is Making Your Marriage Deployment Ready: Drawing Together When Duty Calls You Apart by Mike and Linda Montgomery and Keith and Sharon Morgan. 

The book consists of six different sessions that address various aspects of upcoming deployment. Even though David's deployment is coming up, we started going through the book last weekend. We will be lucky if we have enough weekends together before he leaves to go through all six sessions. 

The first session is about Deployment Threats

1) Uncertainties and difficult adjustments: I do not know many people who like change. If you are like us, then change is good in small quantities and very rarely. If change were easy to embrace, people would have already stopped smoking, lost all the extra weight, and got their dream jobs. Deployment, just like any separation, will definitely bring the need to be flexible into the lives of both the deployed spouse and the one staying at home. For him, there will be a need to adjust to sleeping on the ground, to eat MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), to inhale the dust of Afghan desserts, and to the fact that there will be no easy access to the Internet. For me, there will be challenges of learning how to fall asleep alone, pay the bills, and take out the trash. We both will need to learn how to live by ourselves again. The most important thing is to realize that this is temporary, and that eight months is just a tiny fraction of our life together. 

Do you think challenges of separation cause problems or reveal them? I think it can be both. If a couple has not been together for too long, hard times can create problems, since the two people have never faced difficult circumstances. However, if the problems already exist in a marriage, long separation can alienate spouses and make things worse. 

2) Selfishness: Separation makes it so easy to focus on yourself rather than your partner. You don't want to make him a sandwich for lunch? You don't have to! You can always go out and not worry about what he is eating. You don't want to watch anime? Guess what: you can easily watch an episode of House, M.D. or Office instead. He is not there to constantly remind you that you need to cook, clean, do laundry, etc. In fact, there is no one watching you, so you can completely concentrate on your heart's desires. However, Phillippians 2:3-4 teaches us that we should "3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Instead of falling into the trap of selfishness, I need to focus more on my spouse. I am planning to write him real letters every day, as I did during the first deployment. I will be sending him care packages and my pictures. I know that taking time and making an effort will count a lot for him and will let him know that he is still an important part of my life. 

3) Poor communication: Many couples who live under one roof all the time suffer from poor communication. The fact that there are thousands of miles between you and your spouse does not make it any easier. There will be a huge time difference between you. There will be only one computer available to 40 deployed guys who need to write home. He won't be able to send you real letters. There will be base lockdowns for several days when there is absolutely no communication available (and allowed) with the outside world. Understanding these unique challenges can help the staying-at-home spouse keep calm and make an extra effort to communicate. He won't be able to see my sad eyes or tired face and instantly understand that I am not feeling well. I need to communicate that clearly when we get a chance to talk. During the last deployment, I tried to keep some things that bothered me to myself, so he would not worried about me. Women know that sometimes things that make us upset are not really that important and can be left unmentioned. 

If you want to make your marriage a priority, let your spouse know that he is still the head of your family. You are just temporarily fulfilling his duties here, at home, while he is fulfilling his Duty to the Country far away. Focus on him, concentrate less on yourself. Show him that you love him through letters and care packages. Your love and support will warm up his soul during the cold Afghan nights like no sleeping bag ever will. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ham and Swiss Cheese Sandwiches

These sandwiches are very easy to make, and they taste delicious! I got this recipe from my mother-in-law. 

You will need:
- 1 stick of softened butter
- 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds
- 1 tablespoon of any mustard
- 1 dozen of Hawaiian sweet rolls
- 1 lb of sliced ham
- 8 slices of Swiss cheese
- foil

1. Take the first four ingredients and mix them together.

2. Cut Hawaiian sweet rolls horizontally.

3. Spread the sauce over both sides of the rolls.

5. Add Swiss cheese

6. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

7. Wrap sandwiches with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes.

8. Cut baked sandwiches, serve warm and enjoy!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What I learned During the First Deployment

Before diving into the second deployment, I thought it would be wise to recall everything I learned during the first one. Okay, here it goes:

1. Staying as busy as possible - One of the most important things is developing a routine for every day and trying to follow it closely. The trick is to keep your mind on something besides the deployment. The second you let your thoughts wonder, the worrying consumes your full being. Is he okay? Did he eat well? Did he get enough sleep? Did he get through his night watch without any unpleasant surprises? Since I could not know for sure, my imagination went wild. I had to catch myself and consciously force my thoughts upon something more positive, which brings me to the second thing I learned.

