Tuesday, December 21, 2010

And so, after 7 months, I finally went back. Elizabeth and Richard were there, too. Still, the hole--the wound--is still so far inside me I shy away when people trod near it. It's still so personal, so internal.

It should be his first Christmas. I should have another Baby's First Christmas ornament on the tree. That's hard sometimes. But, he's in Heaven with the Angels and the Saints celebrating Jesus' Birthday, where music bursts forth and happiness abounds. I want nothing more for my son, especially on his First Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dear Santa,

I know my letter is late this year, but I also know that you're still getting mail even this late. I have a few requests this year, though they be a little out of the ordinary.

First, dearest Santa, help me ignite a sense of wonder and magic in my daughter. Yes, for the twinkling lights, wrapped up presents, and images of you. But, more so, for that tiny Baby who is preparing to enter our world once again. As I reflect on Christmases of my youth, I remember a sense of silent, immense wait. There was an excitement that went beyond the tree, beyond the gifts, beyond the stockings. I was waiting for my Savior's birth. I want that for my daughter as well.

Secondly, I want my husband to come home safely from Iraq. I wish I could ask that he wouldn't go. But, I couldn't feel right about that. He has been asked to go, and I have to support him--I want to support him. He needs me behind him. So, instead, please make sure comes home safely and healthy. Next year, Santa.

Finally, help me to be the wife and mother this Christmas that I am meant to be. Help give me patience, courage, peace, hope, and joy as we face great Crosses in this little home. Remind all of us that when life seems dark and the days seem endless, we must fall to our knees and seek Christ. When the days are light and joyful, help us also to remember to kneel and give thanks.

You see, Santa, what I ask for cannot be wrapped under the tree, cannot be slipped into a stocking. Rather, please wrap my heart around these virtues, most especially of hope. Please slip these petitions into my prayers, as I seek a closer relationship with Christ.

I am grown now, Santa, but I know where you are. In Heaven. With Jesus.

Merry Christmas, Santa. Kiss the Baby Jesus for me.


Friday, December 03, 2010

So last night, I had this horrible dream. I had a bird's eye view on Richard in Iraq. He was sitting in what appeared to be some sort of bed or something with five Iraqi children while he read to them. All the while, mortar fire was going off around them. As my view got closer and closer, Richard looked up at me with the most mournful expression and I knew what was about to happen. I was about to watch my husband die in Iraq.

I woke up before that happened, thankfully. But, I spent the next 20 minutes pacing the house, convincing myself that wasn't going to happen. I went and checked on Elizabeth, who was oddly awake herself, and we snuggled for a bit. I finally crawled back into bed and snuggled close to my husband.

The footlocker is right next to the Christmas tree, ironically. The last thing I wanted for Christmas this year were deployment orders. But, we've got them. I remember last New Year's, just as the clock struck twelve a.m., praying so hard my husband would be here all year, that we'd celebrate New Year's of 2011 with him in the same room. Ha Ha, God. He ships out a couple of weeks after New Year's. That actually is funny to me.

Yesterday, we met with our financial advisor and were completing the "just in cases" for the deployment. The way she so freely and, sometimes laughingly, talked about the various scenarios of Richard's death disturbed me greatly. It hits on a very deep, very real fear (often times more like a premonition) that Richard won't make it home. I've spoken of this terribly dark and paralyzing fear to two other people--my husband and a very dear friend.

That's why the dream terrified me so much last night. It's why I paced the floor, why I stood, staring at that G0d-awful footlocker at 2 am. I'd like to kick it, but I think that would hurt me more than it would hurt it. I just pray my fear is wrong. That Richard will come home. And that this war and everything will end. This Christmas, I understand the prayer for Peace on Earth. If we human beings just knew how to get along, life would be a lot easier for everyone. But try explaining that to us--we are such a stubborn species.

Meanwhile, I try to ignore that massive black box, to shush the fear, to focus on Today. While my husband is home. Christmas will be wonderful because we will make it wonderful. New Year's will be celebrated with all its festivities. Then, life will begin. But, I deal with that Tomorrow.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

We are strange creatures, we people.

The entirety of our experience comes through our five senses. Everything we learn, everything we know is based on what we can see, hear, smell, touch, taste. So, when we can't sense something, it's that much harder to grasp. Especially when we've become accustomed to doing so.

It's been a week since we said good-bye. It seems like longer. Much longer. Seems like it's been weeks. Weeks since I've heard his voice or felt his touch. At first this was so hard, especially last Sunday. That was the worst night so far. But, then it felt like he just stopped existing. Days have a new normal and we just plug along. Before, I worked towards evening, when he'd walk through the door. Now, I'm not sure what I move towards. Just the next moment. The next block of time--morning, afternoon, evening, night. I just keep moving.

Some moments are hard. Mostly, moments are boring. I try not to get emotional because it's weak and reminds me how hard this is and how hard it's going to be. I start to think we are well into this and the end of it all must be near, only to remember it's just beginning. He will come home, be here for a little while, and leave again. This whole vicious cycle will start anew. I will be reminded of his touch, his smell, and then lose it all over again and for a much longer time.

