Monday, January 30, 2012

Stop Racism

This happened on TAM airlines.

A 50-something year old white woman arrived at ...her seat and saw that the passenger next to her was a black man. Visibly furious, she called the air hostess.

"What's the problem, ma?" the hostess asked her
"Can't you see?" the lady said - "I was given a seat next to a black man. I can't seat here next to him. You have to change my seat"

- "Please, calm down, ma" - said the hostess
"Unfortunately, all the seats are occupied, but I'm still going to check if we have any."

The hostess left and returned some minutes later.

"Madam, as I told you, there isn't any empty seat in this class- economy class.
But I spoke to the captain and he confirmed that there isn't any empty seats in the economy class. We only have seats in the first class."

And before the woman said anything, the hostess continued

"Look, it is unusual for our company to allow a passenger from the economy class change to the first class.
However, given the circumstances, the commandant thinks that it would be a scandal to make a passenger travel sat next to an unpleasant person."

And turning to the black man, the hostess said:

"Which means, Sir, if you would be so nice to pack your handbag, we have reserved you a seat in the first class..."

And all the passengers nearby, who were shocked to see the scene started applauding, some standing on their feet."

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Has it Really Been Eight Years?

It was April, 2004. Mark had come home for R&R.
He had done some traveling through East Europe before coming home.
I remember looking forward to seeing my bestfriend.
How much I missed him. How much I loved him and thankful he was coming home, even for a visit. I knew so many people wanted to see him; friends as well as family.
But to my surprise and a happy surprise, Mark and I spend most of his visit together.
It was as if he hadn't deployed. Going shopping for things he needed back in Iraq, talking hours away over Starbucks, going to services on shabbat.
The above picture is from a birthday party given in Mark's honour. Yes, my glasses are crooked (I didn't notice at the time) It was a fun evening. I remember our host prayed for Mark and his unit's safely. I remember the sweet prayer of the youngest daughter, asking G-d to "bring Mr. Mark back to Laini"
Such sweet memories. Little did of us knew that a year later, Mark would be going through Chemo,, that  the little princess who prayed for Mark, who is now 15 years old, would be the flower girl in our wedding.
Eight years.
Can't say it's been dull.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Army Pup

I decided that since Montague has joined a military family, he needs some attire befitting an army dog. So I found this raincoat today;
I think it's pretty cute.
He's not so sure about the hood, however. But after he came in from his walk, Monte didn't want to take it off. So I think he likes it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

An Army Dog

Yesterday, after I finished some medical test, Mark said he had been thinking about getting me a puppy. Yes, there is no job right now, no money. And yet he thought this was the time to get a puppy.
But a funny thing happen on the way to the SPCA.
During the holidays, we dog sat for some friends. After returning home and finding that we had bonded with the little guy, the family offered us the dog. They already have another small dog and felt both were not getting the attention they truly needed.
So that's is how Montague Theodore Reel, Yorkshire-Papillon came to live with us.
Montague is about 13 years old, though he niether looks or act like it. A smart, sharp little guy with a will of his own.  And he is a lapdog. He loves to jump into folks laps and be cuddled. He has been with us three weeks now and is adored by everyone he meets.
Except PitBulls. For some reason, Monte and Pits do not like each other. And while for the most part, he does play well with other big dogs, he does think he can take on any big dog.
But then, Monte thinks he is a big dog.
The biggest miracle is Mark. Not that he and Monte get along. We both love dogs. But Mark believes that a dog is a dog and a human is a human. He doesn't believe dogs should be fed from the table, sleep on beds, sit of the sofa or wear clothes.
But in the past three weeks Monte has lived with us, this has all changed. Gues who feeds Monte from the table, lets sit with him on the sofa and makes sure he has on his sweather before he goes out?
So now we are the parnets of a furry creature named Montague. And during this time of trials, he has brought so much joy and laugher to our home, chasing away the blues and giving us another reason to get up in the morning.
It does cause me to wonder if there is another deployment in our future. It was one of the reasons Mark wanted me to have a dog. So I wouldn't be alone and have something else to focus on.
Not a bad idea.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Deployment: Make it Work

