Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dealing with the Day to Day When Husbands Must Work Away

On August 1, 2000....15 years husband went away.

He didn't leave us.  He wasn't dead.

He was hired by the State of Illinois, Illinois Department of Corrections specifically and left to do his 6 weeks of academy training.  He would go to the academy very early Monday morning and come back to us on Friday night.

This was just the beginning of a 3 year separation for us.  Why?  Because the prison he was hired to work at was 3 hours away from our home and rather than remove us from our family and friends, he opted to work "away" while the boys and I remained behind.  When he accepted the position we were told that he could transfer to an institution closer to home in 18 months but the state of Illinois froze transfers so it was almost 3 years before he came home.

Let that soak in.

When he left that August morning, we had 2 sons.  Lee was almost 3 and Greg was 4 months old.  Explaining to a 3 year old that the daddy he adored wasn't coming home that night, or the next or the next was excruciating.  He didn't understand.  He would cry for the first 2 days and almost every night at bedtime.  Greg was spared that for the most part, as an infant, but had colic that started about the time Norman left.  He would scream for hours every night.  Hours.  For weeks.  Greg also got severely car sick.  Norman wasn't allowed to drive himself to the academy so I drove 4 hours on Monday morning to drop him off and 4 hours every Friday afternoon to pick him up.  For 6 weeks.  My parents are farmers and this was their busy season so for the majority of the time I would drive a Geo Metro 2 hours each way with at least 1 screaming kid.  Twice a week.  Sometimes I would have a panic attack on Friday mornings just anticipating the drive.

But it was worth it....because we were going to get Daddy.

After the 6 weeks, Norman started his employment at Dwight Correctional Center.  He stayed in some employee dorms on the ground of Pontiac Correctional Center.  He would drive himself up and back on his "Monday" and "Friday" (which were never actually Monday or Friday).  This left me with no vehicle.  If I was desperate I would borrow a vehicle from my parents.  We did all errands and shopping when Daddy was home.

For years we would celebrate birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving on whatever nearby day Daddy was home.  That's probably why we don't have all these traditions in our family regarding holidays....sometimes they were celebrated a week early or a week late....but we made the best of each situation....being so thankful for the days that we were together.

I don't think people understand how hard this was on me.  I became mom and dad 5-6 days a week.  I suffered from depression before but I also had to deal with severe anxiety.  Some days I would just huddle in bed and cry.  I laugh when people say that they can't be as strong as me.  I wasn't strong.  I was a mess.  But I did what I had to do.....

Why?  Because although I missed him terribly and the workload/responsibilities were huge, I was at home.  I was in a familiar town/area with my family and friends.  If I had an accident I could call someone.  If I was so lonely I just couldn't handle it, I had family I could visit (some of them literally saved me).  I kissed my kids good night before bed every single night.  Norman was in an unfamiliar town. He did make friends but it took some time.  I can't imagine how hard it was for him to be away from the boys.  That ache had to almost drive him to insanity somedays.  I do know he worked a lot of overtime while he was up there.  He said it helped the days go faster.

He thanked me yesterday, for not making it harder for him than it was.  You see, I never once complained.  I never told him how much we would cry while he was gone.  I put on my smiley happy face when he was home (because we were so happy that he was home!) and a cheerful voice into every phone call.  I determined early on that I was not going to make this any harder for him than it already was.  Was there anything that he could do about the crying boys?  The days my heart broke and I spent the whole day in bed?  Sure there was.  If he knew, he would have quit his job.  The best job he had ever had.  He would have come home to us.  Because that is what he would have given anything to do.  But he knew he had a responsibility to provide well for us and this was the path that God had given him to do it.  So he stayed at Dwight and I kept my mouth shut.

I look back now and wonder how many women realize the responsibility they have in their marriage to make things just a smidge easier for their husbands.  Do you really need to complain when he works overtime again?  Or should you be thankful that he is providing?  Should you lay out all your problems at his feet?  Or should you suck it up and remember that it isn't his job to be your is God's?

You see, those sacrifices we made those years enabled Norman to find fulfillment in a job he enjoys.  He makes a wage that enables me to be home, to educate the kids and kiss the booboos and give the lovings that children need and have to get from others when both parents are employed.  I'm not saying I don't wish there had been another way, but there wasn't.  Sometimes you must just accept the way things are and make the very best out of them.  Doing that shouldn't make it harder on the other person.