I thought evening would be toughest. It's not. I just throw myself into cleaning or schoolwork and keep busy, just as I have been all day. It's night time. When the house gets quiet. And dark. And I crawl into a big, empty bed. My mind has nothing to distract it, and I become acutely aware of the emptiness next to me. Aware of the cold, empty space.

I tell myself he's out there. Even though I can't see him. Or feel him. He's out there. But, it feels so weird.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Somewhere in a field in California, my husband is crawling through woods, wading through creeks, perhaps marching a great distance.

Here in Texas, there is a tiny girl who misses him and doesn't understand where he's gone and her mother aches some moments.

I am frequently told to extend thanks to my husband for his service. These same people tell me I am also to be thanked, because I am making great sacrifices, as well. Before, it was easy. Now, it's starting to get hard. Really hard.

The deployment chapter has begun. Though he hasn't technically left for the Sand Box, he's doing the preliminary training. Last Sunday, he left for a month and on Friday, we began the two weeks of zero communication. I am going to be honest, unashamedly so: It hurts. At moments, I have such an extreme ache because I sense his absence so intimately. Then, I realize a month is nothing when I think about the length of the deployment. Right now, I can't hear him, see him, touch him. If this is hard for me, the absence is that much harder for my eleven month old daughter.

Elizabeth is cognizant enough to understand Daddy has disappeared; unfortunately, she's too young to explain the situation. She crawls the house in a frenzy, calling out "Da Da! Da Da???" She's made every object, from pacifiers and TV remotes to books and shoes, into a phone that she puts to her ear and talks to Dada. She gets sad, angry, frustrated. While playing with her toys, she'll use one hand for play, while the other hand grips my t-shirt in a desperate attempt to keep me from disappearing, too. My heart aches for her. A normally easy-going baby, Elizabeth is clearly not handling this well.

And my thoughts frequently turn to my husband, the hero who is training for a larger mission. Who is likely forgoing sleep, food, and rest in preparation to serve his country, fulfill his mission, and protect his family. Somewhere out in California is a man who is likely missing his wife and longing for his daughter.

Yes, I understand the thanks, now. This is not easy. My husband is making sacrifices, but his family is, as well. So, I will take the thanks when offered. But, what means more right now are the prayers. Because we need them. My heroic husband needs them. His tired, frustrated wife needs them. But, more than either of us, his little girl needs them. Because while Mommy and Daddy can understand this, she doesn't. The center of her universe has disappeared. And she wants him back, and is terrified her mommy will disappear as well.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

And so it begins. Though, I suppose it all began when my husband spent the week out in the field, but the time was so short that it didn't feel much like training for the deployment. This weekend, however, we say one of the long good-byes. He'll be leaving for the field for thirty days. For two of the weeks ("The Box"), we will not have any form of communication, and I already know that will be very hard on me. These next thirty days are going to be incredibly taxing emotionally, spiritually, even physically since I will be holding down the fort and Baby till he gets home.

So, I am determined to use the time for good in two ways. First, I have decided to do a thirty-day, at-home Ignatius retreat (Consoling the Heart of Jesus) and a book for mothers (A Mother's Rule of Life) that a friend of mine strongly suggested. Through the next thirty days, I am hoping to become a (much) better wife and mother and to improve my very stagnant spiritual life. Secondly, I will use the time as a dry run for the upcoming deployment (getting too close too fast--ack!) by trying out different schedules, activities, and weekly goals and rewards to make the time go faster. I think, for Elizabeth's and my sake, making some sort of schedule for the days, weeks, and months will be necessary and very helpful.

So, here goes nothing. I'll spend the next few days holding my husband closer, letting Elizabeth get as much Snuggle time with Daddy as possible. Then, we say good-bye. It'll be practice, and it'll also be hard. But, nothing worth having isn't hard, so may God help me to use time while he's gone for the betterment of my family and my soul.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Life is so busy and harried, especially right now for my little family. My husband started a new job, which means he is deploying MUCH sooner than we had anticipated. He is training at remote locations for a total of five weeks before departing in January for twelve months. My daughter is into everything, trying to stand, and very clingy lately. I, because I am now certifiably insane, have begun pursuing my Master's on top of keeping house, staying at home full time with said daughter, and preparing for the training and deployment. With all of this going on, I've hardly had time to return phone calls, finish housework, or pray. But, just when life seems craziest, a moment comes that stops me in my tracks.

Tonight, I was putting my precious child to bed, a task I do every night. Usually it's a bit of a struggle, since she doesn't like diaper changes as of late. Most nights, I pick up my teary daughter after changing her into pajamas and hold her close. I hand her a blanket. That's when the Moment comes. She quiets immediately, puts her tiny thumb in her mouth, and, grasping the blanket close, she lays her head against my chest. I feel her breathing and her warmth. I sense her calm. I watch, as her breathing slows. She feels safest here. In my arms. I make a person feel safe. Feel warm. Feel calm. I am some one's mother.

