Deployment Diaries – PTSD

Deployment diaries – PTSD: It was just over a year ago that we said our final goodbyes to Jake in the parking lot of his local In-N-Out Burger. I can, however, feel the emotions as if it was yesterday. Understandably, I cried as we drove out of the parking lot. While saying goodbye, I tried not to cry. After all, I didn’t want my soon-to-be-deployed son worrying about his mom. He already had enough to worry about.

I can’t say that it’s ever easy to leave him, but last year it was a million times harder. There was a finality to it that comes with the great unknown of what his deployment would bring. We’ve all watched the news, and read the stories and one can’t help but worry that something similar will befall their loved one. When we left him, we left not knowing when he’d be leaving. All of those details had to remain unknown until the very last minute.

Now that he’s home and safe, the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders. Nevertheless, I can’t help but reflect upon the stress of his extended deployment and the weight comes back. Suddenly world events became an insurmountable source of stress. I found myself worrying to the extreme or angry that the press ignored missiles that were launched his way. It’s an odd feeling to be both angry and worried. Moreover, it’s not an existence that one can sustain without losing their kind. I found myself having to unplug.

As we settle into the post-deployment space, I worry about him and his colleagues assimilating back into regular life. After living with a heightened sense of alarm for greater than 10 months, I can’t imagine how going back to normal must feel. In their post-deployment meetings, they did two through the stages of assimilation, which is good. Nevertheless, the specter of PTSD for anyone deployed is always present. Jake and I have talked about working through the stages and burying one’s mental and emotional health during these transitions. Fortunately, my boy has the best commanders and shop in the business. They have taken care of him better than I could have ever hoped for; for which I’m forever grateful. For now, I’ll relish having him stateside. I love it!

Utah Trip – Hiking

Our Utah trip this past summer was awesome. Of course, the highlight was being reunited with Jake, but we also had some great adventures together. One of my favorite things to do in Utah is hiking in the mountains. Unfortunately, I was not in great shape this time because I had just started running again. Consequently, the first hike in Utah’s heat and at a much higher elevation didn’t end well for me. I definitely lost my cookies going up the mountain. Fortunately, Jake and the Mayor took great care of me and we got down the mountain safely and intact.

The medicine I’m on with Calibrate is great, but nausea can be pretty bad, especially with exertion. Hence, I lost the cookies on the first hike. Our second hike was an easier trail with more shade, but the elevation and heat still kicked my arse. This time I was careful it take more breaks and keep my heart rate lower. I didn’t lose my lunch that time, but the hike kicked my butt. We did see a beautiful snake slither across the trail. Thankfully, it was not poisonous. Unfortunately, it was too quick for us, so nobody for a picture.

One of the most unique hikes we did was at the Golden Spike National Historical Park. This park is about an hour northwest of Ogaden on the northern shore of the Great Salt Lake. Rather than a hike up a mountainside, we hiked down to the shores of Salt Lake. Due to the drought, the American West has experienced, the lake is at its lowest level. Consequently, we hiked across the dried-up lake bed for more than a mile to reach the shore of the lake.

It was striking how dead birds or insects would lay preserved from the salt on the lake’s bed. As we approached the shore where the waves were breaking, there was a wide crust of salt running parallel to the waterline. As you looked out over the lake, it was a beautiful blue with haze coming off the water. It was gorgeous! Meanwhile, the waves of the lake had a bright reddish hue that made the lake look otherworldly. I was not tempted to go in the red water, but Jake and the Mayor did. They both said it felt like an Epsom salt bath. When they walked out of the lake, a layer of salt was left behind on their legs. Naturally, they collected some salt to use at home.

Beyond the beautiful hike on the bed of the Great Salt Lake, Golden Spike National Historical Park is a pretty neat place. They still have Victorian-era locomotives that travel the tracks, so visitors can see what they looked like. There is now a plaque where the golden spike used to be commemorating the coming together on the intercontinental railroad. As for the actual spike, it’s now on display at Stanford University.

There are several other hikes you can do at the park. We opted, however, to drive up to the Chinese Arch. It was a terrifying drive with a drop off of thousands feet to the right side. Meanwhile, the gravel road up to the arch was super narrow. While the arch was worth the drive, I’d probably go for the hike the next time around. I wouldn’t want to do that drive again.

My favorite hike this trip, however, was to Gloria Falls in Little Cottonwood Canyon. I love hiking the Cottonwood Canyons because it’s significantly cooler than hiking in and around Ogden. Our elevation at the start of the hike was over 7800 feet. By the time we hit the waterfall, our altitude was almost 9,000 feet. Thankfully, this particular hike is not arduous because if it was I really would have struggled. Once we got to the falls, the air temperature was in the low 60s. The rushing water coming off the mountains certainly had a chilling effect.

