1001 Tips for Military Families - Tip #469

The Kindness Challenge

If you are anything like me, December is spent in a mad dash to buy things for people that I hope they will like and will show them I care.  However, I think that the Grinch had a serious “Ah Ha” moment when he discovered that Christmas isn’t from a store or in a box.  In fact, this was the inspiration for the December challenge.  Rather than the focus just on buying and wrapping, lining up and getting generally frazzled just trying to find a parking space at the mall - I will do that but… I wanted us to focus on being good to ourselves and each other too.  If you are posted somewhere without family and a lot of friends, have someone on a deployment, etc. this is a good way to refocus you too!

Click Here for our December Kindness Challenge Calendar: December Kindness Challenge

Kindness Challenge


Alter it to suit your family and feel free to share yours too!  Good luck and I hope your December is filled with a little more kindness and family fun and less having to follow someone with shopping bags leaving the mall to get a parking space.

For more information about our resources, books and tips go to:  www.whileyouwereaway.org

Join us on Twitter @whileyouwereaway

Join us on Facebook - While You Were Away

1001 Tips for Military Families - Tip #466

Selfish Day

Many of us think of the word selfish and automatically think of it as a negative thing.  After all, it is often used by people to describe someone that thinks only of themselves, is thoughtless and mean.  I am, more often than not, guided by doing what is right rather than what makes me happy.  I think many of us are.  That is okay (most of the time) as, living in a military family means there are things that always need to get done BUT… I also think that we have forgotten how to slow down, take care of ourselves and take uninterrupted “fun” time doing things we want to do, things that relax us or bring us joy.  These moments don’t happen often as you are either planning a move, trying to settle in after a move, waiting to hear about trainings and deployments, trying to get through deployments, etc.

For the past 2 years I have been Mom (and Dad most of the time) and had to put a lot of my needs aside to look after the kids, the house, the dog and all the things in between including a full time and demanding job.  Being a military spouse often means that you don’t get a lot of time for yourself unless you take on an epic coordination the size of a small deployment!  I took on the coordination this weekend and it was worth it.  My in-laws took the dog, my kids went to friend’s houses, I put the phone away and didn’t answer emails, I ordered in for dinner, etc.  It was soooo worth it!

For the first time in over 2 years I took a completely selfish day this weekend - not without wrangling with some guilt but I still took it (I worry it makes me a bad mother if I just do things for myself).  I stayed strong.  I didn’t do anything I didn’t want to do, I resisted the urge to do baking, cooking, cleaning and work and I didn’t give in to my family’s requests to ‘just do this or that and it will only take a few minutes’.  The world didn’t come to an end.  I just took care of myself and made a plan to do something fun, something a little out of my comfort zone and a little bit of absolutely nothing (a few hours of mindless Netflix).  I also think I modelled for my kids what self care looks like.  I am not going to say they were happy about it but I think they understood in the end that this is what I needed.  As adults we don’t often come right out and say to our kids “I need this” so when I did, they listened (until they needed something!).

I have written a lot of tips over the years and always live it before asking others to.  I forced myself to do this partly for me and partly to complete this tip!  Now though, I will be taking a monthly selfish day (yes, once a month)!  I will be doing this more often as I deserve a break and truly believe that I have earned the right to have some time doing things that I want to do.  Military life is hard but this can’t be used as an excuse for why I don’t take care of my needs too.  There will always be a reason not to do it but, as I discovered this weekend, there are so many more reasons to do it.  All you need to do after reading this is go to your calendars and book your own selfish day!

For more information about our tips, resources and books go to:  www.whileyouwereaway.org

Living It - Week 34

Tip #18 - Ask Questions

COnversation Cards

I can honestly say that at this point in the deployment there is little extra I am willing to or wanting to take on - I am beyond tired and just want to spend a solid week sleeping.  I know that when my husband gets home he will be tired (I have to constantly remind myself that he has been working for 8months solid with no breaks so it hasn’t been a picnic for him either).  One of the things we struggle with is what to do as a family to get conversations starting again and begin filling in the gaps of missed time.  My husband isn’t the best conversationalist and the kids haven’t seen him for 8 months so this reunion I decided that we would do Meal Question Cards.  This takes the pressure off everyone to have to come up with their own questions and keeps us laughing and talking.