Moments like those make me stop. Make me realize that, no matter what comes or is looming, all will be just fine. I have my daughter who sees safety and comfort in my arms. My daughter, who loves me unconditionally. Oddly, I find the same sensations when I hold her in my arms, as well.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Case Lots and Fried Bologna

As I was making lunch for my husband and me this morning, a random memory popped into my head:

There was a time when my life, at times, seemed black and white. Literally. Lots of black and white. The Commissary, the military's grocery store, used to stock generic brands. Super cheap, these products were usually packaged in the plainest, most boring packaging probably known to man. Black and White. "Sugar Cookies." "Puffed Cheese." These ridiculously boring products graced my home in every way possible, since my mother had six mouths to feed. I didn't know the difference--it all tasted the same to me. Until my mother started shopping the case lot sales.

Once a year, the Commissary makes a big to-d0 about their Case Lot Sales. The parking lots are covered in giant white tents and boxes and flats are strewn everywhere. My mother would stock up on, gasp, name brand items! Wow, Fruit Loops! I was blinded by color. While the food generally didn't taste much different in actuality, somehow the brand names and wild colors made the food taste better. This one time a year, we would see food enter our home that normally wouldn't come in.


One year, when I was in middle school, my mother bought what seemed like hundreds of cases of bologna. Oscar Mayer. I don't remember it coming into the house, but I remember it leaving. Very slowly. A few months after we bought the meat, we came up on orders to move. This was usually one of my favorite times. We were not only permitted but encouraged to eat whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted it. Cookies? Eat it--we can't move with those! Beans? Make them for lunch because we need to get rid of them. The closer Moving Day became, the more of a smorgasbord dinner became. A table full of random, tasty morsels.

That year in middle school, though, we kids had forgotten about the bologna. We didn't eat it for awhile. When it came moving time, Mom told us that, among other foods, the bologna had to be eaten. Before that time, I loved bologna. I enjoyed its taste and the sandwiches appealed to me.

We ate bologna for what seemed like months. Baked, fried, sandwiches, cut up into dishes. It never stopped. Just as we thought we'd finished off the last package, another would appear. Secretly, I thought they were multiplying in the basement or something. My mother, not one to throw anything away (something I've now taken from her), continued to insist it get eaten. I have vivid memories of gagging on it in unison with my five brothers and sisters. This just happened to occur every time my mother would enter the room, who reminded us that it wasn't that bad. That, I believe, was the only time growing up that my mother used the starving children in China bit.

I will never forget when that last piece of bologna was eaten (after a brief, intense argument over who had to eat the piece of bologna) and the empty packaging was thrown away. We had eaten all the bologna. It was gone. We Smith kids still laugh about our Bologna exploits. While I can now stomach bologna again, it's not my preferred deli meat by far. And don't even think about frying it. Ew.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pick your Poison

I knew it was going to happen. We both did. We were told as much when HRC (human resources for the Army) requested my husband submit his next assignment "choices." (I say "choices" because that very use of the term is a bit of a joke in the Army. They send you where they need you. But, I digress.) I had decided I wasn't going to think about it--not until it was certain.

Then came the call. Richard had just visited the unit he's joining in September. He told me about the guy from college he knew in the unit, what the unit was doing. And then paused. He also told me where I'd be going in the unit, Richard told me. Two slots were open. Iraq in March; Afghanistan in May. Pick your poison.

Despite knowing this was coming, I had found myself deliberately praying he wouldn't have to go. But hope is a stubborn one. Now, I am pulling the deployment books out and trying to wrap my head around this whole idea. Admittedly, it doesn't seem real since we haven't transferred to the new unit and are knee deep in current training with this unit. He has no orders. So, that darned hope is still sitting way down there. But, I know.

Being a military brat, my experience doesn't extend quite this far. My father was Active Duty during a time of peace (except Desert Storm, where he was told after volunteering he was needed at home). The longest my father was absent was two months. I was five. I don't remember it.

Twelve months is a long time. It's not "we'll get by till he gets home." This will be living life while he's deployed. Big difference.

So, here we enter into an adventure I don't really care to join, but I must. It's an adventure I have no idea how to fight or what to expect. I fear the unknown. Only God knows what is in our future; only He knows what life has in store. I have a million questions about various aspects. What to do? What's going to happen? What does this entail? Slowly, they will be answered.

This will be a long journey. And it will be hard. Hard for Richard, for me, for Elizabeth. And hard for our family. But, we will prevail. There is no other option. We will stand. And we will fight. While life will be hard, I will stand strong behind my husband. I will hold down the home front. I will be vigilant for my soldier. Victory, for me, will come when my soldier returns home. And we will attain victory.

Meanwhile, Charlie Mike.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

There is so much going on in my life, constantly. My daughter, a mere seven months, is teething, chattering, clapping, crawling and now standing up. Not satisfied with these accomplishments (all attained within the last month), she's now trying to walk while holding onto us. Gone are the days of leaving her in one place, knowing I'll come back to her in the same place. Now, she'll cross the room in mere seconds.

