The meaty middle

The meaty bit of the deployment. The middle bit, the big chunk where you’re a few months in and you’ve got a few months to go.

That’s where I’ve been. 

I’ve been keeping my head down, coping.

Get up, get washed, get dressed and keep busy. Drink wine and eat quavers. Repeat.

Let me make this clear to my civvy readers-time has not gone quickly. But it has gone. 

I’m utterly bamboozled by this fact. I don’t entirely understand how I have done this middle bit. At the beginning 9 months was utterly paralysingly terrifying. Still is to be honest. 

But now it’s utterly paralysingly terrifying with a twist of bewilderment and a silent air punch of pride. 

IVE ALMOST BLOODY DONE IT LADIES AND GENTS!


I’ve kept the kids alive and not had a total breakdown!

I’m chalking it up as a big fat WIN.

As the reality that I’ve almost done it hits its actually a bit unsettling. I keep stopping and asking myself how did I get here?

 How have I done this?

Has he really been gone for 7 months?!?!

Is he actually coming back?!

On one hand it feels like he’s been gone an eternity, on the other it feels like maybe a few weeks, a couple of months. 

And as this self awareness dawns on me it hits me. The absolute totally all consuming longing to have him home.

Justcomehomejustcomehomejustcomehome

So near and yet so far from the finish line. 

This ladies (and gents) is the final push. That last bit of energy and positivity that you have to dredge up from somewhere in your gut to keep going right up to the end.

I was happily plodding along with the meaty middle bit of the deployment and suddenly the realisation that he will be home soon(ish) hit me.

I kind of wish it hadn’t to be honest. A few more weeks  in my “meaty middle bit” bubble would’ve been most welcome. 

It’s time for that final sprint! And I’m ready.

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No, the time has not flown by, so please kindly STFU.

“Ooh are they coming home already? Wow the last 9 months have really flown by haven’t they?”

The above are probably the two most dangerous sentences you can say to a Navy wife or girlfriend at the final sprint of a deployment countdown. 

To the friend/co-worker or family member with (obviously) good intentions and also a possible death wish:

NO IT HAS FUCKING NOT FLOWN BY.

It has been an almost hysteria inducing, vast stretching of time that has at times has felt swamping and insurmountable.

Time now, at this final push, is threatening to reduce the strong, capable, independent adult from the last few months into a (at times) quivering, adrenaline pumping, vom inducing, panic stricken bag of nerves and self doubt.


The “flying by of time” should be given more appropriate descriptive metaphors such as-

  • Ninja Snail Time- I.e went really fucking slowly then went all stealth ninja-ey and fast right at the end, catching the poor unsuspecting Military WAG off guard.
  • Untrustworthy Time-I.e the homecoming date and subsequent countdown has changed more times than I’ve changed my knickers. Don’t trust it. 
  • Alternative Reality Time I.e time, as a concept, has passed completely differently for you and your sailor. He is expecting home to be some kind of time capsule of half a year ago and you can’t remember what family occasions and days out he has missed because there have been so bloody many he has missed. You are in separate world and separate times.



To all you who dare utter “the two sentences of time” (outlined above, can’t bring myself to type them again) can I just say this:

Time has NOT flown by for us.

We have walked, limped, crawled, carried and been carried to get here. But we have not flown. (We have not sailed through it either before anyone gets punny on me.) 

So please for the love of God and all that is Holy do not patronise us. Do not comment on it. You don’t get it. Don’t pretend to. It’s like a cat trying to understand why a dog likes walks so much when they can go out through the cat flap at any time. 

Different worlds and different times.

Muchos love,

Olive X 

My Little Troopers

So we have survived the first longish stint of Daddy Being Away.

It was only about a month but Im feeling bloody proud that I have managed to keep both children alive with very little outside help and snotty colds and 8 week jabs. Im also a tad relieved that I haven’t lost it and left them at a nunnery. (And no this is not just because I don’t know any Hampshire nunneries). 

 Ive had quite bad mum guilt that I didn’t try to do more wholesome “making memories” shit. I didn’t even attempt any baking and I can safely say that the iPad is partially raising my toddler. We have watched a lot of Disney.

But they are alive so I’m chalking it up as a win. 

Whilst Popeye was stuck down in Plymouth  (because his ship was buggered-giant surprise) we were able to finally try out the separation pack we had been given from Little Troopers . 

This helped with the mum guilt because I was getting so fed up of this:

Sweetpea-“where’s Daddy?”

Me-“on his boat.” 

Sweetpea-“[see] Daddy soon?”

Me- (silent sob) “no see Daddy later. Daddy gone night night on the boat.” 

Sweetpea-“bye bye Daddy” 

Me- “yes that’s right, bye bye daddy.”

Talk about heartbreaking! And, after the gazillionth time, dare I say, a little bit annoying? 