With each deployment, I learned new things.
One of the things I learned for us, deployment is a lifestyle. Mark is a Civil Affairs officer and his skills are still very much needed. So, until he retires, this is our life.
Yes, I missed my husband; my beloved, my lover, my bestfriend, my playmate.
But the distrance just made me realise how much I loved him and how Mark loves me.
With each deployment, I learned where my strenghts and weakness were.I put to use skills and talents I allow to lay dormate, such as sewing.
I had started a quilt for Mark, but with the wedding, honeymoon and then moving into our first apartment, the quilt got push to the back burner.
So with the 2007-2008 deploymnet, I began working once again on Mark's quilt.
I also began to ask to decorate our Fellowship room for special events our former Temple would have. Not only did this take me out of myself, but it was something that brought joy to others. I found skills I didn't know I had, such as making small repairs around the house. I began taking long walks again, keeping my health up, knowing if I didn't Mark would worry.
I kept our lives going as much as possiable. Mark needed to know that the home fires were still burning, that I still needed him, but until he returned to my side, I was strong enough to stand.
During the 2009-2010 deployment, I found a new hobbey, photography. While I have always loved to take pictures, while Mark served overseas, I horned in my skills. And who knows, I might even be able to learn a little money with my cameria.
So I had something new to share with Mark whenever he called. I would tell him about the pictures I had taken during the day; our neighourhood, the dogs playing in the Dog Park, some of the places of worship in our city. He would in turn send me pictures of where he served, giving me a glimpce of his world.
From time to time, I would meet one of his fellow soldier via the phone. They spoke with such respect of my Beloved, I could here the pride they had in serving under Mark, working with him. They told funny stories, such as two of the soldiers actually cleaning his desk and threatening his if he messed up again. I asked their secret since he still doesn't keep his desk straight. I grew to have more appreaction for Mark as I saw him through others eyes.
It is a wise family that learns deployment to make them better people, to grow and to learn from it.
I learned who my friends really were. I even made new friends. 
I took hold of deployment and made it work for me.
And you can too. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Army Strong

Ah love. The beauty of a married builded on love, respect, faithfulness, trust and yes, even passion. A happyily married couple is a pleasure to be around. A man or woman who has a joyful marriage, is a good employee/boss. A good marriage even leads to a longer, healther life.
The miliarty now understands that the family is the backbone of the armed services and have for several years help to devolpe programs to strenght both miliarty families.
Separation is never easy, but there are now more resources to assisted the serviceperson and their families.
I remember a few years ago, one of Mark's former CO's once  told him, "one day, all of this (the army) will go away. What will remain is your marriage."
How true. One day, Mark will retired from the service. Our life together will continue.
It reminds me of raising children. One day, our children will grow up and begin lives of their own. What remains is the marriage. And if the couple was wise enough to put and keep thier relationship first and formost, the second half of their life together will be even more amazing.
This doesn't mean there won't be difficultes, rough patches and those storms that with test the marriage. But a couple united in love and committment wll weather through and find their marriage even stronger.
I know. Last year, Mark and I saw ours tested through his depression. The stression, the fights, the loud silence. But I made a promise almost seven years ago, I bond my life with this man and I would leave him when he needed me the most.
But Mark also wanted to heal and together we sailed through that dark storm and came out the stronger.
Mark has come up several little songs she has made up about me, but there is one that sums up this post:
"I'm a happy soldier, I'm a contented soldier...
'cause I have the best wife, she is the perfect wive..."
And to the miliarty's credit, the service now knows that happy, content spouses who know their loved ones are taken care of back home, makes for strong army.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Back to The Real World

SkyTop Lodge. A magical, winter wonderland, filled with adventure and a hint of romance. From ice skating to dog sledding, to swimming in the inside pool to  just sitting before a roaring fire with friends, there is so much you can do.
Or just enjoy an evening cuddling in your cabin.

Even ice fishing.
So after our weekend with Strong Bonds, it is now it is time for the Reel family to return to the real world.
I wish we had more time to just enjoy SkyTop Lodge. There is so much to do here. So much ground to cover. I am just thankful for the two times we have been able to come.
The tools we took away have been most helpful. Simple yes, but it made solving disagreements and issues that have and will arrive in marriage.
We learned the importance of timing. Sometimes this is not the best time to talk, so we have to agree to a time, when calm to discuss and resolve the matter.
For me, this means going away to pray or write in my journal, my feelings, so I am not coming to our meeting still angry or reacting. And it gives Mark that same space.
But both husband and wife have to agree to this, otherwise, it is not going to work.
It's funny, but we are three weeks to the day out, and we are still taking about the things we have learned.
And I find I really like my husband. Not just love him, but like him. Mark is a fun guy. He has a great sense of humour, loves to just clown around. I love to listen to him read out loud or hear him play. How his eyes flash when he plays with a baby or a dog. I love his laugh and how he strokes my cheek.
And the tripping over his boots. I laugh, because it means he is home.
The magical winter wonderful has faded into a lovely memory.
But my real world is just as magical.