My husband's work schedule is getting ready to be even crazier. He is Active Duty, but attached to a Reserve Unit and finishing up his Command. So, not only does he get to work the crazy schedule during the week, he is also required to show up once a month and two weeks (usually longer) in the summer and train. So, in a matter of days, we commence Annual Training--29 straight days of early mornings and late nights. I say "we" because it truly does affect both of us.

Following that, he finished up his Command, does the Change of Command, and transfers to a new unit. My husband will be joining 1st Cav here at Fort Hood, a unit scheduled to deploy early Spring. His hours will more than likely get crazier, since he's going to the Division headquarters, and we will be meeting a whole new set of people and starting over in some respects.

It's easy for me to get distracted by all of this. I tend to find myself dwelling on all of these things with a mixture of (mostly) excitement and (a little) apprehension (except the deployment. That's a whole different story). My mind is so easily drawn towards worrying, fretting, and planning that I totally forget where my focus should be. I was reminded today.

As I drove into Fort Hood to have lunch with my husband, I was chattering with my happy daughter. She was in a good mood, which was great! I love bringing her into the office when she's cheerful. While eating with my husband, I became so...joyful. The moment really brought happiness and pulled my crazy-active mind right back to where it should be. Here.

On the way home, I turned off the radio. I mentally looked heavenward and thought, "Thank you, Jesus, for my husband. Thank you, Jesus, for my daughter. Thank you, Jesus, for my family and for my friends. For my house, and my life, thank you, Jesus." All the crazy things in life are going to happen, or they aren't. But, whatever the outcome, I have to remember to focus on what God has given me in the present. I am getting ready to enter a busy few months, but God willing, I am going to work on shifting my focus back to here---back to my little family.

Friday, June 25, 2010


If I ever have twins (which are very common in my family history) and if they are boys, I will name the oldest Charlie and the youngest Mike. Anyone military-related will find that funny. I think it would be hilarious. CM, or Charlie Mike, is an acronyms in the military for Continue Mission. For military, this not only applies constantly to on-the-job duties, but it also becomes a way of life for their families.

I remember a week after returning from our honeymoon, my husband and I were driving across Fort Hood so I could get my military ID. While looking around at the familiar and homey barbed wire, and parade fields, I commented that this must be quite a culture shock for some new brides. I grew up Military, so marrying my husband wasn't a complete culture shock. I was confident that I knew it all. I would be fine. This was a smooth transition for me.

I was wrong. The military that my father proudly served in was quite different than the one today. There were no deployments, to speak of. While he was away often, we didn't go long periods without seeing him. So, while I have been able to operate on day to day duties, I am beginning to enter a culture shock of my own.

Deployment is always a possibility. In January, my husband was put on orders suddenly and told he was going to Haiti for six months. Within a week, his entire unit was prepared and practically walking out the door, only to be told to stand down. I still to this day think that week took ten years off my life. Reality slapped me in the face. I was in no way prepared for a deployment, emotionally or otherwise. I cried so many times when he wasn't looking, worrying over who was going to help me get through. How was everything going to get done. I knew I'd have to start educating myself and getting ready. It was inevitable. Charlie Mike. Now, a probable deployment is on the horizon for this Spring.

Richard and I have had a lot going on since we walked down the aisle. Life hasn't calmed down. While that has brought some blessings, like our honeymoon surprise daughter (and that was a huge surprise), life has brought us a great deal of Crosses, too. It seems as though just as life is beginning to feel calm and predictable, it turns upside down.

This rang all too clear for us when we found out we were pregnant with our second child. Only four months postpartum, I was in no way prepared for another baby. I called my mother crying, asking her how this happened. (Yes, I do know.) She comforted me as best she could. When I got off the phone, I looked at my husband. "What are we going to do?" Charlie Mike, was his response. And we did. I took the time I needed and began emotionally preparing myself for two. I told myself that I can handle anything if I am forced to. It's not a choice, it's a must.

When we lost our baby, I mourned and grieved, but I Continued Mission. I had to go on. For Elizabeth and Richard. It wasn't a choice, it was a must.

While Charlie Mike has always been a joke (honey, I forgot to thaw something--what now? Charlie Mike!) , this has become a way of life for me. I am no longer that scared young mother that stood in the nursery that cold January day, wondering who was going to change the garbage bag if I forgot when Richard left. I am now the military wife and mother who, when I have an armful of groceries and am holding my daughter while realizing the door is locked and my keys are in the purse, thinks "Charlie Mike, Adrienne." Figure it out, now. Practice.

I no longer worry about the deployment, wondering "Oh, God. How am I going to live 12 months like that?" or, "Who will help me?" Now, I acknowledge, "Bummer. But, we'll get through it." There will be hard times. I very well maybe brought to my knees some days. But, bring it. I am a military wife. When life gets tough now or during deployment, I might cry sometimes, I may whine at moments. But I will stand up each time, envision my husband's face, and Charlie Mike. Because he deserves it.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

My Path

I have to be honest, because I hate liars and imposters. The very act of lying to me is so atrocious and dreadful.

