TBT: Surviving Deployment – the first few weeks

The next time I heard from Jeremy was the following morning, he was at the airport in Maine waiting for his next flight on the journey to Afghanistan. We chatted briefly, but he didn’t have much time to talk other than to check in with me.

Three days later, I finally got the call that he had made it safe and was all settled in on base.

I remember driving to school on that third day with no contact, it was the longest we had gone without talking to each other.

When that “unknown” number showed up on my phone, I immediately pulled over and excitedly answered the call. It was such a huge relief to finally hear his voice.

For the remainder of his deployment we had regular contact with each other. He was never able to get his Skype to work very well, but we always had email and sometimes phone calls.

Talking to other military wives who were also going through deployments at the same time, taught me to be very grateful for the communication that I did have.

I never had to wait weeks to hear from my husband; wondering if he was safe, wondering if he was injured, wondering if I would get that knock on my door.

Every deployment experience is different, and most of that has to due with the service members job.

Jeremy’s job involves being on a base working on aircraft and having computer access. Which means that we were blessed with frequent contact and I was never in fear for his safety.

There was an element of danger, of course. He was in Afghanistan during a time of war.

But compared to many of the other spouses that I knew, who were married to service members that were infantry or had another more dangerous job, my deployment experience was tame.

And that is something that I will always be appreciate.

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TBT: Marriage Retreat

During the summer of 2010 my husband found out that he would be deploying to Afghanistan that November.

In preparation for his departure, we decided to sign up for a Marriage Retreat through CREDO. I was shocked that my husband even came with me, he isn’t the kind of guy to talk about his feelings with me, much less in front of other people! I was even more shocked that he participated and actually enjoyed himself too.

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Our retreat took place over the course of three days, Friday-Sunday. My husband had to get his command to sign off so he could take Friday off, and thankfully they didn’t have a problem with it since it’s a military run event.

We drove up to the forest and each couple got their own cabin for the weekend. No TV no internet, just a bed, a shower, and each other.

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There were probably 15 couples total in our group. We met for classes and discussions during most of the day. The topics were communication skills and other relationships strengthening stuff. There were different activities and discussion topics, along with lectures about statistics and different ways to communicate with your spouse.

The food was AMAZING! We had three meals a day plus unlimited cookies and soda during the classes…probably the best part, no lie!

We also got some time off for “free time” to spend with each other. Jeremy and I took some hikes around the woods and also did a zip line that was on the property.

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Overall, I would recommend it to any military couple. It gave us the platform to talk about our marriage, our feelings about the upcoming deployment, and all those other “feeling” stuff that is sometimes awkward to bring up out of context. This retreat gave us the context to have those discussions, and I think that we both found it to be a valuable experience because of that.

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TBT: Engagement Photos…1 year after marriage!

One of the results of a quick courthouse wedding is that Jeremy and I didn’t go through the typical “engagement timeline” that most couples go through during a year (+) long engagement.

One of the main events in that timeline is the engagement photos.

So, when a fellow Marine wife was offering free photo-shoots to expand her portfolio, I jumped on the opportunity to have some professional photos taken. Our first professional photo-shoot ever….a year and nine months after our wedding!

Turns out, those photos came in very handy when we started planning our vow-renewal, I used them for the invitations!

These are some of my favorites:

Location: Oceanside Pier

Photographer: Alicia Roberts Photography

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My absolute favorite!

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My family’s favorite, I think they like the natural smiles. I’m not a huge fan of my hair, but I think Jeremy looks so sexy and happy!

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One of the photos I used for our Vow Renewal invitations

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The second photo I used for our invitations

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Did I mention that my husband HATES getting is picture taken?! If you can’t tell from these photos, then that means I did a good job making him laugh and smile…he was super grumpy lol.

Next month we are doing another photos shoot, for our 5 year wedding anniversary. He is not happy haha

TBT: Our 1-Year Wedding Anniversary

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Jeremy came home in February 2010, after being in Florida for 5 months for school. He arrived just in time to celebrate our 1 year wedding anniversary, on February 14, 2010

Getting married on Valentines Day has seemed like a romantic and fun idea at the time. Plus, I knew Jeremy would never forget the date!

But as we approached our anniversary it quickly became obvious that I probably should have thought it through a little bit more.

Everything books up way in advance. Everything is 10x more expensive. And everything is 100x busier. We tried to go out to eat, get a reservation, book a trip…and it was all booked up, super busy or crazy expensive.

