Deployment thinking taught me helpful life lessons

During my husband’s 15 month deployment in 2005-2006, I experienced the usual separation pains. I’ve admitted them to other military families since then, but feel better able to articulate some of my thinking now, thanks to the life coach training that I’m currently enrolled in. I hated the thought of returning after work to an empty house (well, God bless the cats, I meant empty of people). Maybe my limiting belief was “I shouldn’t be alone on a Friday night.”

Cats always help with scrapbooking; nearby is yellow deployment support scarf (gift from friend).

I kept myself so busy that eventually I realized that it wasn’t sustainable. I had no clean clothes, no food in the fridge, and no peace and quiet. Of course, I was avoiding the peace and quiet in the first place, because then my fears could be heard: “he’s going to die.” Now, I am pretty sure that some of you are saying, “don’t worry so much”. Others, however, are probably agreeing, “well, the Green Zone (Baghdad, Iraq) isn’t the safest place on the planet”. I’ve recently learned from Martha Beck and Byron Katie that our inner lizards love to holler “the sky is falling!” even if it isn’t, and our thoughts may or may not be true.

Airport Chapel

He didn’t die, and the sky didn’t fall on our home. I feel survivor guilt for those who experienced a different outcome. During the deployment, I had to learn how to be by myself. At first, I cried a lot and had a hard time falling asleep. Our clergy-person at the time, Tim Rogers at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Salem, MA taught me a faith-based mantra to help calm my thoughts: breathe in while thinking one or two words, breathe out with another word or two. For example, “Come, Holy Spirit”. It could be any words that comfort you, from “help me, Jesus” to other meditative phrases.


I worked, volunteered, and eventually figured out that I could have time with friends and also evenings at home alone. It’s NOT true that “only pathetic people are home alone.” Sometimes friends visited with scrapbooking supplies, while other days found me scrapbooking with help only from cats! My neighbors were good to me, bringing me a big bowl of corn chowder and helping with snow removal. I prayed, assembled care packages, planned our mid-tour leave, and eventually cried a bit less and was able to sleep a bit better. My life coaching business can help others who are seeking to balance alone time and together time with others.  

P.S. I've kept a personal blog for a couple of years (hence the photo labels) at  

What I know for sure about losing a job

Losing my job threw me into uncertainty (not my favorite place to be). I felt lost for months, wandering around in my soul, trying to figure out “what’s next?” I believe in fairness, equity, and justice (see ) and wallowed for a while in “it’s unfair land”. How could the funding for my program be cut? Blah, blah, blah! 


However, I also strive for an attitude of gratitude, and noticed that some aspects of my life were way more relaxed without working full time. I kept going to the gym in the morning, but didn’t have to set my alarm clock for 0-dark-thirty (a military expression for VERY EARLY). I wasn’t rushing around like a maniac after work to run errands, or pile them all into a Saturday…grocery store, post office, laundry, anyone? I finished the book club book ahead of time!

I had time to appreciate the beauty in our world. I used to go on nature walks on weekends, and multitasked throughout. Last year, I brought a backpack to a local park, so I could do 3 other things while on a walk (sit on a bench and write a letter to a relative who doesn’t use e-mail, etc.). This year, I sat down and talked to a frog for a while. Now, don’t worry, the frog didn’t speak back to me in English, but I heard a volley of croaks and bellows echoing across the pond, and as my eyes adjusted to the dim shadow under leafy reeds, I saw another frog that I missed at first glance. 

In the past, the term “analysis paralysis” applied to me; well, I guess it still does. But the Authentic Happiness questionnaire listed it as a strength, in that I think things through and don’t jump to conclusions. Should I take a job at a 30% cut in pay? Am I desperate enough yet to accept a position three times the commuting length I had before? Let me get some advice from a career coach, and some staff members at the local Career Center. I am now open minded to a new career for myself as a life coach! I am glad to teach one class at a college to build my skills.

My strength of honesty didn’t make it entirely easy to ask for help. But I’ve always preferred to talk about the elephant in the room than ignore it, so mentoring is welcome. I connected with other adjunct instructors for advice, and willingly shared my frustrations with fellow coach trainees, who gently guided me to new ways of thinking. If I feel like I have too much time on my hands, how about increase my volunteering? Look for a new book group closer to my new home (but keep driving to the wonderful book group where we used to live). Get a free personal training preview session at the gym and try new classes (zumba, water aerobics, anyone?). Take a crafting class. Join Toastmasters to boost my public speaking skills.

Losing a job has not resulted in 100% fun, but I know for sure that it has provided me with new opportunities. I felt useless and disoriented for a while, but that does not mean that I am a worthless person. I’ve improved my networking skills, learned how to use the on-line education tool called Blackboard, and sat by the pool for a few minutes after working out at the gym- a luxury I never had on a regular basis while working full time.

How growing up as a third culture kid changed my life for the better

Have you ever hear the term “third culture kid” before? I’ve lived in three countries so far, and am grateful for learning about the world at a young age. From  You know you’re a Third Culture Kid when the question “Where are you from?” has more than one reasonable answer. From  You may feel like a global nomad because you live in one culture, and you feel a sense of belonging where you live now and where you grew up. Elements from both cultures are blended, resulting in the third culture. 

I lived in Germany as a child because my father was stationed there with the U.S. Army. We lived off base and I attended German schools and made friends with German children. My experience was that it is easy to learn a second language as a child. 

In high school, I took French. The French Club went to Montreal and Quebec, so I worked at Burger King to earn half the fare, while my parents matched me dollar for dollar! Here is one of the Jr. Spice cats “helping” me to prepare for a trip to France (and more), years later.

I studied during junior year of college in Vienna. I’m still amazed that my parents trusted my judgment and waited for postcards as I travelled to 10 countries that year, including Russia using a Eurail pass and a shaky Aeroflot plane. I didn’t feel especially brave, but tried to use common sense and travel with friends. 

Finally, upon graduation, I started a social work job where many employees and clients spoke Spanish, so I took a continuing education class and can get by in Spanish. This gave me increased confidence to vacation in Spain, Panama (more) andEcuador (more).

Living in numerous countries and getting to know people who are different from me but equal to me has taught me that the world is a small place. I believe that all people and nations have rights to individuality and to contribute to the wellbeing of our planet. 

I encourage you to read “Military Brats” by Mary Edwards Wersch for more information. Children who move are able to make friends and adjust to new situations for the rest of their lives more quickly than others. There may be mixed feelings about relocating, but with a sense of adventure and some fun, it can be a positive situation.