I am not strong. I am not amazing. I am not good. I merely am moving in the only direction I can. If I had a choice, I would not be walking this path; I would have gone running in another direction long ago. When the doctor got that horrible look on his face, I would have rung the bell and have chose a different outcome. Instead of what I truly saw, I would have chosen a living baby. I would be seventeen weeks along today. Kicking and activity would still be felt. I wouldn't know he was a boy.

To the world, I am composed, strong. I move through the day with that glass smile. Only one person can see beyond the farce. He knows. And he loves me anyway. I laugh when I am supposed to, tell my funny stories on cue, pretend to be lively when required. Inside, there's a different story.

Inside, I frown sometimes, I cry at moments. Inside, I feel weak, old, jaded, and bitter. I cannot pray. When I do, it's merely words, no emotions. No sense of Faith or belief. The conviction isn't there. At Mass, I don't feel the sweeping emotions of gratitude, happiness, connection with God. I feel empty.

I closed the door. I shut it hard. And locked it. Everything is contained in there. Sometimes, insensitive people have come and knocked in it, curious as to what happened. They ask horrible questions, demand to hear details. I have felt such hatred at those moments. Horrible. All-consuming, burning hatred that demands to be let out. I don't let anyone in all the way. I merely show them into the foyer, and we stay there. Everyone. And that is bad.

I have had people tell me I am strong. I am an inspiration. I don't know why. I am not. I am lost, blind, cold. I am searching for The Way, but cannot find it. I long for The Sight, but cannot place it. I yearn for The Warmth, but He doesn't seem to be here. I call out, wildly, desperately, but He does not hear. No one hears. So I sit. Waiting. Hurting. Sometimes hating.

I am not strong. I am a weak, faulted person. I had no choice but to continue walking this path that was chosen for me. I would have chosen another way; I would detour if given a choice. So, strong, inspiring, amazing, I am not.

I would like to know what people see in me that is inspiring. Amazing. Strong. I do not see it. Maybe because I am blind? Lost? Cold? In this giant, swirling blizzard of my life I stand calling out. In the noise and chaos, He doesn't hear. He hasn't come. Instead, He took my treasure from me and went far away.

Still, I stumble behind Him, groping in the darkness for some guidance. A branch, a word. I continue till I find it. Because this is my path. This is what was chosen for me.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

So, I went in there tonight. I started at her for a long time. I do that a lot. Especially lately. But, tonight, that wasn't enough. I needed her closer, so I gathered her into my arms and rocked her back and forth. She cried a little and found her thumb, quickly falling back to sleep.

I knew before that life was precious--invaluable. When I would hear that statement, I'd agree, only seeing one dimension. Now, I know that the statement is two fold. Yes, life is invaluable. But "precious" means more. Sensitive. Delicate Fragile.

As I held her tonight, I saw how small she is. How tiny. Her little mouth, sucking at nothing. Her closed eyes, dreaming. Her hands, no bigger than my palms. Her whole body and life fits into my arms. She's so sensitive. So delicate. So fragile. I knew before, in a happy way. How lucky I was and it made me happy. Now, I know how blessed I am, and it all scares me.

I am so lucky to have her. She makes it all ache so much less. Sometimes. She is a distraction during the day, keeping me very busy. Feedings, cuddles, entertaining, bathing, laughs. But at night, when she is sleeping and the dark creeps up, sometimes the ache comes back. I go in and watch her. I want to wake her up, play with her. Remind me I still have one life. Usually, I leave her be. Tonight, I needed her closer.

I suppose more gratitude can only be a good thing, even when tinged with sadness and fear. But with that jaded gratitude comes pain. Thankfully, when the pain sweeps in, I have her. I can hold her and love her. Her sheer innocence and happiness numb the pain a little, even if just for awhile.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Was this a planned pregnancy for you, ma'am?" She asked the question at my appointment following the miscarriage.

I laughed.

"No. Is there such a thing?" She didn't answer.

I suppose most women plan their pregnancies, carefully monitoring the intake of their pill. Are we ready for another, sweetie? No, not yet. Pop another pill.

I don't believe you can plan children. I know several women who have conceived while on the pill, during which their unborn child laughingly says, "Ready or not, Mommy, here I come." My daughter was not "planned" either. While I do not take any form of birth control, I wasn't exactly expecting to return from my honeymoon with a tag-a-long. I did. Less than two weeks after my honeymoon, I received the surprise of my life--a positive pregnancy test. I am sure I went through the slew of emotions any new mother does--fear, excitement, a sense of inadequacy. Very quickly, though, the fear dissipated and the excitement grew.

That was nothing, compared to the second pregnancy test that came back positive only three and a half months after my daughter's birth. There was a far greater fear, a much larger sense of inadequacy. Two children, twelve months apart almost to the day. I was headed for the loony bin, no doubt.

It took a few weeks longer, but the fear began to dissipate and I once again began to participate in that secret communion with my child. I was excited. I began picking out crochet patterns for baby blankets and clothes. My mother-in-law bought Baby its first pair of shoes. My own mother and I were planning ahead and making arrangements for various aspects. Another child, another blessing. But, the fear was still there. Was I going to be able to mother two children well? Was I going to fail them? Was one going to suffer at the cost of the other? I was terrified of wronging my children. But, oh the excitement!

