It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Posted on May 14, 2020 in Uncategorized

Every military spouse will tell you that something goes wrong when their spouse deploys. It’s an inevitability. It could be a major appliance breaking – say, an air conditioning unit during a heat wave in your third trimester of pregnancy. It could be a natural disaster – hello, hurricane season! You could have a baby while your husband is on the other side of the world (not a problem, exactly, but not ideal.) Or maybe a snake will take up residence in your living room. Who knows? The fact is we military spouses anticipate these kinds of issues so when they happen, we are somewhat prepared to handle them.

Why yes, yes I do.

I’m pretty confident that no military spouse anticipated a global pandemic. And while I can’t speak for everyone, I most definitely was not prepared for this.

Let me back up. Nine months ago, I had my third baby, Kate. My husband, a Naval aviator, was at sea. He was able to return home the day before the birth and stay for a few days before returning to his squadron. My mom stayed a couple of weeks before returning to her home. And then I found myself alone with three kids – a 7-year-old, 5-year-old, and a newborn. I knew it was temporary – my husband would be returning in several weeks – but still, I cried the day my mom left. I wasn’t overwhelmed yet, but I knew I would be.

My first outing alone with all three was a weekend swim meet. It was a lovely Virginia summer day – about 95 degrees with 100% humidity. I schlepped a swim bag, diaper bag, cooler, stroller + car seat, beach chairs, and a TENT into the pool to set up camp for the morning. I gracelessly popped open the tent, placed the sleeping baby inside, and applied sunscreen to the older kids. I was trying to shove breakfast down their throats while figuring out their events when a woman I had never met, Monica, offered to help.

This woman, this saint, happened to be a postpartum nurse at the hospital I had just delivered Kate. Monica held and rocked Kate and even changed a blowout diaper so I could watch the older kids swim. Another friend loaned me money when I realized I had forgotten cash for the concession stand (because of course I did.) A few more friends watched my oldest when I had to take the baby home. This was the first instance my village rallied around me while my husband was gone, but it certainly wasn’t the last.

That summer and fall my friends and neighbors generously offered me help at every turn. And I readily accepted it. Here’s the thing – I am not a woman who needs to look like I have it all together. Nobody sees me and thinks, “Wow! How does she do it?” And that’s okay! I have three kids and I work from home and my husband is gone for weeks and months at a time. I shouldn’t have it all together! And while I accepted the much-needed offers of help – meals, childcare, snake removal, etc. – I always felt slightly uncomfortable doing so. After talking with many women about this, I know I’m not alone in my reluctance to accept help. We don’t want to seem needy; we don’t want to inconvenience anyone; we don’t want to be a burden. We don’t want to be… human?

It sounds silly but it took practice for me to respond to offers of help with a resolute, “Yes. Thank you. I would appreciate that,” without hemming and hawing or promising to return the favor soon. It took even more practice (and a good dose of humility) to go ahead and ask for what I needed instead of waiting for someone to offer. I’m glad I honed those skills last year because they have been critical during quarantine.

We all have burdens to bear during this time. Every single one of us. Mine happens to be caring for three children, in isolation, solo. It ain’t great, folks. I don’t know that I have ever felt as isolated or lonely as I did those first few weeks of the lockdown. (Ironic, I know, since I was literally never alone.) But once again, my village showed up. I’ve been brought to tears many times at the numerous ways people have encouraged and supported me in whatever ways they can. And yes, I’ve had to swallow my pride and ask for help. Without my spouse or school or childcare, I can’t go to the grocery store, so I’ve asked people to shop for me when delivery falls through. I’ve asked for help fixing my daughter’s broken bike because… what’s an Allen Wrench? I’ve asked to borrow books for my son and I’ve asked women I’ve never met to arrange Zoom playdates with their daughters and mine. Some of these are big things, some are small, but they’re all necessary in these unprecedented times.

I hope I can help, too! I may not be able to cook a new mom a meal, but I can order delivery to her home. I can drop off flowers or treats to neighbors to try to brighten their day, because who couldn’t use a little cheer right now? And if a friend needs a mental health check, I can be available for a chat. If you’re reading this know you can reach out to me and I’ll gladly help in any way I can.  

While some of us are starting to emerge from lockdowns, some of us are still in the thick of it. As we gradually adjust to our new normal, I hope we can all give ourselves some grace, swallow our pride, and admit when we need help – pandemic or not. It’s okay to ask, and it’s a blessing to receive.