So we decided to do something low-key, a picnic at Mt. Soledad, one of my favorite view points in San Diego.

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It was still very busy, but there was enough grass for everyone there, including a very awkward couple who looked to be on their second or third date lol

We have since made Mt. Soledad a tradition for our anniversary, instead of trying to deal with all the couples out celebrating Valentine’s Day. It’s become “our place”.

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TBT: Our First Separation

After a fun summer filled with visiting Jeremy’s family in Wisconsin, I started my Junior year of college in September 2009.

Shortly after, Jeremy was selected to go to NDI School, which is kind of like a “promotion” in his job. It didn’t result in an increase in rank, but he was selected to go to the school which would allow him to specialize in a new MOS.

The school was 4 months long and was in Pensacola, FL…which means we were going to be separated for the first time in our relationship.

Jeremy left in the beginning of September and we spent three months apart before I went to visit him in December on my break from school (see next week’s TBT for my trip to FL!).

I didn’t handle the time apart very well.

We had just moved into our new apartment, which was about 30 minutes from where all my friends lived, by my college. At the same time, my best friend has recently gotten married and was living with her husband enjoying the honeymoon stage, aka spending a lot time with her husband and much less with her friends.  I hadn’t made any friend with any of the other military spouses in Jeremy’s unit, since we were so recently married.

I spent a lot of time alone, which resulted in a slow slide into depression.

I decided to start seeing a therapist after a few weeks.

My decision was prompted by the knowledge that Jeremy had at least three years left in the military, and I was his wife. That meant that I was going to be away from him again at some point in our marriage, probably for much longer than 4 months. I needed to be able to be okay with the separations. I needed Jeremy to know that he could leave me to do his duty to his country, and not have to worry.

It was my first experience seeing a therapist, and I had a great experience. Military One Source set up the whole thing, from finding me a local therapist to arranging the first appointment and making the payments.

I learned how to cope with the separations. I started a routine to fill my time. I took a ceramics class, started volunteering to fill my time. I went out of my comfort zone to make new friends in the military spouse community. I filled my time with things that I enjoy, which made the time go by so much faster.

I addressed my cognitive distortions that were resulting in my depressive feelings.

The techniques I learned during those three months apart prepared me for the following two deployments. I’m so glad I didn’t let myself wallow in my negative feelings, that I took action. Because separations and deployments don’t have to be all negative. Yes, there will be bad days, but they don’t have to out weight the good days.

7523_144885981818_8356871_nThe MCAS Miramar Air Show – October 2009

I always wanted to go and I didn’t let Jeremy being gone keep me from having a great time. My friend from college went with me.

TBT: My First Trip to WI!

The first time I met Jeremy’s parent, we had been married for about 4 months.

The summer of 2009 I made my first trip to Wisconsin. My first time seeing Jeremy’s home town. My first time meeting his family.

5860_118041556818_7666711_nAs someone who was born and raised in CA, Wisconsin was a bit of a culture shock! Lots of farms, lots of drinking, lots of bars and lots of cheese.

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A little drunk at Fundfest (country concert) with Jeremy and his BFF Mallory

People are allowed to smoke inside. It was shocking enough to see so many people smoking, let alone inside! Everything takes place in the bar. Lunch, dinner, football, hanging out. The food is deep fried and cheesy. Culver’s is amazing, I’m very sad they don’t have one in CA. There are farms everywhere. We visited on of his buddies farms and saw baby pigs!

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His friend Shorty’s farm

Aside from the culture shock of Wisconsin in general, Jeremy’s family is very different then my own.

My parents are upper middle class people. My Dad is an artist and my Mom owns her own dog kennel. They are liberal, eat a lot of veggies and don’t drink (my Mom at least).

Jeremy’s family is working class. Conservative. Most of them smoke and drink heavily.

And I love them all! They all probably thought I was some kind of crazy California girl, but as different as our lifestyles are, I love them all. They are sweet and kind people who welcomed me with open arms.

His sister has a hilarious sarcastic sense of humor that I always enjoy (even if at times she scares me and I worry she doesn’t like me lol).

His brothers are so close to each other and similar in many ways. They joke around and get on each other constantly, which is so entertaining.

His sister-in-law and her family are so sweet. We bond over the fact that we are married to such similar men and complain about their lack of communication skills.

His Dad has a very distinct personality, but he is the sweetest man I’ve ever met. He loves his children and calls me his daughter.