As I look back, I recognize some things that did help me cope during those long days, weeks, months and years.
1. Focus on TODAY.  If today is Monday and Norman just left, I wouldn't dwell on how many days it would be until he got home.  I would decide what I was going to do that morning, what I was fixing for lunch, what I was doing that afternoon, what I was fixing for supper, what books we would read or movies we would watch at bedtime. Do that the next day, and the next day and the next.

2.  Find a confidant.  I've never said that you should keep all your feelings bottled up.  I've only said that you shouldn't burden your husband with them.  Find a FEMALE friend or two to confide in when you just need to vent.  It happens.  Find someone that will ENCOURAGE you to keep on keeping on.  Nobody is meant to do everything alone.  I've offered to be that person for several people.  I hope that someday they take me up on the offer.

3.  Get out of the house.  I spent part of the time Norman worked away with no vehicle.  Having no vehicle doesn't mean that you have to sit in the house and brood all day.  Go for a walk.  Plant flowers.  Enjoy nature.  If you are blessed enough to live in town, walk to a library or park or coffeeshop.  Even 30 minutes a day can improve your outlook on life.  I tried to go on a walk every day I could, weather permitting.  Once I had a vehicle, we would drive into town one day a week for lunch and a trip to the library.  I tried to make it mid-week so that it broke up the time that dad was away a little.  Schedule play dates if you have little kids.  It takes effort.  I'm an introvert so doing these things sometimes took a lot out of me, but in the end I needed the adult interaction and the kids needed fun things to do.

4.  Find a hobby.  You might not have much time.  I get that.  Find something that you enjoy doing and carve out 30 minutes for it.  I read, knit and blog.  I did cross stitch for years and I also sew (sometimes I enjoy it, sometimes I don't).  Do you garden?  Lift weights?  Fix things? Scrapbook?  Play an instrument?  Don't know?  Then go get some books from the library.  You might find some new things that interest you.  When Norman worked away I learned to knit, canned my own food, had a garden, read lots of books, did cross stitch and started writing (in a journal because blogging wasn't a thing yet).

5.  Try to keep Daddy days fun.  This one is hard and might not always happen but it is so important.  If your husband is only home 1 or 2 days a week or worse, a month, then it is important that the time be as enjoyable for everyone as possible.  We would go into town, have lunch at Bonanza and then do grocery shopping.  Every week.  The employees at Bonanza knew our orders.  We would have so much fun and get errands done and it was special time with the kids.  We would spend time with Norman's mom (she missed him too).

6.  Have a set routine on the day Daddy leaves.  This is important.  Especially with little kids, but I think that it is useful for wives as well.  We would get up and do the same things every day daddy left.  The routine was comforting for the kids and helped with their anxiety and the tears that tended to take place.  It was easier for everyone.

We are in a slightly different place now.  Those 2 little boys are almost all grown up (18 and 15).  We have 2 new little ones (7 and 5).  My husband works at Robinson Correctional Center now and works a lot of overtime.  The thing with overtime is that you don't always know when that will happen.  So I mark time by a clock.  Norman will call by 2 if he is staying late at work that day.  I rarely plan my evening until I know what he will be up to.  The kids have learned to be flexible.  I have to take on farm responsibilities and parenting responsibilities.  I make a lot more decisions than I would like because I am the one home most often.  I think that the early years prepared me for this.  I'm very flexible.  Evenings are lonely, but we have a sort of routine for when Daddy works late.  I usually get more of "my" projects done when Daddy works late.  We make the best of the situation.

In the end, that's all you can do.  Complaining and whining don't help but you can help yourself (and your husband/children) make the best of a difficult situation.  As the wife and mother, you set the tone for the home, so set a positive, joyful tone.  You won't regret it, I promise.

Facebook - Part 2

Last week I wrote about removing the facebook app from my phone.

Today I reinstalled it.

Lest you think I'm fickle, read on.

I stand by every statement that I made last week.  I've learned a lot of things in the last week about my interactions with others and time wasters in my life.
1.  Facebook isn't real life.  People can post whatever they want; true or false.  We all know that, but I tended to think that the people I was friends with were better than that.  Eh.  It is what it is.  Everyone, including me, wants others to think/believe good things about them.  That's human nature.

2.  I've spent a lot of time with God this week.  A LOT of time.  Isn't it terrible that the thing that was supposed to bring me closer to people was pulling me away from the thing that matters the most to me.  I've grown so much in my faith this week.  I know that wouldn't have happened had I been on my phone all week.

3. Mean, rude and otherwise obnoxious people on facebook can be ignored.  It's an easy solution.  I was worried that others would think badly about me if I "unfollowed" or "unfriended" them but I've come to realize that it isn't my job to filter all that stuff through my psyche.  I just can't absorb all that junk anymore.

