His Boots, My Boots: What It’s Like to Be the One at Home

My day started with accidentally killing a chicken while moving the chicken tractor. Moving the chicken tractor is a two-person job, but there is only me and I make do. This morning, however, I made death. I didn’t realize I had a chicken trapped until I had already snapped its neck. Lovely.

my boots July 2013

My rubber boots on the ground, on the green grass of our farm.

This is what it is to be the one at home when a spouse is deployed. You’re alone. Every task falls on your shoulders, all of the grocery shopping and bill paying and car maintenance and parenting and disciplining and lawn mowing and weeding and decision making and cooking and fence moving and illnesses and emergencies and chores and trips to the vet and school events and driving kids around and everything, just everything… It is all you, all the time, and at the end of the day, there’s no hug. If you’re me, there’s usually a glass of wine or two to take the edge off the loneliness and fatigue, but I’d rather have a hug.

I have been wanting to write this post about deployment all summer but haven’t been quite sure how to go about it. The dead chicken brought it about.

The purpose of this post is not to whine, although it might come across that way. No, the purpose of what I am about to say is to raise awareness, because unless you’ve been on the home side of a deployment, there’s no way of knowing what it is like, and it is imperative that you do, because your troops can’t really do their jobs unless they are sure their families at home are okay. And deployments aren’t going to end any time soon. For all I know, they could increase, leaving more families at home with only one parent.

his boots July 2013

Bob’s combat boots on the ground, on the barren dirt of the Middle East.

What it’s like to have your spouse gone
A deployment is a unique kind of loneliness for the one at home, in part because every task falls on your shoulders and you are obviously alone, but also because you can’t turn to your spouse for support. He or she is busy with other things, plus when you do communicate, you’re dealing with a time difference that means one of you is at the end of your day and tired. Most importantly, you can’t go to your spouse because they will only feel helpless knowing they can’t help with the lame dog, the truck that won’t start or the flooded basement (all things that have happened to me so far this deployment). They don’t need to feel helpless. They need to be focused on their jobs and their safety.

How can you help?
You can’t do anything about the loneliness, but you can make the deployment easier to bear for both the soldier and the spouse. If you know of a family with a deployed spouse, please consider reaching out to them with more than a “How’s so and so?” Military people are a proud bunch. They won’t ask for help. They will (pardon the pun) soldier on because it’s that kind of toughness that’s required to survive, whether you’re the one boots on the ground in the Middle East or the one who’s boots on the ground at home.

It can be really easy to make it easier for the one at home. I’m not asking you to volunteer 5 hours a week of your time, or anything.  Just take 2 hours during the 6 or 12 month deployment, just once, to show support. Here are some ideas:

  • Bring over a pizza to give the person a night off from cooking.
  • Drop off some home-made cookies.
  • Offer to mow the lawn.
  • Run an errand for him or her, or pick up the kids from practice one day.
  • Ask if there’s anything they need or anything you can do. Don’t worry. They will probably say “no” out of pride, but it will mean the world that you offered.
  • Pray for the one deployed and don’t stop praying. (Pray for our leaders too, and for all of the troops overseas!)
  • Ask how the one at home is doing. In many ways, it is harder to be the one at home. People will say, “How’s Bob?” but rarely “How’s Sharon?” when ironically Bob is doing better than Sharon. 🙂
  • Offer up hugs. Hugs are necessary for everyone’s emotional and physical well being, especially when times are tougher. The good feelings from just one hug can last all day on a really bad day!

Think if everyone did just one small thing for the family at home, how supportive that would be!

The military people are good about checking on each other because they know what it is like, but we need to raise awareness among everyone else in order to really support our troops. I heard from a military friend whose family has been through multiple deployments that during one deployment not a single person checked on their family or asked how they were. That is shameful. That is like pretending nothing is different when everything is. Remember, it’s not just that you’re alone with all of the responsibilities on your shoulders. You’re also living in constant dread of what could happen while he or she is gone, listening to the news, hoping the president doesn’t bomb Syria, hoping nothing goes horribly wrong until your spouse is safely home.

If you really want to support your troops, support the ones at home. When our deployed soldiers can know all is okay at home, they can focus on their jobs. And they are doing one of the most important jobs: Protecting you, your freedom and your way of life!