That’s when the separation pack really came into play. It actually helped Sweetpea grasp what was going on and helped me not lose my mind from having to explain it to her over and over again. 

It gave the whole downer of being separated from Popeye/Daddy an actual positive vibe and I can’t recommend it enough. 

What is it? An A4 pack of resources and ideas of things to do to help your children cope with a parent being away from home.

First I chose an area in the house to put it all up. I didn’t want to to be too prominent in the house- I didn’t want her to be reminded Popeye was gone all the time- I also chose somewhere quiet so she could go there to think about Daddy when she needed to. 

( I also wouldn’t put stuff on the wall above the dogs water bowl if your child likes water play and pulling things off of walls. 😑)

I found an OK photo of Sweetpea with Popeye and put that in the special “Hero” (a bit cheesy for me but v sweet for children) frame. This gave Sweetpea something to focus on and she could go and kiss the photo good night or we used it to talk about Daddy from time to time too. She also put it down the loo at one point but I’ve told Popeye  not to take this personally. (And photos don’t dissolve if you antibac them btw- who knew?)

 My favourite thing about the separation pack was the chuff chart. It’s supposed to be for the kids but to be honest I was using it just as much as the Sweetpea. 

The chuff chart is really practical- you can adapt it for any length of separation-you just add another calendar sheet if you need to. You can decorate or colour it in and there’s a “notes” bit if your trooper needs to jot anything important down. You can put stickers on it if you’ve been on day trips (not that we did lol) and really adapt it for your family. 

As Sweetpea is quite little we did a ten day countdown as she only knows up to number ten. By the time we got halfway through she was getting the idea. She was running up to it first thing when we came downstairs ready to cross off another “sleep”! (Not sure if this is because the pack is really good or my daughter is a child prodigy/genius. Ahem). 

  

  
There’s a little instruction leaflet that was brilliant for people like me who are permanently exhausted from single-parenting-without-the-benefits or (also like me) have the creative ability of the DVLAs phone system. 

We did one of the ideas from the leaflet- we made a Post Box for all of the art Sweetpea did whilst Popeye was away. 

 

#fathands
 
It worked really well when he got home and they opened the box and she could show him what she had made for him. 

 

an original piece by Sweetpea. Inspired by the Twirliwoos.
 
If he had been away longer we would’ve posted them out to him. I really wanted to do the “send a hug” idea too but Sweetpea would not lie down and after trying and failing to pin her down to draw round her outstretched arms with a felt tip between my teeth I admitted defeat. Maybe when she’s older or when she’s asleep. 

In general the activities and ideas are really varied and can be adapted depending on the age of your Little Trooper or what interests them. 

There is a big map too where you can put stickers of where you’ve lived, where you’ve been on holiday and where your service person is. This was great but I felt it was a bit geared towards army families and soldiers that are based in one place for a long time, so to cater to our situation I cut out a picture of a navy ship from the patterned writing paper in the pack, and moved that around the map. You could get a photo of the ship for longer deployments but doing this worked fine for us. 

  
There’s a bit in there that explains why the official flower of military children is a dandelion. Not going to give it away here but it had me in actual proper tears and I’m now thinking of getting another tattoo this time of a dandelion. 

All in all it is a really useful little kit. You can join an online community of Little Troopers and they do meet ups, camps and events, so that your children can get to know other military children. This is especially useful to families like ours that don’t live in married quarters. And they are a charity so they do lots of fun fundraising stuff too. 

If you want to find out more visit their website http://www.littletroopers.net

P.s they do a bracelet too that I have nicked from Sweetpea to remind me which boob is next for feeding Sproglet. 

#livingthedream 

  

Define strong. 

“You’re so strong“. A phrase often heard and seldom repeated by navy wives and girlfriends. It’s usually followed by The dreaded head tilt and something along the lines of “I couldn’t do it, you’re so brave”. Etc etc. 

The truth is, I am not strong. I am not a super person. I am just your average twenty something trying to not totally screw their life up and hopefully, one day, have some plus money in the bank. 

I never feel less strong than when Popeye is away. I cry, I rant, I stall, I freeze, I overreact, heck I probably under react sometimes. The point being that I feel I’m getting through a deployment more by luck than any shining moral fibre. I swear it is a complete, utter fluke. A spin of lifes roulette wheel that means I survive each one by pure chance. 

I have plans for getting through each deployment, sure, but I never follow said plan. I never do the good, wholesome, organised option. I don’t  bounce through the days and weeks and months, looking like someone from a Pantene advert. In fact I say to friends and family on an almost weekly basis that “I’m not coping, I can’t do this!!!” And yet….I do. 

I have never paused to think “omg, check me out, I am so coping right now” because then I am sure to jinx myself and then the car fails its MOT or the dog runs away or the back door lock breaks. Or something. 

