It is always heartbreaking to see your spouse’s ship pull away from the pier with the help of tug boats; it is especially heartbreaking to see that same ship continue to sail past you and then out of sight, while you are firmly planted on the shore. I’ve been trying to write this post, I keep getting stuck; writer’s block at best, priorities and perspective examination of how I will spend this time seems to be the biggest inhibitor of finishing this post. Undoubtably, I don’t want to “survive” this deployment, I want to look back on this time and remember what the kids and I did together, and the goals I accomplished during the months my husband was away. I keep thinking about my priorities of how we will spend these summer days and what we will each learn. Here are some of my priorities and strategies to spend our days with grace and purpose.
1. Set Goals
Each of us, with the exception of my youngest, have came up with summer goals. My sons want to read, write, visit the beach, attend summer camps and play with friends. I want to travel in Japan, spend time at the aquarium, park, and garden with my kids. I want to laugh and read with my kids. I want to spend these months reading books, writing, removing clutter in our home, perhaps working on Christmas quilts for our kids, and sending gift packages to friends and family in the states.
2. Create Your Bucket List
Together, my sons and myself, wrote down places and things we want to do this summer on a half of a 3×5 note card. After writing down our summer ideas, or bucket list, we put these folded notecard pieces in a small mason jar, labeled the jar, and put it in an easy location for us to see and to pull ideas from on days we have nothing on the calendar.
3. Have A Plan
I like plans, lists and the direction of to-do lists. I pulled out a calendar, updated the schedule of camps we registered my sons for, scanned local tour guide schedules, thought about who and what organizations we want to invest our time and energy into, which friendships we want to strengthen, and figure out how we are going to incorporate our goals into our summer days.
4. Set A Schedule
Not every hour or minute needs to be scheduled, but a general schedule helps. We are all up at least by 8:30 AM. (Note: I’m not the one sleeping in till this late hour– I have three children and a dog.) My six-year-old likes to sleep in late, and developmentally he needs the extra rest. We eat breakfast by 9 AM, we run errands, attend a camp, go outside to walk or play, and then head home for my toddler to take a nap. My sons work on some school work, reading, piano, and picking up a few things during this dedicated quiet time. I catch up on a few chores, and help them with school work and enjoy reading to them, listening to them read or read to myself. This is the time I work on my blog, update a few Instagram photos, send my husband an email, and relax. In the late afternoons and evenings, we check our garden, play together, visit a park, take our dog on a walk, sometimes plan dinner and playdates with friends, and often enjoy each other’s company without an agenda. We try our best to be in bed at a reasonable hour to journal, read together, and go to sleep.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep in key for me to keeping a positive outlook. I need seven and-a-half to eight hours of sleep each night. Now that I don’t have a newborn or a teething young toddler, I’m usually able to get enough rest. Most people need eight hours of sleep. If you think you don’t need eight hours of sleep, try sleeping for eight hours; you’ll feel much better and realize you probably need about eight hours of sleep. Making sure that my kids get enough sleep is very important. Tired children often translates to grumpy children. Life is so much better when we all get enough rest.
6. Clean Your Nest
My father is infamous for saying, “Clean your nest when you are feeling stressed!” Now, housekeeping has never been a high priority for me. I’m fine with C+ cleaning, but I like things sanitary and tidy. These last few weeks I’ve been going through my children’s old toys, clearing out unneeded items in closets, and go through those last stubborn boxes that are still lingering in one bedroom and in our downstairs hall. I’m making progress; several unused items have found new homes via donation, selling (which has funded a few “necessary latte’s”), and in the trash where they have belonged most likely for a while. I’m liking the results of the removal of clutter project in our home. A tidy nest seems less overwhelming, and its certainly a positive socially acceptable way to control things when it seems like one has very little control of many external forces.
7. Having An Attitude of Gratitude
The first few days are always a little sad during a deployment, but in the midst of missing a family member, life seems a lot better when I focus on writing down a few items that I am grateful for. While I realize that these feelings of sadness are normal and okay, my attitude and outlook changes when I put the pen to paper and list those things I am grateful for. When I’m feeling emotionally drained and exhausted from parenthood and life, reviewing these lists in my journal is uplifting.
8. Do What Makes You Happy
Of course, there are some moral and financial restraints to doing what makes you happy; but overall, within those boundaries, do what makes you happy! We listen to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas CD’s during June, reading Anna Karenina for the third time, saying “yes” more to that requested stop for ice cream and we are spending more time outside. All because it makes us happy! I’m even playing Legos more with my boys, which happens more because school has ended for the summer and we have more family time, because it is a fun way to connect with them. There is a lot of music being played, dishes being used as hats in our home by my children, and I’m writing more which makes me happier. So, do what makes you happy during this time and throughout life!
9. The Power of Connection
It is easy to make too many plans, to over schedule oneself, to get lost in online social media, and to have the “stay busy during deployment days to make them go faster”perspective. For me all of these tactics of over busyness, make me exhausted instead of refreshed and positive. I want to spend these days connecting with my sweet children and writing my husband. I also want to spend time strengthening my relationships with positive friends here and those on the other side of the world. Perhaps the best example I can set to my children is how to maintain and create positive relationships with others regardless of the external chaos that surrounds oneself.
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives…” Annie Dillard