It’s hard to believe that a little over three months ago my husband, Scott, and the crew of the USS Newport News returned home safely after a seven month deployment! As I stood looking out at the water watching the tugs maneuver the boat (in the sub world they are called boats) toward the pier, I no longer felt the “unsettled” feeling I had throughout the last year. What I realized at that moment was the fact that subconsciously Scott and I hit the pause button on life from the moment we moved to Norfolk, VA and he began his sea tour.
My introduction into submarine life was peachy keen from the moment Scott and I met because he was on shore duty. His job from 2007-2009 in San Diego was within the submarine rescue world and fairly close to a 9-5. International travel for Navy exercises separated us for one to three weeks every few months, but it was no biggie with the hectic schedule I kept for myself.
Before moving to Norfolk, I thought to myself, “This submarine life isn’t so bad.” I knew a deployment was inevitable, but it was nothing we couldn’t handle because we would both be SO busy. If I knew then what I know now, I would have slapped myself with a reality stick so I could have better prepared myself. No amount of positivity, strength, books, family/friend support, FRG meetings, etc can prepare you to say goodbye to your spouse for seven months. Not that I have had time to reflect on the journey, the fact that Scott and I traveled simultaneously yet completely separated has inspired me to write this post. The “Dirty D” as some of my fellow Navy friends call it…isn’t pretty, but here is my little story on how I made it through.
On February 21, 2010 I dropped Scott off at the pier, we said our goodbyes and hugged each other a little tighter knowing it was our last hug for many, many months. As I drove away with tears in my eyes, I felt as though life was on pause…so much I wanted to do, but without Scott it just wasn’t the same. The strength I had before Scott left seemed to be sucked out of me as I drove home; mile by mile. The first few weeks were very tough and a constant reminder that my best friend wasn’t coming home for a long time. I did mope around and had my moments, but I refused to let the “Dirty D” get the best of me!
What can you do to get yourself out of the “my husband just deployed” rut? Book your social, work, volunteer or whatever calendars you have solid! Your friends and family want to be there for you, so let them. I had dinner plans several times a week, volunteered a few times a week, enjoyed glasses of wine on the porch with my neighbors and anything else that occupied my time. For some military spouses they will have the support/connection with the various spouse groups. If you do, get involved and that will be a wonderful support system for you. If it’s a negative experience that doesn’t bring happiness into your life then separate yourself from it immediately. The same thing goes for any toxic friends or family members who bring you down. You need happy, positive, motivating people in your life! There is no room for negativity or self absorbed people because you need all the strength you have to keep your mind, body and soul healthy while your main squeeze is away.
My #1 sidekick and saving grace throughout deployment was our hound dog, Sampson. Although I woke up every morning rolling over to an empty bed on my hubby’s side, Sampson kept me smiling as we’d go though our morning routine of breakfast and morning stroll through the neighborhood. He would keep me company throughout the day as I took care of things around the house, greeted me with a wagging tail every time I came home, kept me laughing as he stared me down for dinner and helped me relax after a long day with our evening walks. He kept me smiling month after month!
Fortunately, the condo building we live in has a great group of people who Scott & I have become friends with over this past year. They always checked on me, invited me to dinner and parties where I met other awesome people. Everyone in our building is either in the Navy or connected to the military, so we all look out for each other. I knew not a single person when we moved to Norfolk, so they took me under their “wings” and helped me make it through the deployment. I always felt safe even though Scott was thousands of miles away.
In March 2010 one of my best friends, Nicole, flew to visit me in Norfolk. We had a blast like old times and reminisced about all the fun we had since we were 9 years old! We then flew to San Diego to celebrate my 30th birthday in my hometown. My girlfriends knew how much I missed Scott and it seemed bittersweet to celebrate a milestone birthday without him. They surprised me with a fabulous hotel downtown, dinner out and then a VIP table at a nightclub where we danced our tails off for hours! Anyone that knows our little crew knows that we LOVE to go out dancing. Just give us some music, a spot to dance and we’re happy as a clam. It was one of the best birthdays ever! I was surrounded by my closets friends and we laughed so much the entire night that I almost had six pack abs in the morning. 🙂 My parents also threw me a special birthday dinner at my favorite restaurant in SD called, Andiamo. Just hanging out and catching up with family and friends was the medicine I needed. Of course I missed Scott a ton, but I knew that he would want me to be happy and not moping around on my 30th birthday. There was no moping going on…just sweet dance moves like the running man, sprinkler, lawn mower and dropping it like it’s hot! Memories I will cherish forever!
When I returned home from San Diego I felt renewed and set out to find a new job. My background was in real estate, but I was ready for a change and wanted to try something outside of my comfort zone. My parents came to visit in April and around that time I was interviewing for various jobs. It was perfect timing because they were my sounding board during a time of big decisions. I accepted a job while they were in town as Director of Community Outreach with a company called Troopswap.com. They hired only military spouses which I knew would connect me with a group who have experienced what I was going through. The company was a startup and I had a lot of responsibility that I knew would keep me very busy. Just what I was looking for! There were 9 military wives who started on day one and we all formed an instant bond from the moment we started working together. We covered different territories throughout Hampton Roads, but found ourselves meeting up quite often for a quick work lunch, happy hours and dinners. There was a sort of synergy with our group that continues to this day. I am so blessed to have met these amazing and strong ladies!