The other thing that I just don’t get when head tilters say how strong I am is… What the bloody hell is my alternative?

Pray tell I would love to know what the other option is. Because if I am strong by surviving a deployment, then this definition of “strength” needs to change. 

If I am strong then this needs to include: 

Crying at films, at adverts, at people on the street.

Eating cereal for dinner. A lot.

Walking to the corner shop in your slippers to buy cheap wine because you drank the good bottle already *hic* .

Never having food in the house.

Asking your sailor to ” just come home” when they call, even though they are thousands of miles away and there’s not a snowballs chance in hell.

Staring at photos of him.

Staring at the countdown app until 12.01am so you can tell yourself it’s one less day.

Sticking your face in the wardrobe to smell his clothes.

Frequently forgetting bin day / recycling day then having to do the “clink of shame” walk holding two weeks worth of glass recycling, whilst praying no one sees you and that there are no tell tale clinking noises to dob you in. 

Wandering round the house like a refugee on those horrible weekends you don’t have anything planned.

Pressing refresh on Facebook a gazillion times a day.

Calling my mum at least once a day, 60% of the time to cry or moan about how hard this is.

Saying goodnight to his pillow every most nights. 

I think that’s enough.

So yeah, if that is being a strong person, what the F does a weak person bloody do?!?!?

Muchos love,

Olive x

P.s what amazingly “strong” things do you guys do?  

 

Christmas Bingo.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… My arse.

This is a post dedicated to all you ladies who have involuntarily become the Grinch this winter.

Yep, the navy has once again, messed up your festive plans and you’re feeling about as festive as, well, you’re not feeling festive at all.

So in a bid to raise a smile this Yuletide, I’ve come up with Navy Wife Bingo, Christmas Edition.

Let me know if you get some or all of these!

Ahem:

Annoying “home for Christmas” advert on TV makes you want to throw your shoe at the TV.

Annoying “home for Christmas” advert then makes you cry, whilst hugging the other shoe.

Relatives make super helpful not patronising at all comments such as “are you sure you’re still married to Popeye? We haven’t seen you together since your wedding! ” Mega lolz.

You open your fridge and it’s empty. Apart from wine. So you pour yourself a drink, shut the fridge and open it again, in the hope that full Christmas lunch with all the trimmings will appear. You sigh, and reach for the bottle.

You get the Christmas decorations down, either by yourself (brave) or with a relative. You spend a week staring at the box with a look of loathing before deciding a) sod Christmas, hate Christmas, hate happiness. Or b) I will put them up then make a scarf out of tinsel and cry.

Turn on the TV or radio to listen to some jolly Christmas carols to cheer yourself up. After a belter of “a partridge in a pear tree” and “silent night” you put on the Pogues, fairy tale of New York, because it’s your favourite one. But end up singing it fiercely at the top of your lungs, standing up, swaying side to side refusing to let the tears spill over your cheeks. The dog goes upstairs to hide.

You make a den on the sofa and don’t move from it until until Christmas Day. There are blankets and duvets and glasses, cups, bowls scattered about, the TV times is dog eared and listings are circled in biro, and by now there’s a bum imprint in the sofa cushion and your outline is traceable in Quality Street wrappers.

On Christmas Day you become the Festive Phone Ninja. Your phone, possibly with holiday themed ringtone is glued to your hand. You make a trip outside. This is a big deal and you blink in the crisp December sunlight.

Happy couples walking past you holding hands become public enemy number 1. They should not be so bloody happy. Idiots. I hope they break up.

I want to be holding hands walking around with Popeye. Not them. I hate happiness. Stupid Christmas. Stupid couples. They couldn’t do a deployment anyway.

You make it to your Christmas lunch destination. There’s a tiny nagging voice in your head saying that they’ve only invited you out of pity. You ignore it and pull out your biggest ear to ear smile. Everything is going to be fabulous. Just freakin fantastic. So you smile and nod when they do the Dreaded Head Tilt and and the inevitable “heard from Popeye yet? Where is he at the moment?”. You suffer the sympathy and jokes stoically. Just pass the Buck’s Fizz please.

After you’ve eaten, you’ve got the silly cracker hat on and have had your fortune told with a magic fish, you pause for a moment.

This is ok. Dare you think it, you’re actually enjoying yourself.

Is this allowed? Is this alright? I thought I was supposed to be miserable?

Hmm…. I’ll have a second helping of trifle and watch Elf with the family and wait it out for a bit….

I am enjoying myself!!!! Cripes! How did this happen?

Before you know it you’re sitting in front of the TV watching the Christmas special of Downton laughing with your loved ones.

And that’s it, it’s all over, done and dusted. You survived.

It’s done. Finished, and it wasn’t actually half bad.