Meanwhile at the farm
The dead chicken just sucks. It was horrible to realize what I’d done–causing an animal to suffer pain and fear–plus it bothers me that all the money spent on food and time spent moving that tractor around and keep them dry and warm, well, I just lost us money to boot.

Now, if I were a real farmer, I’d have cleaned up that chicken and plucked it and cooked it. But I don’t know how to clean it. Bob always does that part, and I only do the plucking and final cleaning. Nor do I have time to figure it out, because–as this post says earlier–everything is on my shoulders and I simply don’t have time.

At least it was fairly quick and it didn’t suffer too horribly long. I cried for far longer than the chicken suffered. And I apologize if this comes across as a whiney post and not the awareness raising one I was hoping to write. I am just too spent to not whine, I guess. 🙂

Thought for the Day… August 12, 2013

watering can on front steps pic by Emma June 2013As I was hanging out laundry this morning, it struck me that perhaps we sometimes must accept that the nobility of what we are trying to accomplish will not be recognized by others.

Yet we must continue to follow our calling and our hearts nonetheless.

Embrace the passion you find in your heart. Do not let others dissuade you from it.

(This photo has nothing to do with the thought. It’s just a cool photo Emma took a few months ago and I just found on my laptop.)

Taco Tuesday at the Logger Bar, and the City People’s Dangerous Disconnect

Hanging out with the people who do the real work keeps me grounded. Could more city people use such a connection?

(Warning: This post might offend you. Can’t help you with that. Just sayin’.)

I just returned from meeting my husband for Taco Tuesday at the nearby bar where the loggers hang out. It’s in the neighboring town and worth the drive to be around the salt of the earth people there drinking and chatting.

It was great, and I’m not being facetious here. I love hanging out at that bar and in all sorts of places in this rural community. I love being around people who are blue collar workers: the loggers, the farmers, the ranchers, the people who work with their hands and their backs, not with their brains while sitting on their butts.

The more time I spend around people like that, the more I see how people in cities can be completely disconnected from things that matter. Take food. Environmentalists can’t have what they want to have without making it more likely that food production will become more industrialized, more chemical-intensive, and more likely to be done outside the boundaries of our own country. To save what, an owl? A fish? We screw our whole food system for that? They mean well. But they are ignorant. And their ignorance screws not only the rural communities, but all of us.

I like being around people who do the work that matters. They are grounded and being around them keeps me grounded. Don’t misunderstand. I moved here from the city and I love the city and the people who live there. But the longer I live here, the more convinced I am that city people suffer from a dangerous disconnect that affects our morality, our values and, yes, our food.

They don’t mill lumber or slaughter cows or cut hay or plow fields. They don’t drive trucks or fix engines. They don’t live by the seasons nor is their livelihood affected by the weather…and governmental decisions made from afar. They are—in a word—disconnected. Period. So the things that make sense to city people make no sense at all.

I am beginning to think that a lot of what’s wrong with our society started when we changed from a rural to an urban society and I don’t just mean our food system; I mean a whole value system. If you’re sitting in a cubicle and your sole connection to the world around you comes via the Internet, what can you really know? How can you really make informed decisions?

City people visit our farm in the making and they are distressed to see chickens and turkeys in real life. They don’t want that “connection.” They don’t want to see these animals that are known to them as featherless pieces of meat on a dinner plate starting out as real characters pecking at each other in the orchard. Instead of rejoicing in seeing food literally in the making, they bemoan seeing what these animals look like in real life.

We are on a slippery slope in this country at this time. When R rated commercials are perfectly acceptable on family TV, when our daughters are showing far too much skin, when a major government official is caught in an affair and people ask, “Why should that matter to anyone but his wife?” … when this is the state of our country, I think one of the things we desperately need is a better connection to things that matter, things like food, and heat, and running water, things like hard work. We need to spend less time connected to the world wide web and more time connected to things like, well, manure.

That was a much bigger tangent than I intended so I’ll try to get back to my point. My point is I like being around the blue collar people. I like being around people who work with their hands and their backs, whose work is grounded and real, and who seem to have a lot more common sense as a result. I think we might be better off if other city people were willing to go to Taco Tuesday with the loggers on occasion…and listen to what they had to say.