Strong Bonds: The Last Day

Sunday morning began with Chaplain Demetrius giving a sermen on marriage, based on Eph. chapter five.
And it was quite good. Demetruis not only drew from scripture, but every day examples to share about the beauty of marriage.
Afterwards came the renewal of vows.
As hebrews, we don't renewal of vows, because we don't take vows when getting married in the first place. We are as married as we are going to be. As rabbi Mark said, "it's a very romantic moment."
And it was.
Chaplain Demetrus performed the brief, but beautiful ceremony. Mark and I took our rings and then slipped them back on each other's finger.

And then, first husbands and then wives, read the words, recommitting ourselves to each other.

And you may kiss your bride.
It was a beauiful moment.
Later we learned which couple won the Date Night Contest. It was our newly-weds who recreated their first date.
Mark and I came in second.
When things winded down and everyone saying goodbye, we exchange adresses with new friends.
It was truly an amazing weekend and I cannot recommend Strong Bonds to every miliarty couple. Mark and I picked up a few more skills that help our marriage. And while we already have an amazing relationship, Strong Bonds just made it more so.
My only complain: it should one day longer.
P.S; As of this writing, using the tools we learned, Mark and I have not had one "intense fellowship" (fight

Strong Bonds: Date Night

The afternoon session, the couples were broken into two groups.

One would make a list of what we would look for in a friend. The other, what would look for in a spouse.
The two list looked similiar.
I believe and most in the group agreed that friendship is very important in marriage. That you should marry your bestfriend.
I am blessed to have married mine.
Sometimes in marriage, with all the dailys of life, a couple can forget to just enjoy each other, spend time with each other. Sometimes, we forget to just sit down and talk.
Having fun is just as important to marriage as faithfulness and trust.
The next session was to me the most beautiful moment of the retreat.
Sexuality and Marriage.
Sex is a beautiful, wonderful expression of love between husband and wife. At that special moment, we are one, as G-d indeed. In fact, G-d rejoices over married love.
After all, it was His idea.
Rabbi Mark taught about what many wives wish their husbands knew and what husbands wish their wives knew about men.
It was here I saw my husband's heart touched. Not that we have a problem here (trust me, we don't).
But when rabbi Mark shared that when men make love to their wives, not only do they filled loved, but it is healing to his soul.
Upon hearing these words, Mark turned to me and stroked my cheek and whispered the word, "true."
Rabbi Mark is a wonderful and gentleman and his words painted a romanctic back drop for the couples for date night.
So as we were walking back to our cabin, trying to think of something to do, I turned my anke and found myself limping.
We got back to the cabin and Mark got some ice for my anke.
We took a nap and then Mark went out and got supper and we spend the evening in our cabin, sharing the evening meal, Mark applying more ice to my anke and cuddling in bed.
The only missing was a roaring fire

Strong Bonds: Saturday Evening


The afternoon sessions ended with intructions for date night.
It was a contest to see which couple had the best date night. You didn't have to take part, but there would be a prize.
More about that later.

On our way back to our cabin, Mark and I talked.
I shared with him my own insights. For the retreat has been an eye opener for me.
When I was a child, I had a poor sense of direction and would often get lost. Therefore, as I got older, I would do a check and double check of directions. sometimes the directions given would be wrong and I would again find myself lost. While I did learn how to retrace my steps, it was and is still cause for panic and in insecurity for me.
So the issus wasn't really the fact that Mark didn't feel a need for the map. It was the fear of he did not know where we were. That fed into my unsecurity.
I also realise my panic said to Mark, I didn't trust him.
But I did, because when ever we found ourselves lost, Mark would stop and ask for help. Thus I knew he would get us where we needed to be.
So, how did we resolute this?
I told mark I had been thinking about how to help him. I learned from my mother to always write a list of everything we would need for a trip. I would make sure the map was included on the list.
Mark, liking the idea, promise to buy a map and leave it in the car. We ago agreed to look at the map together and highlight with a marker our travel route and go online to get printed directions.
I also Mark, even if all of this, we might still get turned around. When that happens, I remind myself I can trust you to get me where I need to be.
Mark agreed. And he said when he sees me panic, he will take my hand and remind me, "honey, I got you, it's ok."
As we laid down for a nap, Mark took me in his arms and said; "This weekend has been good for us. I have been reminded of all the reasons. I love you. This afternoon, I realised your love healed me."
I cried as I fell asleep in his arms.
"I hope those are happy tears."
All I could do was nod.
They were.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Strong Bonds: Saturday Afternoon