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2019 Year in Books

Posted on Jan 1, 2020 in Uncategorized

2019 Year in Books 0

I read 52 books this year, including the chapter books I read with my daughter. Not too shabby for having an infant, if I do say so myself. Loved them or hated them, they’re all here. As with last year, these are (generally) very brief, incomplete thoughts. But if you need some recommendations for good reads in 2020 (or want to avoid some bad ones), I hope this list will help. I’m always up for discussing books, so please let me know your thoughts! 1-7) The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis I read this series with my daughter throughout the year. Here’s how I rank them: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Easily my favorite. It was wonderful re-reading and discovering the magic of this story with my daughter. I read this when I was five or six (Elisabeth was seven when we read this) and I still remember hoping that if I found the right wardrobe, perhaps a hidden door somewhere, I would discover my own Narnia. Voyage of the Dawn TreaderThe Magician’s NephewThe Silver Chair: I might have ranked this lower but for Puddleglum, my favorite character in the entire series. He is delightful. Prince CaspianThe Last BattleThe Horse and His Boy: Hated this. I thought the dialogue was far too complex for a child; I had to constantly stop and explain the plot to my daughter. I know many people will disagree with me, but I would have been completely fine had this not been included in the series. 8) Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier This was a re-read for me, but I had forgotten pretty much everything about this book, including that the opening line is one of the most famous in literature. Whoops! I also forgot how much crazy is in this book. I mean, whoa there’s a lot of crazy. But there’s a reason this book has never gone out of print –it’s a dark, tense psychological thriller that kept me engrossed, even though nearly every character is just awful (because they’re all psycho). 9) Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies...

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Baby Kate

Posted on Aug 11, 2019 in It's the Navy Life, My Kid Stole My Cool, Pregnancy Stole My Cool, The Kids Are Actually Cute

Baby Kate 0

Hello, Friends! So, I had another kid. I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted here so if you’ve lost track, that’s number three. Baby Kate made her appearance earlier this month, and I figured I better pop in and document her birth story. After all, I did with my first two and I don’t want her to be that third kid who always complains that her parents don’t love her as much or whatever. (I’m an oldest child – can you tell?)  In case she ever does feel that way, I’d like to state for the record that I’ve already forgotten most details of both Elisabeth and James’ births, as well as their major milestones; I’m equally neglectful toward all my children.* Anyway! After an interminable pregnancy that felt SO MUCH HARDER than the first two on account of I’m old now, I was induced at 39 weeks + 1 day to put me out of my misery. I kid, I kid. Here’s the backstory: Damon is currently in the middle of work-ups. Basically that means that he’s not deployed, but he’s gone all the time training for deployment. If you were a reader five years ago, you may remember that Damon missed James’ birth by a couple of days due to deployment. I was very against a non-medical induction at the time, and so Damon Skyped into the delivery room from Japan. Not ideal, but this is how it goes in the Navy sometimes. This time we knew Damon would be gone on my due date again, and after talking to my OB we planned on a scheduled induction so he could arrange to be home for the birth. The practice was very understanding and accommodating – serving a military community, they deal with these situations all the time. I’ll be honest – this was a stressful process. I won’t go into all the boring details but trying to plan Damon getting off the aircraft carrier and then across the country to perfectly time with my induction was a challenge. Not a good challenge. Several factors outside...

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2018 Book Reviews

Posted on Jan 16, 2019 in Adulthood Stole My Cool

I always love seeing everyone’s recommended reading lists at beginning of the new year, so in 2018 I decided to keep a log of all my books with brief reviews. I meant to publish this at the beginning of Jan, but alas, I’m pregnant and have been sick and solo parenting for much of the month… so here we are on Jan 16th. Better late than never? I use the term “review” lightly, as these are mostly quickly jotted down impressions – hardly fully formed thoughts on each book. But maybe you’ll find something that piques your interest! And even better, if you have any thoughts you’d like to share on any of these books, I’d love to hear them! Lastly – please share your own favorite reads of last year. I’m always looking for new books.   (1) Defiant: The POWs Who Endured Vietnam’s Most Infamous Prison, The Women Who Fought for Them, and the One Who Never Returned by Alvin Townley This was a book club selection. If you think this is an odd choice for a book club comprised of many naval aviator spouses – you’d be right! This was a powerful, emotional book that had me sobbing, but I’m so glad I read it. The POWs’ courage, leadership, and resilience are inspiring, but I also loved how Townley focuses on their remarkable, er, defiant wives. Highly recommend. (2) 1984 by George Orwell I read this because I felt like it was one of those books I should have read by now. And now I have. (3) Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders Nearly everyone in my book club hated this – but I say give it a chance! Admittedly, I struggled in the beginning. It’s a very unconventional narrative and it took me a little while to figure out what was going on. But once I did, I really enjoyed it. It’s imaginative, humorous, and very sweet and tender in some parts. I particularly liked the ending – If you’re up for a challenge, give this a try. (4) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without...