I got very lucky with my in-laws! And although I know they probably questioned Jeremy’s choice to get hitched so fast to some random Cali Girl, they have been nothing by kind to me.

I love Wisconsin and I can’t wait to move there after Jeremy gets out of the military. I love the open space and the farmland. I love the small town community. The only downside so far is the snow lol

I can’t wait to live in Wisconsin and be close to Jeremy’s family, especially now that we have a niece, a nephew and two more on the way! I love how close his family is. How much they value and love each other.

TBT: Our First Apartment

After Jeremy and I returned to San Diego as Mr. & Mrs. our first task was to get me registered as his wife in the system and for us to start looking for a place to live.

After we went to base and spent a few hours getting enrolled in DEERS and Tricare, Jeremy officially had a “dependent”; which meant he qualified for a housing allowance and was allowed to move out of the barracks!

We decided that we wanted to live somewhere between where I was going to school in San Diego, and where he was stationed at Camp Pendleton…which are about 50 miles apart.

We also wanted someplace cheap, since he was a low-ranking enlisted Marine and I was going to school full-time and working a part-time minimum wage job.

We decided on Escondido, CA

It met all of our criteria, being the fact that it was cheap (aka ghetto lol) and between my school and his job. (We found out later that it was actually a much longer commute for him because of the traffic. It would take me about 20-30 minutes and him at least an hour. Poor guy!)

So in April 2009, 2 months after we got married (and  Jeremy finally started seeing his housing allowance in his paycheck), we moved into our first place together!

It was a small 1-bedroom apartment and for the first month it contained only a futon and a TV. The reason being that I wasn’t going to be able to move in until May when my lease was up and I owned most of our furniture since Jeremy had been living in the barracks.

After I moved in, the apartment didn’t look too much better. If you can imagine a poor college student with hand-me-down furniture and a Marine with no possessions other than clothes and a TV combining their assets into a home…that’s what it looked like.

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Check out that awesome TV! lol

We bought a dresser for Jeremy off Craigslist, along with a $60 table from a garage sale and a $40 couch. Our old BOX TV sat on a hand-me-down chest from my Dad and we only had 1 nightstand. Our pots and pans and dishes were hand-me-downs from my Mom (who took the opportunity of their daughter getting married to buy themselves new dishware and give me the old stuff lol).

We barely had anything, but we had everything we needed.

I have fond memories of that apartment. Of that crappy couch and old TV. We didn’t have much money to go out so we would spend most nights snuggled up on the couch watching movies together.

I learned to cook for 2 in that apartment, and I set off the smoke alarm more than a few times.

We snuggled up next to each other every night in that tiny full-size bed, just happy to be able to be together finally.

TBT: The Wedding Night

After my Dad finished taking what felt like a million photos and tearing up over the fact that his little girl was now a married woman, he finally left me and Jeremy at the hotel to check into our room and enjoy our wedding night.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
We took some sappy photos, “consummated” our marriage a few times (no reason to beat around the bush, you all knew it was coming with the title of this post! lol), and got ready to head to dinner.

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100_0342Part of the Valentine’s Day package my Dad had bought us at the hotel included a $100 gift card to the hotel restaurant. One would think that would buy us a awesome dinner, but Jeremy and I are pizza and burger type people, so the food selection was not very impressive, and we still had to spend an extra $50 on top of the gift certificate (like I said, it was a very classy (aka expensive) place)!

We also had to send back the champage they offered us in honor of our marriage since we were underaged lol. You know you got married young when you have to drink sparkling cider on your own wedding night!

We did keep the champagne bottle they left in our room. Jeremy is planning on engraving it with our wedding date someday.

All in all it was a simple wedding night. We just enjoyed being together and being married, which was exactly what I wanted

TBT: The Elopement Part 2

Jeremy and I made the 8 hours drive up to my hometown on the Friday before we got married. I had the day off from class and he took leave to have a three day weekend. We both had to be back at school/work on Monday, so no honeymoon for us!

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We woke up Saturday morning, February 14, 2008 and got ready together for the big day. I wore my off-white summer dress that I had originally bought for the wedding, and carried my wedding dress with me to the courthouse. We had made an appointment for the morning since apparently Valentine’s Day is a popular day to elope at the courthouse!