Then the worst happened. I went in for a routine appointment, excited at hearing the heartbeat and seeing the wiggles. I never heard anything. The ultrasound screen lit up and I knew right away. While my husband smiled and pointed excitedly at our child, I was deathly quiet, watching the stillness of the body, the quiet of the chest. Nothing was there. I looked at the doctor's face. No happiness, no joy. Only concern and then regret.

My son is now in Heaven, rejoicing with the angels and saints. I know, as his mother, I should and do want nothing less than this. Perfection. Happiness. God. He deserves the best. And now he has it. Mary is taking care of my child until one day I can join him in paradise. God snuggles him at night until I am there to hold him close to me.

First, I fought the fear. Now, I fight the guilt. I spent so much time being afraid and scared that I wasn't able to be happy. Much of it uncontrollable, I still wish I'd been excited for longer. My son has taught me a valuable lesson. No child is planned by the mother or father. Children are a surprise, always. An immense blessing. God gives us souls when He sees we are ready, not when we deem ourselves ready.

Yes, they were close. Yes, people asked if we used birth control, said my husband and I needed more hobbies. Yes, I was afraid of people's reactions when we told them of the pregnancy. I now wish I hadn't been as fearful.

Next time, I will be proud, confident about the announcement, though it will come much later. I will not be afraid of a second blessing in my family. I will be so happy, so joyful. Because now, I know the other side. I know the alternative, one I would never have chosen. Most parents teach their children many lessons; I find my son has left me with many. He is still teaching me. I am still learning to understand.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

There are moments when my heart aches, starving for some sort of immaterial comfort. A giant, gaping hole of which I suddenly become aware, desperately wanting be filled with something. Soft. Comforting. But, I find nothing.

I went to Confession during The Wait. I told the priest that I couldn't talk to God, that I didn't even want to go to Church. He began telling me about pulses God's people go through--the ups and downs. I interrupted him, told him why. My baby had no heartbeat. But, I was still pregnant. I waited for the spiritual something. "I'm sorry. Please say five Hail Mary's." Matter of fact. Blunt. Harsh.

People tell me not to dwell on the images. They tell me I have a Saint in Heaven, someone I can pray to for help. At least I have Elizabeth to distract me, they offer joyously. I know they are thinking, thank God that hasn't happened to me. We all think that when we hear of other's tragedies. Thank God I'm not her. I wish I wasn't me, sometimes.

I looked at my husband last week and told him I felt as though I'd been living a gorey horror movie--one I couldn't escape and didn't know when it was supposed to end. In the middle of it all, life stopped. Time stood still as I stood in my bathroom doing something no mother should ever have to do. It wasn't right. That's not the way it was supposed to happen. Watching my husband cry over his lost child broke me more. The horror movie continued.

I'm sorry, they say. Call me if you need to talk. I can't. I can't talk because the details are so gross and so personal that I know poeple don't want to know. They don't need to know. So, I feel alone. I walk alone. I search for the comfort, still. Wondering where it is, wandering in search of it. Please, someone give it to me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Once the List is finished, I post it several prominent places where I am sure I will find it. This, of course, is only done once the List has been pondered over for weeks and scratched on paper, revised, and finally written the final time. I started this back in college, and found it to be the most ideal system.

This year's List of mortifications for Lent.

1. Clean up my language.
I have by no means a dirty mouth. However, I was recently wondering how old a child becomes before they understand their parents. I suddenly became aware that there are a few phrases and words I use that I wouldn't want my daughter using. If I want to be an example to her of purity both in action and word, I should attempt to be the best person possible in both areas. While I am pretty sure she cannot yet understand me, I acknowledge it's never too early to break a habit.

2. 30 minutes of Internet a day.
I have a very bad habit of whiling away great chunks of time on the internet. Elizabeth will go down for one of her two naps of the day. Feeling free and in need of relaxation, I turn to the computer. Before I know it, I have spent an hour or more chatting with friends, checking emails, Facebook-ing, and reading blogs. This, to me, is a dangerous habit--one I want to curb now.

3. Daily Schedule
I have always admired those in a religious community because their whole day is lived in a schedule. So, largely because of my tendency to waste time during Naptime, the most important time of my day, and the desire to live a more holy life, I have typed up a schedule for the weekdays. I must adhere to it, and through this I hope to gain more holiness in my own life.

4. Daily Prayer
I was getting so good about making sure prayer was a daily part of my day after Elizabeth was born. However, I have found myself failing miserably the last couple of weeks. So, in light of this, I will place prayers and prayer books at the places I usually give Elizabeth her bottle so that I may use this time to pray.

5. Work out 3 times a week.
I had a baby. I need some time for myself, something I am terrible about making. I have found that in making time for myself during the day, I am a better wife and mother.

6. Mass once a week.
This will be quite a challenge, with a young baby. But, God willing, I will be able to make Mass once a week.