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New Year, New You… Not Happening

Posted on Jan 6, 2018 in Adulthood Stole My Cool, It's the Navy Life, My Kid Stole My Cool, The Kids Are Actually Cute, Travel Traumas

New Year, New You… Not Happening 1

Happy New Year, Friends! How is 2018 going for you so far? Getting fit? Eating healthy? Meditating daily? Good for you! I have spent the first days of 2018 stuffing my face with muffins and watching old episodes of Downton Abbey. Meanwhile there is a massive pile of boxes sitting in my family room, a not-so-subtle reminder that I still have to put away all the Christmas decorations. While most people seem to relish the New Year as an opportunity to reset and strive to be a better version of themselves, I just want it to be March already. You know, when nobody cares about that stuff anymore. I rang in the New Year with my parents and a bottle of Nyquil. (I was in California for a quick trip with the kids while Damon stayed back East.) On New Year’s Day, instead of kickstarting a healthy diet, I munched on day-old donuts and In-N-Out. (So good, by the way.) On the second day of the New Year, I endured a 15-hour travel day with my darling children. After a several hour delay in Dallas, including deplaning our first aircraft due to a mechanical problem, we landed home at 2:00am and waited an hour for luggage that – oops! – never actually made it on the plane. We got home at 3:30AM. Elisabeth talked at me for about 14.5 out of those 15 hours. On the third day of the New Year I went to Trader Joe’s with the rest of Hampton Roads in preparation of BOMB CYCLONE 2018. Then I slept because, again, I traveled 15 hours the day before with both my kids. Oh, and I probably have an upper respiratory virus. Whatever. On the fourth day of the New Year it SNOWED. Gosh, I love being a Virginia resident when it snows. People lose their damn minds. Every. Freaking. Year. For all you folks making vegetable soups from scratch and working out in your home gyms – New Year! New You! – you won’t shame me into being healthy! If I’m stuck in my house with...

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Recovery Update: Hangry

Posted on Sep 13, 2017 in Adulthood Stole My Cool, My Kid Stole My Cool

Recovery Update: Hangry 1

Hi, Friends. I’m nearly four weeks post-surgery and doing fairly well. Some minor discomfort, which is to be expected. And as I mentioned in my previous post, this recovery has been so much better than my last that I can’t complain. My bruising has diminished a lot, but I still look like a puffer fish. This swelling is stubborn, man. And my jaw will be rubber-banded shut for about two more weeks. Which means I’m still on a liquid diet. Which means… I’m officially hangry. You guys – I would trade my children for a cheeseburger right now if I could actually eat it. In some messed-up, masochistic form of torture, I can’t stop watching food videos. You know the ones that demonstrate an entire recipe in about 60 seconds? Literally, can’t stop watching them. Hey, it’s 11:43pm and I should be sleeping, but instead I’m going to watch “Oven-Baked Chicken Wings 4 Ways.” This is my life now. It’s sick, I know. But it all looks so good. The trashier, more junked-up food, the better. A giant meatball filled with spaghetti? OMG I need. Oreo-stuffed donut holes? Get in my belly. Every possible variation on stir-fry you could possibly imagine? I want them all.     At first glance a Mac-N-Cheese Bun Burger looks disgusting. But after you haven’t eaten solid food in a month, it’s pure genius. I would so eat a Mac-N-Cheese bun burger. Speaking of Mac-N-Cheese, did you know there are 14,738 ways to make it? It’s true. I know because I’ve watched/read every single variation on how to do so. Quesadillas compete with Mac-N-Cheese in terms of sheer volume of recipes. Before I would’ve just thrown some cheese on a tortilla and stuck it in the microwave. Maybe a little guac if I was feeling feisty. But quesadillas can be so much more than that! They hold endless culinary potential! I would’ve never thought to make a quesadilla with flank steak fajitas or BBQ chicken and Gouda or sautéed mushrooms and spinach. So fancy! Thankfully my eyes have been opened. I now realize what...

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