After lunch and a quick nap, the afternoon sessions began.
We entered the room to find....a mess.
My first thought was; Who Let the Dogs Out?
What appeared to be a mess (paper plates, cups, big red balls little cones and pillows) was really a Mine Field. It was both a game and a teaching tool.
The wives went over to one side of the room where our husbands blindfolded us.
I am praying up a storm because the thought of walking about, not being able to see is not my favourite thing to do.
As you can see, I am not a happy camper. I felt like at any moment someone was going to put a cigarette in my mouth and ask me if I had any last words.
The husbands did with to the other side of the room and on the word GO!, they were to yell across the room and guide their blind wives through the Mine Field, not touching the stuff on the floor.
There were so many voices, I could not hear Mark. So I stood there, looking cute, not moving until I hear his voice. From time to time I would hear: "Can you hear me now?" Then and only then did I move. Finally, the voices died down and I could hear Mark.
And then the gamed ended.
The staff realised the game, while a good idea, would have worked better with a smaller group. So this time, the wives tied blind folds over the eyes of the husbands. We would stand just before them and guide them with our voices through the Mind Field.
What Mark and I learned was the following:
1. I wasn't going to more until I could hear Mark's voice. That meant I really had to listen.
2. Mark, knowing I couldn't hear him, waited until he could call to me and I could hear and follow his lead.
This is called trust. We trust each other to guide each other through the Mine Fields of Life.
For me, I follow a spiritual lesson: "The L-rd is my Shepherd, I shall not want...." "I am the Good Shepherd and my sheep hear My Voice." Moshe, during his time in the desert, took care of sheep, learning to lead a great flock, his people out of Egypt. The shepherd boy who became king, David learned to pray, worship as well as how to lead and protect the nation he would one day take his place on the throne.
We were told to keep the lesson of the Mine Field in our next session.
Events and Issues.
Events and issues do arise in every marriage.
An event: Mark has drill this weekend. We decide to meet at the Kosher Palace (no such place, would be nice) for supper Saturday at six pm.
At the last minute, Mark is called into his Co's office to help with a project, forgetting to call me to let me know he is going to be late.
Plus, because it is shabbat, his phone is turn off.
So here I am, sitting pretty, waiting for my husband.
At first, I'm not too concern. Traffic no doubt and I order a coke.
30 minutes past and I check the messages at home, thinking Mark is running late and left a message on the home phone. No message.
Maybe he took a friend home. He's been known to do that.
Another 30 minutes past and I am now getting worried. Was there an accident? Was he robbed. Maybe he's laying on a dark street, bleeding, calling out my name....
And in comes Mark, running to the table.
Not bleeding.
Now, instead of "Thank G-d! Your fine!" I am ready to kill him.
"Honey, I'm sorry, I needed to stay back..."
"And you couldn't call me? Mark you always do this!"
"But honey if my boss tells me I have to stay and work...."

"You care more about your boss and your job than you do me!"
"That's not true and your being unreasonable. You have no understanding of how my job works..."
So now we have gone into a full blown fuss (though we would have left and done this at home).
What is the real issue? Is Mark always late? No. Does Mark always forget to call me? No.
But Mark is on the defenced and he is shooting back.
This is called a Mine Field. Because there are other matters, other "voices" screaming and we cannot hear each other.
So what we need is a "time off" to cool down and decide on a time to best handle this.
What is the real issue? What is underneath the surface?
Respect. I feel Mark is disrespecting me when he doesn't call and let me know he is going to be late. That my time isn't that important . That his CO and his fellow soldiers come before I do.
Mark feels I don't respect the fact that there are times his help is needed and he may have to put in longer hours.
Easy, yes? Yes and no.
It means learning to get to what the real issue is. It means learning to diffuse the mine fields and get to the heart of the matter and coming up with a way workable plan.
Mark leaves his cell phone on. I bring a good book.
And it was this exercise that resolved the problem of the map.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have A Dream" Speech

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
A man who won't die for something is not fit to live." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Strong Bonds: Saturday Morning.