So, I pray this Lent will be transforming for me. I desperately need to be a stronger wife and mother and am hoping, through these mortifications, that I will be able to do so. God help me.

Friday, January 29, 2010

It's only been a week since this whole frustrating situation started, and yet I feel like a completely transformed person.

A week ago, on Thursday January 21st, my husband was told he was very possibly shipping off to Haiti within a week's time. Life, as we knew it, became chaos. We canceled two flights to Georgia and I spent the ensuing days and a great deal of money frantically shopping for my husband's departure. He was, meanwhile, putting in very late hours at work, not coming home until nine at night.

On Sunday the 24th, Richard's unit 7-158 Aviation Reserve Unit officially mobilized, calling all soldiers to report to Ft. Hood. These orders included those soldiers who flew in from faraway states on their own dime. Everyone dropped a great deal of money buying new and necessary uniforms and equipment, once again paying out of their pockets.

The next day, they were put on lockdown, told to report at 8 am and not leave the Army installation until the unit shipped out to Haiti. In twelve hours, the soldiers had to get rid of apartments and rental homes, move their belongings into storage, drop out of college, give up potential jobs, and, in some cases, find long term care for their children. Some were forced to extend their service another year, since their tour of duty was nearly complete. Simultaneously, they had to report back to Ft. Hood. Soldiers were panicking and upset.

Each day, for me, was a struggle initially. As I went through waves of intense, gut-wrenching fear and terror at being left with a nine week old infant to moments knowing all would work out, I felt for the first time very grown up. I knew, regardless of how unappealing the situation was, that Richard and I had to do this. This was his job, his commitment and I was completely supportive of that. I knew this would force me to mature and grow in ways I had yet to do. I couldn't walk around the fire, I knew. I had to go through it. And I didn't want to turn back.

On Friday the 29th, Richard's unit was told to stand down; they were not going to Haiti. Initially, one would assume I'd be rejoicing. Actually, I was quite upset. A six-month deployment was far better than a twelve month deployment. He would have gone to a place desperately needing help and had been looking forward to that. I had come so far in coming to peace with the situation. The soldiers had come far and given up their lives to deploy.

Many of these soldiers now have no job, no home to return to. Everyone spent a great deal of money, for which they will not be reimbursed, to prepare. Military families emotionally and practically geared up for the deployment. I, quite frankly, find this infuriating. Will the soldiers be reimbursed their money? No. Will the Army provide them a new living place and job? No. These fine young men and women, who literally gave their all before even leaving, are let go without any support. The military families are reeling, still, from the last week.

In light of this, I will be writing my congressmen, that these men and women at least get financially reimbursed. I encourage you all to do the same. In my opinion, this situation was gravely mishandled. Men and women were treated with complete disrespect. These are the people who defend our country and keep it free. While we sleep on beds tonight under the warm covers, there will be soldiers who will be searching for just that. When you return to the job on Monday, remember those who will be beginning to search. I pray for the soldiers of the 7-158. I hope they get their lives back.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Right now is a time of huge upheaval for my little family. My husband (as previously posted) is deploying to Haiti within the week. We have less than a week's notice and he'll be gone six months. He is being detained at work until at least 9:30 every night, practically eliminating any quality time with his daughter. We still have no idea when exactly he's leaving--could be tomorrow, could be a few days from now, could be next week.

So, I try all day to keep it together. I moments of disbelief, when none of this seems real. The military regulation items sitting on the den floor seem to be stuff Richard wants to remember to take to work (a common habit of his that works). The long hours at work are just temporary due to training his soldiers. Then there are moments when it hits me...hard. I have to stop, breathe very deeply and choke back tears. I am going to be left with an infant, a major adjustment I was still making. I will be forced to live without my best friend for six months. All the help he is (so much!) and the sweet favors he does without being asked will be my responsibility. I am terrified.

But, I am going to try, each day, to name one good aspect that occurred during that 24 hours. Before I turn out my light at night, I will make myself find one good thing, even small, that happened during the day. Maybe less fusses from Elizabeth. Or I was unually peppy during the day. Or, I didn't spill something. I must believe that there will be good through all this bad and hopefully cultivating this habit will aid me in seeing the bigger picture.

Meanwhile, I will just keep telling myself to breathe while I plead for strength.

Friday, January 22, 2010

"Whole world could change in a minute..." a country song warbles. How true this is. I am astonished in the changes that have occurred in my life in the last year. I finished planning my Wedding, got married, found out I was pregnant, and had a baby. All wonderful blessings, I would not deny that New Year's also found me praying that 2010 would be a calmer year. That my husband and I could enjoy our new life together at home. Together. At Home.

Then, God decided.

We made the reservations on Christmas Eve. I couldn't wait. My grandparents weren't able to come to my Wedding, due to my grandmother's current battle with breast cancer. I haven't seen them in six years. We've kept in touch letter-writing since I was in the fourth grade. They, more than anyone in my whole life had known my hopes, dreams, fears, and worries. They knew my friends names through school, my drive to do well in everything especially academics, and my ultimate dream of becoming a writer. When I met my husband, he became a frequent topic in our letters and I strongly wished that they all would someday meet.