We met my parents at the courthouse, along with my sister, my brother and his fiancee, and my BFF and her husband (who brought me a bouquet!). There were a total of 10 guests at our wedding, all of them being my immediate family except for my BFF and her husband (I had actually been a witness for their courthouse wedding a few months before). None of Jeremy’s family had the time or money to fly out to CA for our wedding, which is why we were planning our vow renewal for Wisconsin, so they didn’t have to spend money to travel anywhere.

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Getting married at the courthouse is kind of awkward, especially when you are wearing a full on wedding dress! I changed in the bathroom of the courthouse, and then had to wait around in the lobby in my dress before we went into our room. Jeremy stayed in another room because I didn’t want him to see me all dressed up until I walked down the aisle. I am glad I did that, because the look on his face when I walked in was amazing. What I remember most about that day was the smile on his face and when he whispered “you look beautiful” to me when I got up next to him.

My Dad walked me down the aisle, like he had always wanted to. He cried both times he walked me down, at my wedding and my vow renewal.

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The ceremony took place in a very ugly gray room. There was a awesome tacky archway they had put up for Valentine’s Day, that really classed up the place haha

It was a simple ceremony, short and to the point. We exchanged rings and when they asked me to say “I do” I spoke too soon. Apparently she wasn’t done reading. Funny thing is, I did the exact same thing when we renewed our vows haha. Apparently I was eager to get married!

We took some pictures in the lovely gray room and then headed out to lunch for the “reception”

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After lunch most of my family parted ways and my Dad came with me and Jeremy to the hotel so he could check us in and take some photos for us (my Dad has an art degree). I changed back into my wedding dress and we wandered around the hotel taking photos. It is a beautiful winery, and a lot of people actually pay big money to have their weddings there. My Dad knew the owner, so they let us take photos for free and use the ground as for our impromptu photo shoot.

I love the photos my Dad took and I am so glad that we have beautiful memories of our wedding day.

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Too be continued…

TBT: The Elopement!

So Jeremy and I were officially engaged as of December 26, 2008!

I posted it on my Facebook that day (of course!). Remember when Facebook statuses had to start with “Alison Hettema is….”? Yep, old school! My status read, “Alison Hettema is ENGAGED!”

We drove back down to San Diego after the Christmas holiday and started to talk about picking a date for the big day.

We knew we wanted to do it fairly soon, for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, we wanted to live together. My lease was up in May and Jeremy and I were ready to move in together, and since he was an E-4 at the time, we had to be married in order to get BAH (housing allowance).

We thought about having a small wedding in April over Spring Break, but that was shot down because Jeremy’s brother was deploying to Afghanistan in January for a year, and if we were going to have only one wedding, we wanted his brother to be up there with him. But that would mean having to wait at least a year and a half, and we didn’t want to wait that long to live together.

So we decided to just go to the courthouse and elope, and then have a big wedding the next summer when his brother was back from deployment. It seemed like a fabulous idea to me at the time, best of both worlds! We get to live together and start our lives together, but have time to plan a “real” wedding where all of our families could be there to celebrate with us.  (If you’ve read my previous post, I have come to somewhat regret that choice). But at that moment in time, it sounded like a perfect plan, and I was 100% on board.

I started planning a small elopement. I bought an off white summer dress, Jeremy got some slacks and a dress shirt. We found a nice restaurant to go to lunch at with my family after the ceremony. We set a date for Valentines Day, 2009 (which sounded super romantic at the time, 100% regret that decision now lol. Ever tried to go out on Valentines Day?! Everything is over crowded, over booked and over priced!)

My family, however, were not on completely on board. My Dad expressed that he was disappointed that it wouldn’t be a “real” wedding. He said that he had always dreamed of walking his daughter down the aisle in a white wedding dress. He laid on the guilt hard core. I see now that he just wanted to give me a perfect wedding so I didn’t have any regrets, but at the time I couldn’t appreciate that and I found his opinions to be incredibly frustrating and “unsupportive”.

But as a result of his incessant comments, I caved and bought a wedding dress off the rack a few weeks before the big day (which I am forever grateful for since our photos from that day turned out like actual wedding photos thanks to that dress and my Dad’s photography). I also let him get Jeremy and I a hotel room at a fancy winery for our wedding night.

So less than 2 months after we officially got engaged, Jeremy and I drove back up to my hometown and eloped at the courthouse on February 14, 2009.

To be continued….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy last minute off the rack dress + the winery my Dad got us a room at + a bouquet from my BFF/Maid of Honor = amazing wedding photos ❤