* Make a mix of silly and serious questions

* Give incentives to people with the best answer (no dishes for the best answer, chore free day for the most thoughtful response, extra dessert if everyone laughs, etc.)

* Choose one meal a week to do them at so that it isn’t a pressure at every meal or everyday

* Put a few “Pass” cards out too so that people have the option not to answer something they aren’t comfortable with

* Hide them under their plates so they can’t cheat and plan their answers ahead of time

Hopefully your family will have fun with this, begin to reconnect and start talking about the big and little things that matter to them!

For more information about our tips, resources and books go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org 

Our Reunion Handbook can be found at (conversation cards on page 26-33):  http://wywa.ca/DEPLOYMENTRESOURCES/Reunion-Handbook-Ver5.pdf

Living It Week 30 and 31

Short Term Goals - Reunions!

Sharing the bed

It has been a long couple of weeks with some unexpected twists and turns.  Now that we are coming to break in the deployment and a three week visit, we are all tired and ready for a change of pace and desperately in need of an extra set of hands to help out with things.  This weekend I was a taxi driver, homework helper, gardener, baker, laundress, grocery shopper, party organizer, dog walker, and so much more! I nearly sat down and openly wept at the lack of “me time” I have for anything but then I remembered that we are three weeks left to go until I get a break and pulled myself together.  After all, I have made it eight months!  :)

This reunion I am setting some goals for myself that will hopefully support our whole family.  In past deployments, reunion has always been the hardest and I am hoping that doing a few things differently will make coming back together a bit easier…

Short Term Reunion Goals:

* Constantly remind myself about what is important - if some things don’t get done when he is back for a couple of weeks, they don’t get done and the world won’t stop because the fence wasn’t fixed.

* Making a small list of things that are priorities but with the expectation that it isn’t going to all get accomplished in three weeks and only putting things on the list that are driving me nuts.  The list can also overwhelm my husband in that he feels like he has to do it all and that puts pressure on him that isn’t necessary

* Inviting friends and family around all for one big event - this allows everyone to have a visit and for us to spend a lot of family time together too without trying to schedule in tons of different visits.  The last time we spent the entire time going from one event to another and it was tiring.

* Keeping his return low key - we will make a banner, we will get excited, we will get his favourite foods in the house but not make it into the biggest event of the year.  It reduces the pressure on all of us and gives him time to settle in quietly without tons of expectations and obligations

* Set limits with people - many people will want us to do things and go places and we have to be willing and comfortable saying no.  He is only home for three weeks.  We all need a slower pace, low stress and family time (I may be sleeping non stop but I will be physically there)

* I will keep my resentful comments about him not having to run a house, take care of kids and a dog, and have a full time job to myself (at least try to)!  Rationally, I know that we have both had it hard and to compare would be crazy as it is truly like comparing apples and oranges but I do tend to get caught up in the who had it harder game and am going to work hard not to

* I am a person that only feels relaxed when things are tidy and clean - I know on one level it is sad but it is me.  I am going to work hard to not ‘lose my noodle’ when my husband begins to spread like a fungus all over the house.    I am going to remind myself that it is three weeks and don’t want to spend them nagging about cleaning up.

* Selfish “me time” - As I have said before, being selfish is not a horrible thing that you need to feel guilty about.  I am going to have a selfish day before my husband comes home so that I am not burnt out and bugging him to give me time.  I will still bug him to give me some time but I won’t be quite so desperate.

A lot of my goals are either about being self aware or mentally preparing myself to share my life, our kids, the house and bed again (I still am waking up sprawled across it!).  My ultimate piece of advice is to take some time to pamper yourself and think about what it is you want and don’t want before your family member comes home, be prepared to give up some things and set limits!

