Monday, August 19, 2013

Challenge #3

I never thought I was a "grass is greener" kind of girl.  I have a fantastic life, and I've tried hard to not take all my blessings for granted.  When we discovered I was pregnant with Alex in late 2009, though, my grateful, optimistic attitude took a fairly large hit--I was facing down Dan's year-long deployment to Iraq, giving birth by myself in the US, and managing three young kids alone...two of whom were only going to be 17 months apart.  My parents immediately stepped in with their offer to house and help me for the duration of the deployment, which was a true lifesaver, but it didn't do much for my mood or outlook.  I was down in it, anxious about everything (I couldn't shake this question:  what if something goes wrong when I'm in labor, and my children are left with no parent in the US?), and just plain overwhelmed.  I limped through 2010 with a depression I justified with the situation--I just couldn't imagine being really happy with a screaming newborn and a husband facing immense danger in a warzone every day.  I was elated when the clock struck midnight on December 31, 2010--I couldn't wait to get 2011 started, get my husband home, and be together as a family again.  I just knew 2011 would be better for us--Dan would get to bond with Alex, have a job that allowed him to be home a lot more than his previous US assignment, and we were going to live close to our extended families (not in their house, which was a big distinction--my parents' house is lovely, but I was ready to be on my own again, even with all the work that entails!).  The grass was definitely greener in 2011, right?  Dan came home in February that year, but "home" at the time for him was still Texas...even though the kids and I had moved to Virginia, and Dan's new job was in Virginia, he still had to finish out his old job in Texas before moving to be with us.  I spent months fantasizing about our life once Dan and I were in the same state again, under our own roof, enjoying our life as a family of five for the first time.  OneRepublic had a new song on the radio at the time, and every time I heard it, I turned up the volume and sang at the top of my lungs:

This is gonna be a good life--this could really be a good life!  I truly felt in my heart that if my little family could just get itself back together, life would be great--my depression would lift, my anxieties would subside, and we would just magically be happy.  I'm sure you can guess how that worked out!  It was wonderful to finally have my husband by my side again after 15 long months apart.  It was so nice to have both Mommy and Daddy around for the kids.  It was fun to be in our own house again.  Many things were happy, but of course, we were adjusting to a new life together--even if things had stayed exactly the same (same house, same number of kids!) while Dan was deployed, we still would have had a hard adjustment when he came home.  That's just how it is with deployments--no relationship, no matter how strong, can come out of the stress of a deployment unscathed.  Dan and I were on pretty shaky ground with each other leading into the deployment--much of which I contribute to the deployment itself, because you don't just shut off your emotions the day your spouse spend months mentally and emotionally preparing and distancing yourself so that the day your spouse leaves isn't as painful as it would be otherwise.  We also had a surprise pregnancy to contend with in those difficult months leading up to Dan leaving--we were just hanging on for dear life, trying to will the months away.  It was rough.  Coming together again after more than a year apart, in a new house, with a new baby (I should say no longer a baby--Alex turned 1 before Dan joined us physically under one roof again) was a monumental task.

Two and a half years later, and I still feel like we're trying to adjust to our life as a family of five.  I find myself searching desperately for that greener grass--whether it's the perfect relaxing vacation that really bonds us as a family, or a long stretch of good communication with my husband, or time for myself...just something better than the imbalance I feel most days.  I've become attached to another family through their blog, the Ingram Family at Our Sonny Life--also a family of five whose youngest son, Trek, passed away at 14 months old after being diagnosed with a fatal, untreatable disease.  The loss, grief, and adversity they have faced as a family dwarfs any challenge I have in my life, and I have so much respect for the grace and beauty they exhibit through their life lived to honor their son.  They truly embrace life, and I was struck with a passage Chelsea, Trek's mom, posted a few months ago when writing a guest article for

"My husband and I were talking as we were driving our two oldest boys to a park, discussing all we had been through this past year and a half.  What would we say if someone asked what message we had to share after 18 months abroad and the death of our son?  What have we learned?
We just looked at each other, we knew, the answer was nothing.  Not a nothing in a sad way, but a nothing in a freeing way.  We found there is no gold at the end of the rainbow.
Part of the reason we wanted to go abroad was to see if there was some secret out there.  Some secret way to live in total peace, some miracle cure for our son, some people group or place where we could live out our days in pure joy.  We never found it and we never will.  It was so liberating!
All we have is today.  All we have is this moment with our children and those we love.  We can strive for fame and fortune, and it may come, but the sacrifice of time to get there is rarely worth it.  We can live in Italy, or Thailand, or Fiji, but the choice to be happy and content will always fall on us.  There is no happiness pill out there, it is found right where you are."

Chelsea addressed something in me that I didn't even realize was there--I have been searching for the secret to living a happy life, the greener grass just out of my reach.  I have been cranky and miserable at my failure to discover this magic bullet.  I have been taking for granted all the good life surrounding me--such an amazing, good life.  I love my husband.  I love my kids.  I have the luxury of being at home every day to nurture my babies.  We're all healthy.  Even though I'm not yet done with Challenge #2, I'm ready for a new Challenge.  I can't run around for the next year of Dan's unforgiving work schedule/my pseudo-single parenthood with a huge chip on my shoulder, feeling burdened by the inconsequential things that make my days a little bit more difficult--I have to figure out how to balance my mood, a lot better than I have the last few weeks (months?  years????).

So, ladies and gentleman, I present Challenge #3: Happy Housewife.  I'm going to attempt to roll with the punches, not sweat the small stuff, force myself to smile, appreciate all the gifts I have in this life, and not lose least for the coming two weeks.  I've read that it can take anywhere from 28 days to almost 10 weeks to break a habit...but I'm not as patient.  Let's do it in 14 days!  :)  Hopefully the change will stay in effect well after two weeks are over, but I'm going to really focus on the attitude adjustment for the next two weeks.  In order to break my doom-and-gloom, I'm going to plaster a smile on my face and be grateful--because let's face it, my life is pretty wonderful if I could just get out of my own head for long enough to enjoy it.  Here's to the next two weeks!


  1. wow, Jill. That was so beautiful. You are such a strong woman and mama, your family is so lucky to have you. Sending you so much love, Chelsea

    1. thank you so much for reading, Chelsea! You and your wonderful family inspire me--your words make their way into my brain and my heart, and change how I look at the world. You are amazing! :)