The territory I covered was so huge that they assigned two Directors of Community Outreach to the Norfolk base. Little did I know that I was going to meet a friend who shares so many commonalities with me that we now call ourselves twins separated at birth. haha After only a few weeks of working together we had people asking if we were sisters or had we known each other for years? We would just laugh because we had only been coworkers/friends for a few weeks yet we were pretty much attached at the hip. My witty friend, Christina, nicknamed me HLP which translates into heterosexual life partner. Hilarious to us because my husband was deployed, her husband was about to deploy in May and the more we thought about it we were “standing in” for the other person’s hubby while he was away. Christina and I had dinner together all the time, met for coffee, ran errands together, called each other at least once a day if not more, went with her to baby appointments, brought each other food when we were sick, worked together and just did a lot of things that would normally include our husbands. She knew when I was feeling bummed and I knew when she needed a pick me up. We were each others shoulder to lean on throughout the “Dirty D” and feel so blessed to have the friendship that we do today! I’ve always believed in the saying that it’s not the quantity of friends that you have, but the quality of friends.
Cherish the friends that treat you with respect, are happy for you even when things aren’t so happy in their life, lend their ear in your time of need and brighten your life. Like I mentioned above…get rid of the dead weight! It’s an unnecessary drain on your life when you are around negative, selfish people. Even one will zap ya!
The first few months of deployment crawled, but the best piece of advice I can give anyone who is going through or has to go through a deployment is to keep BUSY! Once I started working at troopswap.com the time flew by because of a crazy schedule and meeting such fun, nice, positive people! From April until September (the month Scott returned home) I drove to Vermont with Sampson and my Dad who flew down to drive with me. I spent 10 days with family in place of the trip to see my husband that was cancelled due to government business. That happens a lot in the sub world so I’m told…expect the unexpected. I took that…let’s be honest…shitty situation and turned it into a positive by spending 10 super fun days with my parents! My Mom hopped in the car with me and drove back to Norfolk where we spent a week catching up on much needed Mom and Daughter time. July was filled with work, little adventures, volunteering and starting a social club with who else…Christina, my HLP. We both felt there was a need for a social club where women could get together once or twice a month in a positive environment with no drama. We also both wanted to give back to those in need, so we added one event a month to the Spouses in the City calendar that helps out local charities. In August we raised $1300 for the Navy SEAL Foundation.
In October we mailed 55lbs of candy to Operation Gratitude for care packages that they send to the deployed troops.
And in December we adopted a family through EDMARC Hospice for Children and raised enough money/donations to give our adopted family everything on their wishlist thanks to all our awesome SITC friends! It was quite a whirlwind few months, but if you didn’t already notice I made it to August with my sanity still in place! 🙂
The cherry on top came when my original trip that was cancelled to see Scott in June was rescheduled for August. I was finally going to see my husband after six long months with about four of those months with no communication. Yep, you read that right! No phone calls, emails, letters, text messages…nada. Welcome to the submarine world. I couldn’t wait to see Scott and just enjoy time relaxing with him! We met in Portsmouth, England which is a beautiful little seaside town. I anxiously awaited his arrival at the hotel and the minute I saw him it was like we just picked up that same hug from February 21st. We spent 7 wonderful days together, enjoying delish food, wonderful sights, a night out at the discoteca because my sweet husband knew how much I wanted to experience a Euro discoteca and relaxing by the water as we enjoyed appetizers and good euro vino for happy hour each day. It was the absolute best way to end six months of missing my husband! Heading home wasn’t as difficult as either of us thought because we knew homecoming was only weeks away.
Finally, September 1st hit and I was rounding the home stretch! I spent the next couple weeks prepping the house for family, buying all of Scott’s favorite foods/drinks, planning a homecoming party, buying him a few new outfits because I knew the five he brought with him would smell like “boat” permanently (sub wives you know what I mean), brushing up on my cooking for two skills and of course finding that ever so special homecoming dress! My amazing parents came into town a week early to help me around the house and wow did they whip our place into shape! Thanks Mom & Dad! The day before homecoming Scott’s family arrived and we were all ready for the BIG DAY!
Words cannot describe the feelings I had standing on that pier! It was the most magical day that came pretty darn close to my wedding day. I will always vividly remember the moment I saw my husband walking towards me with a bundle of roses and the feeling of his arms wrapped around me picking me up. We made it! One of the toughest challenges in our marriage and we passed with flying colors!
There are so many things I learned about myself and life as a submariners wife, but here are just a few things to never forget when life throws you any kind of challenge. 1) Give yourself time to feel blah! Life can suck sometimes and your entitled to a tantrum here and there. Your entitled to a night on the couch with takeout and some chunky monkey. Just don’t treat other people like crap if you’re being a downer…if you do apologize for being a butt head. 2) Surround yourself with positive and selfless people. Don’t let the negative nellies or self focused lamos drag you down. 3) Keep busy with what makes YOU happy! Find a job you love, volunteer, write a blog, take cooking classes, learn a new sport, travel or craft your little heart out. Just keep BUSY! Those three things kept me going and I feel so blessed to have my husband home safe! The best part is we can finally push “play” to start our life again!
Co-Creator, Spouses in the City