Trust me, the thought of Christmas alone and the build up to it alone is so much worse than the reality. Go on, embrace the experience, it’s just one day of the deployment after all, just one day. And as much as it sucks, once it’s done you do feel a weird sense of pride and accomplishment. A strength and calmness and an appreciation for family and loved ones both near and far that you wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for the bloody navy.

Happy Christmas girls. You’re doing great.

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“It’s complicated” -my relationship with time.

I think I’m in an abusive relationship. Not with hubster Popeye, don’t worry, he’s a kitten, but with time. Let me explain this analogy, ahem: Time, it treats me badly again and again, reduces me to tears and g&t’s and yet I always go back to it when it promises me it will never treat me like that again and how much it wants to make me happy.

See? Time+navy+me=abusive relationship! Or at the very least some kind of unhealthy codependent relationship based on love/hate.

When you are doing a deployment countdown you view time as your mortal enemy, and I, at least, spend a large chunk of each day taking it down a peg or two mentally (hang on maybe I’m the abusive one…). I spend a RIDICULOUS amount of time thinking about time (ironic) and how months and weeks are really not all that long. In short, when Popeye is deployed I demean time, I shorten it and patronise it, I beat it into submission until its not too scary.

For example, two months sounds scary, eight weeks, not so much. Also to say he’s still away for two and half months is awful, but if I take time by the gonads and twist, two and a half months magically turns into ten weeks! Tah dah!

You can also do this not just with months and weeks, but also with days. *gets magic wand and magicians hat*. Firstly, this works best when you’re in the ten week countdown. It also works best when you are alone in the house, holding a giant bar of dairy milk, standing in front of your calendar. No one knows why this is, its just physics or something.

Basically you don’t count the day they are coming back, nor do you count the day you are currently on. This means you can easily, at any point, shave two days off of your countdown as and when needed. Viola! Take that countdown! Here’s some more time magic…

You don’t count the day they are back, because omgomgomgtheyarebacktodayimawakeat3amandIwenttobedat2.45.

You can also not count maybe two or three days before they are home because omgomgimsoexcitedandihavetocleanthehouseandwashthedogandthecarandmyselfanddefuzzandbuyfivenewoutfitsandemergencydiet.

Not enough? You can also cut off any days you are meeting up with friends or staying at other peoples houses, or hotels, because then you won’t miss your sailor as much when you go to bed if you are tired and tipsy and also (as every navy wife knows) time passes quicker when you’re busy.

At the beginning of a deployment round up how much time you have done to give yourself an ego and moral boost. So if they’ve been gone for ten days, that turns into a fortnight, which you mentally say as “half a month”. And then abracadabra-10 days = half a month! Which sounds a hell of a lot better than telling yourself “they’ve only been gone a week and a bit”.

A month consists, always, of four weeks, not five, no matter what the calendar (or the bank) says. This way you can say “one month down, five/six/seven to go!” sooner and feel smugger faster. (I know “smugger” is not a word, but I am employing word magic here as well as time magic so there). You can then use this feeling of amazingness to combat the ‘I don’t know how you do it’ well meaning people’s looks with an “aha but I have already almost,kind of, I’m getting there, DONE it biatches!”

Aaand the best thing is, this feeling of wowzers look at me surviving and time passing aren’t I brilliant only gets better as more time passes!

I suggest you continue lengthen time in this way so that you feel freakin awesome until you reach the halfway point when you can start to shorten time again because, hey you’ve done half a deployment now chick and you are feelin pretty fly.

So that’s one side of my relationship with time, the other side is the side when Popeye is home on leave. Suddenly the very fabric of time changes! Three weeks, which was a very short and laughable amount of nothing-time during deployment is now a beautifully long vast insurmountable amount of time that will last forever. Three weeks becomes an eternity that you refuse to see the end of.

That is until time tricks you once again. Because no matter how 100% sure you are that three weeks is, in fact, forever and ever, no matter how much stuff you plan to cram into those weeks, you will wake up one day, usually for me around about day 17-18 and go “oh crap we haven’t done anything apart from stay in bed,walk the dog, watch walking dead and eat subway for two and a half weeks! How did this happen???”

Answer: Time has tricked me, once again.

And so it starts again, the feeling of super-duper-time-on-steroids whizzing past us both, heading terminally towards him going back to that bloody ship again to spirit him away for odd weeks here and there until the next deployment.

It makes me feel like Wiley coyote and the “meep meep” bird. It really does.

One of our strengths is, as navy wives and girlfriends, we can weave a mysterious magic with time. But, as Spider-Man taught me, with great power comes great responsibility. And time will come back around and bite you on the bum the second you start to relax your attention to it.

My advice, never take your eyes off it, it’s a tricky, sneaky thing, which is simultaneously my best friend and my greatest enemy.

Muchos love,

Olive Oyl
Xxxx