I had spent the previous nights packing for the three of us and on the phone with relatives, describing our excitement and reviewing plans for then ensuing vacation.We drove to Austin the night before our flight to Georgia and spent the night with friends. At 8:30 that night, our whole world changed, in one minute. The Colonel called. We had to turn back and go home; Richard was on the preliminary list for deploying to Haiti, possibly within a week and a half. We cancelled our flight, woke up early the next morning and hit the road.

I drove so he could field phone calls from soldiers and commanders. He had his blackberry on speaker as they called the names and socials of soldiers who were pulled from the possible list to the definite list. "Captain. Stravitsch, Richard..." While my back stiffened, my heart sank. He was going.

Since then, life has been a whirlwind of planning, preparing, and packing at work and home. The last two days I have been running around town getting items for Richard. A four-way Cross, postcard already stamped. A journal. Today, snacks. Lots of them. He's been at work for hours every night. Last night, he came home at 9:30, after Elizabeth was asleep, and spent the rest of the evening showing little household things I'd always depended on him to finish.

Questions race through my mind. Who's going to empty the trash can in the Nursery while I am going crazy with the baby? Richard's always done that, without ever having to be asked. Who will remind me to water the plants and then chuckle when I've forgotten for the third time that week? Who will help me with Elizabeth in the evenings when I've had a really rough day with her? Who will remind me to turn off the her swing when I take her out? Who will laugh with me and help me in my tears?

I am scared. I have a nine week old baby and will be running a household alone. He will be in a country far away, helping souls devastated by tragedy. For at least a few weeks, we possibly may not even be able to communicate.

In one year. Life changes within minutes, seconds. I don't know what the next six months will bring. I do know, however, that I am suddenly aware of what a weak, faulted human being I am. I will learn much. To depend on myself. That I am a strong woman. Capable. And I will learn humility. "Please help me" will probably continue to fall from my lips, just as I learned this after childbirth.

I pray for prayers. I hope for hope. I worry for Richard. God, though, will keep His mighty hand over my little family, spread over the globe. He never gives us more than we can handle. I keep telling myself that. Hopefully, I can remember to do the same after next week.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sometimes, at complete random, I stop during the day and try to remember where I was a year prior. What was I doing? What life events were swirling around in my life and what emotions were tumbling through me? Today, while spit-up splatted on the floor, a very dirty diaper found its way to the trash can, a bloody scratch to the face wreaked havoc on the bassinet and and Mommy's heart, and screams escalated through the house all day, I tried to remember what I was doing this time last year. Then, it came to me.

Around this time last year, I was preparing for marriage. With about a month left, I was quickly wrapping up the many details involved, watching my mother as she finished sewing my wedding dress, and was attending two bridal showers so lovingly thrown in my honor. I flew to Virginia for one of them. I was so humbled by the number of friends who had put aside their Saturday to celebrate with me. The afternoon was filled with gifts, compliments, advice, and, of course, jokes. My girlfriends teased me the entire afternoon, prophesying about my "honeymoon baby." I set them straight, making them aware we were not going to have a honeymoon baby. "We need time to settle into our new lives." "Richard and I are going to wait a few months before we get pregnant." No, they laughed. You're going to be calling us right after the honeymoon, announcing your pregnancy. I laughed...so did God.

A year later, and my little house is filled with baby things. A high chair peers at me from across the kitchen. The bouncer and portable mobile on loan from my very generous sister-in-law stand proudly in the den, where they are used frequently during Elizabeth's three o'clock playtime. Richard's weight room was emptied and transformed for a little person who now sleeps in there. I laughed a year ago. Today, I pray and love.

I am not the same person I was before November 19th, 2009. I don't think any woman who grows and delivers a child can be left unphased by that miracle. At the same time, I have more confidence in myself than ever before yet am constantly shaken to the core when I gaze at my child. She is my little person--on loan to me from God. A precious, empty book I am to fill with love and Faith. Everyday is guesswork and, with difficulty, each day is also begun and ended with fervent, fearful prayer for her and for me.

A year ago, I lived in an apartment alone and slept in my own bed. Today, I live in a house again, and share a bed with my best friend. Twelve months ago, I was free, young. Now, I am shackled with responsibility and don't quite feel so youthful anymore. Last January, I laughed at the possibility of childrearing, but secretly prayed God would be so good to me. This New Year, I have learned not to laugh or fear, but to trust, a lesson I re-learn constantly.

As different as life is now, I would never go back. I live for each day and the lessons and experience it might bring. Responsibility, not freedom, has become a true blessing in my life. The reality of children lies sleeping in my bedroom in her tiny bassinet and I acknowledge quite soberly how possible life is.

I cannot help but wonder where life will find my family and me in a year. Some things are certain, like military business. Other things are unknowns, too far in the future to speculate. Regardless, I know that laughing at reality and possibilities are only masks of fear sometimes. But, when that reality arrives, it can truly be the biggest blessing of all.