4.  If a person is spending all their time on facebook complaining or manipulating their current situation to garner the most possible exposure/sympathy, then they don't really have your best interests at heart.  True story.  I discovered how true this was this week.  I made it a point to get online and "check" on some friends and family that I hold especially dear.  With only few exceptions, nobody noticed I was gone.  I'm not trying to garner sympathy here, just point out the obvious.  So maybe the random things that I post aren't that important.  And that's ok.  They were random small talk things and don't matter at all.

I've decided to take up writing again.  More than journaling but really writing.  About what exactly, I'm unclear.  I'm searching for direction.  I did put facebook back on my phone.  I was finding it difficult to keep up with community organizations and Bible studies that I'm involved in without it.  I am focusing more on my relationship with God, my family and my home.  I am reconsidering the random posts.

In the end, I'm glad that I was able to realize the amount of crap that facebook was dumping on me.  I think it's a great tool if used wisely.  I imagine that I will have to pace myself a bit, place time limits on writing, not go overboard.  I tend to get one-minded in my obsessions and we have a lot going on.  I hope to be able to write about that in the near future.  If you want, leave suggestions on things you are interested in reading about and I'll see if I have enough wisdom to write about it.  Thanks!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I Peter 3:1-2

This is my life verse:
I Peter 3:1-2
In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands.  Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words.  They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives. (NLT)

You see, I was a rebellious 18 year old once.  I was frustrated with the rules my parents had and searching for my place in the world.  I met a boy, who defied all convention.....a wild one and I was smitten.  3 months later, he proposed and I said yes.  3 months after that we were married.

Sometime that first year of marriage, I realized something wasn't right.  I don't remember being taught in church about being "unequally yoked".  Rarely did fathers come to church...just some older men, younger boys.  So I really didn't understand the full implication of what I had done.

We had a son.  I muddled along.  Fought depression constantly.  My husband was doing lots of stuff that wasn't right, was far from right....some I knew about and some I probably should have known about.....but we had a son.  I was stubborn.  I didn't want him to grow up without his father.  I didn't want to be a single mom.

While pregnant with our 2nd son, we got internet.  A whole new world was opening up to me.  I began researching homeschooling and learned about submission.  At some point, while I was searching, a godly woman told me about I Peter 3:1-2.

I'm so grateful that she did.  You see, so many people, even in the church, were telling me to leave.  I didn't "deserve" to be married to a non-Christian, I "deserved" better.  My son "deserved" better.

Staying was the hard choice but I clung to those verses.  I prayed and prayed about God using me to impact Norman's life in some way.  Somehow, Lord, use me!

Those years were rough.  I endured anger and verbal abuse.  I suffered from severe postpartum depression after the birth of our second son.  Norman got a great job, that required him to work away from us 5 days a week.  My "support system" wasn't always supportive.  The depression segued into anxiety.

Some weeks were a nightmare.  I won't lie.  I didn't always know what to expect from my husband.  However, the good days began to slowly outweigh the bad. He cleaned up his life, left that evil life behind.  My husband began to focus more on his family.  It was slow and some days I couldn't see a light at the end of my tunnel.  I had to die to myself and realize that I might never see the fruits of my work here......maybe it would be my children or grandchildren.  I spent hours on my knees in prayer.  I sought godly counsel, privately, when situations arose that I couldn't emotionally deal with alone.

You see, in our culture, it is much more popular to throw in the towel.  Sticking it out isn't the popular choice, even in the church.  Women in difficult situations are encouraged the cut their losses and move on.

But is that really what God wants us to be doing?

Over the years, we've been put in a myriad of difficult situations.  The lessons that God taught me so many years ago have helped me weed out the unbiblical advice and "cleave" to my husband through it all.  Sometimes that meant taking sides.  Sometimes against my family.

God designed marriage as a partnership.  That partnership doesn't work unless both people are committed.  Committed people don't consider leaving as an option.  Just having that mindset changes the way a person deals with situations that arise.  If you are committed to your marriage then you are forced to work things out.  You are forced to learn conflict resolution.  You have to forgive, forget and move on.  Humility is learned; I didn't always have to be right.  We learned to work together.  We learned each other's strengths and weaknesses.  We learned to appreciate our differences.

This took YEARS.  It's not a quick process.  I had to change ME, not him.  God did the work in him (I will never take the credit for that).

Nowadays, my husband sits beside me in church.  We pray together.  We discuss the word of God.