For more information about our tips, books and resources go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org


Living It - Week 28

Tip # 459 - Weight Loss 


This tip generated a lot of chatter!  Many of you asked me to report in on how I am doing and be ‘real’ so I thought it would be a good one to “Living It” with.  I would love to tell you that it has been 3 weeks of clean eating, great sleeps, and 20Lbs just dropped off…  ah… no…

My Updates:

* Stopped weighing myself everyday (my whole day was determined my a number on a scale and I often ate more when I was higher with the defeatist attitude that I am already up pounds so why not) - I have managed to only weigh myself 4 times a week (which is down from 20!).  One week I did survive a whole week but then I started worrying that I was gaining and out of control (I sound crazy but some of you must know how it is…).

* I will not to set insane timelines on my weight loss that I always fail on and then eat through the feelings of failure - I cannot tell you the number of times I started to do this.  I would ask myself how many weeks until I have to wear fewer clothes (layers do cover a multitude of sins) and then I would start to say things like if you could lose 15Lbs before the warmer weather…  it was awful trying to stop doing this.  I am determined not to put a timeline to weight loss so I haven’t set any timelines and am just sticking to the goal of permanent life changes.

* I have cleaned out of the house pop and chips - I have stuck to this even though I decided it would be a good idea to go down this aisle in the grocery store and then tried to talk myself into this fabulous looking bag of chips.  I repeated the mantra (‘I would rather feel good long term than a short term fix’) and then got the cart and myself out of there.  I have also found a good pop replacement (It seems to be the fizz I like) and now have flavoured fizzy water.  For those of you in Canada - PC makes a great one!

* I have changed my routine.  I had the habit of coming home and snacking -  A few times I stayed later at work and just arriving home a little later helped with stopping this habit.  If I was home ‘earlier’ I have taken to do a few jobs around the house that aren’t in the kitchen.  It has worked so far.

* I have worked hard to get more sleep (when I am tired I use the excuse that I am eating for energy, I also make terrible food decisions when I am tired and stressed) - This one is a challenge for me as I LOVE my sleep.  Ideally, I would love to sleep 9 hours a night and this is rarely possible unless I go to bed before my kids!  I did manage to go to bed earlier over the past few weeks and it has helped.  I am shocked at how organized I have to be in order to go to bed earlier.  I also have worked on not watching TV mindlessly and then waking up in the morning saying, “Why did I stay up watching that stupid show?!”

* I am going to work hard on my ‘self talk’ (I think and say horrible things about my body 100’s of times in the day) - I had no idea the amount of horrible things I say to myself until I started to pay attention to them a little more.  It starts in the morning some days before I even get up and then I walk past the hall mirror and just continues throughout the day.  It has been hard but one way I am looking at it is telling myself I would NEVER say those things to my best friend so I need to start being a better friend to myself.  

* I am working on cutting out all diet Coke…  I am an addict - I have had three in three weeks.  That is pretty good although I want it every day still.  The fizzy water has helped and the fact that friends and family are constantly nagging me about it.  

I have lost 2Lbs but some of my clothes are feeling better - I don’t have to lie on the bed to get my work pants done up and when I sit down I can still breathe, all good signs!  What I discovered these last few weeks is that I am my own worst enemy in other ways too.  When I discovered I had lost 2Lbs my first reaction and all the ones following it for days was, “Is that it?  This isn’t working?  You aren’t working hard enough on this?  You have failed, again.”  I just need to be happy with the loss and that it isn’t a gain.  I am also going to work hard on measuring out food.  When I tracked what I was eating, I was shocked.  What I put in my mouth throughout the day was quickly forgotten (almost as soon as it passed my lips).  I need to get a better sense of what and how much I am eating.  No matter what big weight loss companies would like to have us believe, weight loss is a simple formula when it comes to food - calories in and calories out need to, at least, match.

For more information about our tips, books and resources go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org 

Living It - Week 27

Tip #99 - Be Organized


When I wrote “101 Tips for When They’re Back” I had a fair number of suggestions for making life easier for their return by being organized.  Since we are in the final 60 day stretch I decided that it may be good to start going through the reunion book and living some of my own advice from there too.  I still stand by all of what I said and truly believe that there is a certain loss of control that I have to be willing to give up again.  For the most part, I have been the one making the decisions about what we eat, what things we do in the evenings, where we go, when we go to sleep and so on and so on.  Now I am going to have to readjust to sharing those decisions with someone else.  Being organized will help me feel less out of control (yes, I am one of those people that finds coming home to a clean house one of the greatest feelings in the world - EVERYTHING REALLY DOES HAVE A PLACE!  Despite what my husband and kids say…).