Gloria Falls, it’s absolutely stunning and worth the hike. There is plenty of space to take a good rest or eat a picnic lunch, which is awesome. If I had planned better, I would have brought lunch. The hike itself provides stunning vistas out over the forests of the canyon, the mountains, and the distant valley. It’s a popular hike, so you’ll want to head out early to find parking. Also, the last part of the trail is unmarked. Consequently, be sure to download the map from the AllTrails app, so you don’t get lost. Albeit, you’ll likely run into plenty of people on your way up to the falls. Nonetheless, this is a trail I’d hike again anytime I found myself in Utah.

One of the solo hikes I did on our last Utah trip was right next to the Weber Ice Sheet. It is a simple half-mile paved loop around a pond. While the boys enjoyed open skating, I enjoyed walking around the pond and picking blackberries. I was shocked when a beautiful doe crossed in front of me as she went near the pond to eat. When I looped around again, she was standing in the middle of the path just taking it all in. After seeing all the videos of bison goring stupid tourists at Yellowstone, I decided to give her a wide berth. Unfortunately, she was not there when I came back to run the next day.

All in all, we had some great hikes during this last Utah trip. Ones that I’ll certainly explore again. I’d love to spend more time hiking and exploring both Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood Canyons. Also, if my parents travel with us again, I think they’d really enjoy Golden Spike National Historical Park. Now back in Florida, I can tell you that I miss waking up in the mountains every morning. I love being up on the mountain exploring everything and every view it has to offer. There’s something almost spiritual about it! Anyway, I love Utah and I love hiking in Utah!

Deployment Diaries – The Homecoming!

I wrote my deployment diaries throughout the entirety of Jake’s deployment, but ultimately only published a few of them. After all, I think the ravings of a worried mother would have eventually gotten redundant for you all. Nonetheless, writing daily whether I published them or not brought me peace. Initially, I had expected that Jake would return in time for graduation. Unfortunately, given world events that was not the case.

Finally, this summer we had hints that he’d be returning stateside. Naturally, I held my breath because I didn’t want to get too excited in case he got extended again. After all, his and now our schedule is at the mercy of the military. And then the text, we’d been waiting for finally came, he was about to take off on his return flight home. Crazily, he had to wait until this point because until the plane is rolling down the runway, the military could change their mind and make them stay.

Like the stalker mom I am, I naturally found his flight and followed it throughout the night and the next day. I may have had a slight heart attack as his plane hit a radar dead zone in the middle of the Atlantic and fell off the screen. Fortunately, his plane was not in the dead zone for long and his plane re-emerged from the dead zone, I breathed a long sigh of relief.

Unfortunately for Jake, the journey home took several days with several stops. When he finally made it home, we were overseas. Oh, the irony. Fortunately, our trip was quick. Nevertheless, I was able to fill his new apartment with groceries from the Bahamas thanks to Shipt. His friends and Sgt helped him move in. Thankfully, his girlfriend was able to get there the Monday after he returned, which was awesome. I definitely didn’t want him alone.

Finally, about a week after he returned the boys and I were able to fly out and see him. Honestly, I thought my heart was going to burst from anticipation. It was a long day of flying, but we finally got to our Airbnb at around 11:30. On the ride from the airport, we had ordered pizza. It turns out it was the worst Papa John’s pizza any of us had ever had. Nevertheless, none of that really mattered to any of us as we were all back together.

When he first pulled up, we went out to greet both him and Melly, I think I hugged Jake for a good solid ten minutes. Or at least until his younger brothers started making fun of me. Some day when they have kids they’ll understand the emotional investment and the need for a ten-minute hug. As hugs go, I’d say it was the best ever. There’s no better hug than one from your child that just returned safely from deployment. During the course of that world record-setting hug, I could feel the weight of the world lift off my shoulders. No longer did I have to carry the stress of him being in constant peril in an uncertain world.

To all our friends and family that supported us throughout his deployment, we love you and thank you dearly. Jake loved all the beautiful cards, care packages, and goodies he received while being down range. He surely felt the love. His deployment was not without its scary moments, but he also had great command and a squadron that took care of him down range. He was also able to have some fun adventures that he’ll always relish. The one thing he won’t miss is the ridiculous temperatures and humidity of the Persian Gulf. Lastly, my heart is with all the military mothers that came before me who, unlike me, didn’t have the technology to communicate with their children regularly. I can’t imagine their pain. And this will close out my deployment diaries for now.

Deployment Diaries – Invasions

So invasions take on a whole new meaning when your child is actively serving and somewhere on the other side of the world. The anxiety level for this mama has reached an all time high. I’m not sure what this means for his and his buddies, but I know it’s not a positive development. We don’t really know how this will impact his time overseas, which really sucks. It’s super hard not knowing anything because we can’t really plan our lives.

Deployment Diaries – The News

I’ve found that while my boy has been deployed avoiding the news has been key to maintaining my mental health. Unfortunately, these past few weeks it’s been utterly impossible to avoid the news. With missiles flying in the Middle East, Russia knocking on Ukraine’s door and China’s Taiwan obsession, there hasn’t been much rest for the weary. It’s hard to quantify how this news hits differently with a kid deployed. There’s a perennial knot in the stomach that’s unrelenting tightening with each bit of news. Nonetheless, I need to limit my news intact. Honestly, the more I limit the news, the better I feel.