I see God's hand in my marriage every day.  I couldn't have stayed without God staying right there next to me the whole time.  He gave me strength I didn't have.  Just when I thought I couldn't do one more day, He was right there to comfort me.

We really don't fight now.  I can truly say that we are one.  We are a team, working together to mold our lives into God's will for us.  We raise a family, together, with little in the way of outside support.

We still struggle, disagree and act in un-lovely ways toward each other.  We are sinners, saved by grace.  The worst might not be behind us, but God is with us.  He's got this and we are committed to each other and to Him.  May God have all the glory.

If you find yourself in an "unequally yoked" marriage and want to talk about it, I'm happy to spend some time with you.  Leave me your email address in the comments and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.  God wants to be glorified through your marriage, just like He is in mine!

I Removed Facebook From My Phone - Day 1

This would fall under the "keeping it real" blog post label (If there was one).

Anyway, if you follow me on facebook you know that I TRY really, really hard to do 2 things there.
1. don't complain
2. keep it real
It's very hard to express difficulties that you face without complaining.  We don't ever want people to feel sorry for us, we aren't throwing a pity party. So overall, we trying to mentally evaluate what we post on facebook....therefore, people tend to think that our life is all sunshine and flowers.  ***Note: life and your attitude towards it are what you choose to make of can find things to be grateful for in the middle of the most trying times, or you can wallow in your pity party.  Your choice.***

Our life is not all sunshine and flowers.  If you are very close to us (I would say I have maybe 2 girlfriends that are close enough, my mom and most of our church family) you know what struggles we are facing.  That's generally because these are people who want to be involved in our lives.  They send messages throughout the day asking how I am, send cards, stop their busy lives to chat.  We share trials and concerns and joys.  That's what friends and family do.  I've heard that some people have lots of these types of people around....I'm glad that is the case for you, but we just have a very special few.  We are very, very grateful for those people.  I doubt that they will every know how grateful we are.

Moving on, drama invaded our facebook lives this past week.  I'm not getting into it here.  I'm told that the situation has been resolved (and by resolved, I mean blame has been placed) so we are letting it go.  My very wise older children have admonished me to quit getting into other people's drama.  And you know what, they are right (please don't tell them).  It isn't my job to straighten people out.  They have their own lives to live and mistakes to make, just like me.  I might think that saving them from themselves is helping but it doesn't. We all have to learn somehow.  I never realized how much time I had spent on facebook "encouraging" people who were complaining.  It was a realization when someone pointed out that they weren't posting because they really wanted advice, or assistance....they were posting because they wanted people to feel sorry for them.

In the middle of this drama this week I realized that my blood pressure was high, I was drinking way too much coffee, checking facebook way too often (had to see if we were being trashed again) and not getting a thing done.

We have lives too.  I am helping organize our community soccer team (paperwork, phone calls, meetings, emails, facebook posts, schedules), I am coaching 2 teams and helping with a 3rd.  Our 2nd oldest son plays high school soccer so we have that schedule to try and work around (it's not working, I'm going to miss several of his games), my husband is working lots of overtime because we are buying a house (and we can either work and save for that or wait on the money fairy to bring us some cash) and he is dealing with issues at work.  Son #1 is starting college and entering the workforce full time, Son #2  had an accident this summer that required surgery and after-treatment, my great-aunt passed away, Bear and Abby need educated.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Am I complaining?  No.

Life brings bumps in the road and you deal with them.  If you are very lucky, you deal with them with a support system around you.  People who understand that you are dealing with a lot and deserve the grace extended that they expect you to extend to them.  We have been very fortunate to learn who our real "peeps" are.  And if you are reading this, you know who you are and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

With that said, facebook doesn't promote that kind of community.  It promotes complaining and drama and snippets of life involvement.  You see, I believed that I needed facebook for adult interaction.  I learned that you probably aren't going to find adult interaction on facebook.  You find that in real life.  With real people who know your struggles and share theirs with you.

I mentioned to someone yesterday that we are an island unto ourselves and I still feel that is true.  My little family of 6 takes care of itself.  We are very blessed to have other islands build bridges toward us and let us build bridges towards them.  That's what true relationships are about.

So I've removed facebook from my phone.  I will still check it occasionally as I like to see pictures of family far away.  I was worried I would "miss" something, but in reality, if they want to be part of our lives they will text or call or shoot me a message (because our current house has no cell signal).  I know I text the people that I love occasionally and others can to.  I'm going to focus on my real relationships rather than the facebook ones.

Love ya!