By the time he gets home I will have…

* Cleaned out the areas of the house that were my husband’s and make them ready for him to invade again (or… to make a mess of and frustrate me but everyone has to have a space to do what they want with)

* Organize the fridge and freezer so that I not only know what we have but that I know we have things he likes too - it will also take the guess work out of meals and make life easier

* Do some bulk shopping for boring things like toilet paper, soaps, etc. - less time in the stores and less hastle

* Sort through and prioritize the mail that is stuffed into a box the door (this has not been a good example but with so much to deal with, if it was addressed to my husband and didn’t look like a bill or urgent, it got shoved into a box)

* Try to get some work done ahead of time so that I can take a few days when he gets back and not feel overwhelmed with a long list of things to do on top of getting used to having to go back to sleeping on my side of the bed!

* Go through the calendar and see what things are going to be happening and try to do things in advance to help reduce the amount of running around when he first gets home (I am going to buy some birthday cards in advance, get some birthday presents and wrap and label them, get postage stamps, etc.)

* Send a copy of our calendar to my husband so that he knows some of what he is coming home to as well

* Write ahead of time and ask what things he is missing the most (besides his favourite wife and kids).  This way I can pick them up when I have time rather than dashing around in the last few days

Regardless of whether or not I am totally organized or a complete mess, reunions are hard.  I really believe that being organized will only help with a smoother reintegration for everyone.  People often tell me that it must be so hard to have my husband away so much - it is but…  it is very hard to get used to sharing a life again after a long deployment too and many times for us, it has been the hardest part.  My husband has been at home with us for a total of 67 days in 2 years.  Getting used to life together again is going to be something I need to begin preparing for and living my own advice!

For more information about our tips, books or resources go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org or join our Facebook page While You Were Away

1001 Tips for Military Families - Tip #459

Deployment Weight 

chained to scale

I have battled with my weight my whole life. I love food (and hate it all at the same time).  My favourite foods are usually over 200calories a bite!  If it is sugary, salty or fried, I will most likely eat it. I eat when I am bored, lonely, celebrating or sympathizing.  I also have the terrible self destructive habit of weighing myself obsessively and letting the scale dictate how I feel about myself.

This deployment I ate my way through the first 5 months. It was an easy, short term way to feel better.  The long term result is that I am up 12 more pounds (I already had plenty to lose), my pants are tight and I am scared to even look at a swimsuit. It isn’t a great feeling. So… I have decided to start to do things that will make me feel better in the long term and try to find other things to do rather than eat ridiculous things that have no nutritional value.  But… there are things I am going to do differently this year…

My Plan:

* I have stopped weighing myself everyday (it has been hard as I was doing it at least 3 times a day) - my whole day can be determined my a number on a scale and I often eat more when I am higher with the defeatist attitude that I am already up pounds so why not?!

* I am determined not to set insane timelines on my weight loss that I always fail on and then eat through the feelings of failure - I usually give myself a month to lose 8Lbs or tell myself I will be down to my ideal weight in 6 months, it sets me up for failure

* I have cleaned out of the house pop and chips - they are foods that we were all eating too much of and now they are here for me to automatically turn to

* I have changed my routine.  I had the habit of coming home and snacking and so now I am filling that time with other things like walking the dog or reading for 30mins.

* I have worked hard to get more sleep - when I am tired I use the excuse that I am eating for energy, I also make terrible food decisions when I am tired and stressed

* I am going to work hard on my ‘self talk’ - I am my worst enemy.  I think and say horrible things about my body 100’s of times in the day and I am positive it hasn’t worked in helping me to ever lose weight and makes me feel so terrible about myself

* I am working on cutting out all diet Coke…  I am an addict but I am also convinced that not only does it make me moody it also makes me crave more sugar

I am hopeful that my changing some of my habits and being more aware of the things that I do that actually add to my problems rather than help, that I will now begin to sustain weight loss in a healthy way that lasts.  Wish me luck!

For more information about our tips, resources and books go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,148 other followers

Build a website with WordPress.com