Deployment Diaries- Pit in stomach

So as we get through week one of deployment, I’m noticing that the pit in my stomach will not leave. It’s like I’m watching Goalielocks in net 24/7. In short, it’s not a great feeling. Thankfully, I’ve been able to chat with him via text. This has helped immensely. This weekend I’ll be distracting myself with some Curb Your Enthusiasm and the Mayor’s hockey tournament. Hopefully, this will allay the pit in my stomach even if it’s just for a moment.

Deployment Diaries – Radio Silence

All week I’ve been fighting the urge to text my boy over and over again. One I know he’s super busy. Two I know he can’t have his phone with him while he’s working. And lastly, I don’t want to be inappropriately overbearing. Nonetheless, it’s super hard. I know he’ll reach out when he can, but I miss him and I worry. Oh the horrors of radio silence during deployment.

Deployment Diary – Saying Goodbye

I decided to keep an electronic diary of my thoughts during deployment. By the time this is published, he will be back home.

Saying goodbye to our eldest is never easy, but this last time it was particularly hard. This time it would be the last time I got to hug him before he left on his first deployment. To say that hug contained a lot of emotion and love would be a gross understatement. While he was excited for this new adventure, the mom in me couldn’t help but be anxious and worried sick. Naturally, I tried my best to hide this from him. After all, I didn’t want him feeding off my anxiety. Nor did I want him worrying about his mom.

Perhaps the hardest part of all of this is not knowing the details. He’s limited in what he can share with for obvious reasons, but it makes it hard when you don’t know the when and where. At the moment, we’re just waiting for the shoe to drop. Obviously, it’s been a bit nerve wracking.

Grad Party

We celebrated Goalielocks’ and his friend TK’s graduation with their grad party over the weekend. While TK is his friend, he and his family are considered family to us. It’s been amazing to watch the two grow up and go through the trials of elementary, middle school, high school and hockey together. So much has changed since they first became friends almost a decade ago.

Our friend Garlic Bob catered the event with an epic taco bar that was capped off with a nacho cheese fountain. Boy, can he cook! His food is always delicious and on point. We sampled his taco bar at a friend’s grad party last year and I instantly knew we wanted him for Goalielocks’ party. It was absolutely a no brainer.

I was a bit worried the tropical weather that dumped nearly a foot of rain in our area would keep a lot of people away, but we only had a few cancellations. Goalielocks played hockey in Dade County, which was underwater for most of the weekend. Unfortunately, that made it unsafe for his Miami based teammates to make the drive, which was a bummer.

I tried Pink Whitney for the first time at his grad party. Pink Whitney, of course, is the ubiquitous hockey mom drink of choice. I’m surprised it took so long for me to try it. I love it. It was so good! A couple of observations about the drink, it’s good, but it’s a bit sweet. Also, a group can drink a small bottle in minutes. To cut the sweetness, I recommend pairing it with sparkling water on ice. This would make it much less sweet and more refreshing.

The grad party was a rousing success. We finally headed home with two cars full of kids just after 12:30 am. Everyone had a great time celebrating the two boys graduation. I think, the highlight for me was the two boys cutting the cake and feeding each other. It was super funny. The cake, of course, was super yummy and beautiful. Hanh makes the best cakes! They’re always beautiful and super tasty without being too heavy in your tummy. It was a great night!

Volleyball Banquet

Last night we had Goalielocks’ volleyball banquet at the high school. It was a nice dinner with both the boys and girls volleyball teams. He’s played volleyball the last two years, but there was no banquet last year due to Covid. Dinner was courtesy of Olive Garden, which was good. Fortunately, it settled in my stomach. I was a bit worried as my stomach had been quite sensitive lately.

While we ate, the coach, the senior captains and the underclass men gave their speeches. They were nice, brief and to the point. After the speeches came the awards. Goalielocks was awarded a letter in in varsity Volleyball. After the awards, the kids switched into active wear and the girls took on the boys. The girls beat the boys, which wasn’t super surprising given the talent on the girls team. A lot of Goalielocks’ team was relatively new to the sport. It was a fun way to end the volleyball banquet.

We’re currently driving to the west coast for hockey. There’s nothing I hate more than driving on state road 60. It’s honestly the worst road in the history of roads. In fact, the entire of state road 60 should be at least four lanes instead of one lane each way. There’s nothing more disconcerting than your car shaking as a semi speeds by heading the other direction.

My outfit for the volleyball banquet

We’re still a good two hours out from our resort. While we’re heading west for hockey, we thought we’d make it worth the parents’ while by booking an nice resort. Consequently, we’ll be staying at the Saddlebrook Resort and Spa. The resort has a couple of incredible pools, which is where I plan on spending my day tomorrow. Since we only have to be playing this year, our game schedule is nice and light.