2. No news is good news - This saying is probably never more true than during a deployment. My husband told me before he left that in case something bad happened to him, the Army would let me know within 24 hours. I do not know how true that is, but I recalled his words many, many times during our separation. He could not always write or call, so I had to be patient and persuade myself that everything was fine, since I was not told otherwise.

3. Living with your parents is awesome - If you can go back to your parents or relatives during your spouse's deployment, absolutely do it. I was especially blessed with the fact that my parents welcomed me in their home in Hawaii. Mom and Dad supported me all the eight months and kept me busy with the Saturday hikes, movies and concerts. I could keep my job and worked remotely. The time difference between Hawaii and North Carolina (6 hours!) was hard to deal with, especially with the NC morning conference calls at 3 am Hawaiian time, but my boss compromised a lot, too. Living with someone who can take care of you also keeps stress off your spouse's shoulders.

4. Do not watch news - The news will only get you more worried. Remember? No news is good news.

5. Communication is the key to a strong relationship - He could call me only a couple of times a week and emailed a couple of times more. But is it enough to keep the love fire burning? I found one more way to communicate my love: in addition to my emails, I wrote real letters to him almost every day during those long 8 months. That way, he knew what happened when he wasn't with me. I would then send the real letters in the care packages I shipped to him. My husband really, really appreciated the time and effort and said the letters kept him connected to me and to my life while he was away. 

6. You have to become your own temporary spiritual leader - When my husband was not there, I had to temporarily fill his role of a spiritual leader in our family. I found a nice church in Hawaii and realized that going by myself was not bad at all. You do not have to stop growing spiritually just because your husband is far away. Daily devotionals not only kept my focus on the Lord, but also helped me stay strong when I needed to.

When my husband returned, I worried that he had changed. That I had changed. That we would have to go though painful adjustment and learn how to live together all over again. Fortunately, it was not the case at all. We continued our life as if he had never left.  Little did we know that this was not the last time he would be gone for so long. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

The New Deployment

Military life is not easy. It is unpredictable. It is unstable. My military life began when I met my husband in September of 2009 and had to wait for a week until I saw him again because of his training. I did  not know what I was getting myself into! You can't really prepare for it, either, but it surely does teach you to appreciate what you have and not to take your spouse and relationship for granted. 

The first deployment was difficult, but we had grown closer to each other during those eight months. It has hardly been two months since we reunited, and here comes the shocking news: new deployment. I guess I had expected it in the back of my mind. One thing that I have learned for sure, you cannot plan too much when you are a military family. Therefore, if you are a planner like me, you will have to learn to adjust to the constant change and to modify all your plans as you go. Living a military life taught me to be humble and to really understand that we are not in control. However, the good news is that He who is in control has our best interests in mind and loves us unconditionally. This realization brings great peace and comfort to both of us. It is wonderful to know that our lives are not in the hands of people who are flawed like us.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Nobody is Perfect

Nobody is perfect. That is one of my spouse's favorite sayings. But I am a perfectionist! "Who isn't?" he usually responds. He gently but firmly insists I understand and accept this truth. Therefore, here is my first blog entry ever, everything BUT perfect. 

Before launching my blog, I wanted to think over every single word. I wanted to make my page look exceptional. I even decided to learn the CSS to modify design of my page (I am an accountant, which is pretty far from IT.) Yet, here I am, on a Thursday night, baking cookies for the work Pot Luck tomorrow and starting my blog within a standard template and no preparation whatsoever. I am learning to accept that not every single aspect of my life has to be perfect, and that is absolutely fine. I am going to live. To live with the strong conviction that my husband and I may not be ideal, but we are perfect for each other.