365 Days/180 Degrees

365 Days/180 Degrees

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Image: – – Macho Spouse


ChangeSign.jpgMarch 25th 2014, the day I sent Dana off on a seven-month deployment, was a low point in my life. I vividly remember the emptiness and sorrow in my heart as I watched her walk down the jetway, away from her family…away from me. I also remember how incredibly difficult it was to maintain composure while giving a TV interview just as Dana walked out of sight, it was all I could do to hold back tears. I struggled to hold myself together long enough to walk back to my car before breaking down in tears. Many of us have been to this dark, empty place before; it's definitely a low point for many military marriages.

Ok, Ok…put your “tiny violins” away. I'm not writing this for your ChrisPapeGolf.jpgpity, I'm writing because today, March 25th, 2015, was a great day. A blessed day, and I'm not usually that spiritual. Today I was asked to participate in the Valero Texas Open golf tournament as a guest caddie for PGA Tour Pro Charles Howell III. (Thank you John Hancock at USAA for making this happen!) It was an incredibly unique opportunity that required me to walk the course with him while carrying his heavy-as-shit golf bag as he prepared for this weekend's event. First, no, I didn't give him any advice other than to avoid 281 during rush hour since he was planning on going downtown to see the Alamo. Second, the JW Marriott's TPC course is BEAUTIFUL! Anyway, while hauling Charles's heavy-ass bag around (have I mentioned how heavy his bag is?), I learned he has two children and been married for over 13 years. Now the life of a pro golfer is fairly different than that of a military family; however, his job does often take him away from home and it can be quite stressful. (sound familiar?) So I asked what advice he would give a young military couple on how to maintain a strong, healthy marriage. He thought for a moment, looked around the putting tee box, and stressed emphatically with his slight southern draw how important it is for a young couple to have similar beliefs, goals, and outlooks on life. “I didn't realize how fragile a marriage can be until I recently started to notice how many of my friends on tour were getting divorced,” he followed. We talked for a while on divorce rates amongst both pro golfers and military members, and his maturity on the subject really impressed me. So then I asked for ChrisPapeGolf2.jpghim to give ONE piece of advice for military couples to help keep their marriages healthy and strong. Charles recommends keeping it simple. “We are constantly growing as people, but a way we make sure we're growing together…in a similar direction and not apart, is to frequently let each other know we're thinking about the other. A simple text that says, 'Hey. How are you?' or 'I am thinking of you right now.' Those little things throughout any day are always great because I know that no matter what she's doing, or what I'm doing, we're in some way doing them together.”

That's some pretty solid advice and something that my wife and I have been doing even through deployments (email, not text). It doesn't take much to show love and appreciation and you don't always need a dozen roses or sparkling jewelry. Just a simple thought can be the best present. Now, this would be a great story if I told you at just that moment my wife sent me a text…she didn't. However, I knew she was home safe from deployment and currently entertaining friends who are in from out of town. Which gets me back to my point, life changes constantly and just because your life sucks today doesn't mean it will suck tomorrow. Last year it was just my dog and I, eating frozen dinners in a big, empty house. Today, as I walk a beautiful golf course with one of the game's best players, my wife and friends are waiting for me at home with an ice-cold beer and great conversation. Military family life is challenging and isn't for everyone. But it's not always so overbearingly difficult; there are several times of pure joy and happiness. Some days you just need to weather the storm because eventually your situation will flip 180 degrees.

See also...

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I'm not depressed, I just want to be alone!

img-roland-220x130.pngDuring deployment, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression. According to WebMD, some of the symptoms of depression are:

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Now, we also have to understand that there is a difference between simply being sad and depression. There is going to be, in most cases, a period of sadness and change associated with deployment. This is normal. It is not uncommon for people to have some of the symptoms of depression, yet not be suffering from depression.
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30 Ways of Thanks Day #21

30Still.jpgA group of military spouses wrote Stories Around the Table, a collection of stories about what military family life is like. A portion of sale proceeds benefit Operation Homefront, and organization that helps military families in crisis.

November is Military Families Appreciation Month, and the 2014 Armed Forces Insurance Branch Spouses of the Year (Branch SOYs) want to help everyone, everywhere participate in thanking and honoring military families.

Americans love our military, but many people don't quite know how best to express their gratitude. As National Guard Spouse of the Year Dr. Ingrid Herrera-Yee notes, “saying "thanks" to our military families is something that many want to do, but are at a loss as to how to do it –or in the case of Guard and Reserve, how to find us!”

So the Branch SOYs created #30Ways of Thanks to help. Each day in November, the Branch SOYs will release a video with an action item that people around the country can participate in virtually or locally, individually or in groups. Participants can hash tag #30Ways so that their messages, photos, or videos are spread far and wide. Hash tags #GratefulNation and #MilFamsRock can also be added as a short-hand way to say “You are amazing, military families!” Best of all, the entire #30Ways video collection will be stored on the Branch SOYs' YouTube channel so that it can be repeated in Novembers to come, or whenever someone is looking for a way to say “thank you” to military families.



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