Strong Bonds: The Retreat-Saturday Morning

It was a sunny, but chilly Saturday morning. Mark got up before I did to find out where and what time the classes began.
I was snuggled down in the softness of the king bed, when Mark said: "Laini, get up. The classes start at 8:00 am.
It was 7 am and I am not a morning person.
Yes, we had a fuss.
It seems we should have been there yesterday afternoon by 3:00pm because that was the opening sessions began. He didn't know that we were suppose to be there yesterday.
Here we go again.
I have to be honest; I had to work through this as well.
It really wasn't his fault because he didn't have all of the information, but I still have to work through my anger. Truth be told, I wasn't being very flexiable.
Thankfully, we weren't in trouble, the staff was just thankful we made it on time.

This is a picture of one of the cabins at SkyTop. They are rather warm and cozy. Only a five minute walk from the cabin to the main lodge where the sessions would be held.
The staff was made up of three chaplains: Chaplains Jonathan, Demetrius and Mark (Rabbi) Jonathan and Mark were married, Demetrius, single.
The resource used for the weekend was Prep For Strong bonds; Building Ready Families. It's a participant manual that we would work through. What I love about the manual is that it is something that Mark and I can continue to use in our marriage. It reminds me of the workbook we used when going through pre-martial counseling.

The first session, led by Jonathan was discussing the speaker-listening technique. While we missed the teaching class, we quickly caught on because it is a technique we already knew. In each of the packets given to the couples, there contain a tile, called The Floor. Whoever held the tile, had "the floor" and was the speaker.(sample: It upsets me when you leave the bottle of ornage juice sitting on the counter.") The other parther is the Listener. Then the floor is given to the other spouse. He or she repects back what they just heard ( so what your saying is, you don't like me leaving the orange juice sitting out.")
Some times, the orange juice sitting on the kitchen isn't really the issuse. What is the real issuse? Maybe it is one spouse is concerned that the orange juice sitting out will spoil and it has to be thrown away and that is a waste of money. The other spouse, feels they are being considerate by leaving the juice for everyone.
So how do we settle this issuse?
The couple will agree to sit down and settle the issuse.
If this was Mark and I, we would agree the juice pitch sits on the breakfast table until the meal is over and whoever cleared the table would put away the orange juice.
Simple yes?
But how many couples fight over such a simple matter.
As the morning wore on, my anger melted away. Mark not having the map wasn't the reason for my anger. It's a good reason to be upset, but not to be angry. During the morning session, I realize somthing esle was in play.
Something we would learn is, the hidden issuse.
After the break, Rabbi Mark led the session Readjustment: Deployment and Coming Home. He set the stage that marriage today is very different than in our parents, and in some ways unchanged.
Today, more wives work outside the home, not because of things the family wants, but because the family needs the extra income. Though when I was growing up, I knew very few homes where mum stayed at home. Today, more couples share the household duties and care of children. But the core values and needs are still there.
For miliatry families, there is now the added long deployments.
The group shared the pros and cons of deployments, how to be creative in staying in touch with the deployed soldier.
We then broke into soldier and spouses groups. I found this most helpful. Since Mark is a Civil Affairs officer, he is attached to a unit and send off. And I am left here with no support other than family and friends. Other spouses in the group had similair situations. We able to speak openly, knowing whatever was said, remained in that room.
I walked away, realizing, that as hard as these four deployments have been, I was truly blessed.
We headed out for lunch, at one of the little eaties at the lodge. The dinningroom prices were just a little too high.
We were invivted by another couple to join them. Then Chaplain Jonathan and his wife joined us. it was a nice lunch of hanburgers and just getting to know each other.
Later, Mark and I sat before a roaring fire and I fell asleep on Mark's shoulder as he stroked my cheek.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Strong Bonds: On Our Way

We started out mid-morning Friday morning.
It was a beauiful, sunny Jaunry. It felt more like autumn than winter. I stood in front of our car as mark loaded her with our suitcases, thinking what amazing life I have.
True,n either one of us are working right now. Mark's father recent back surgery, and me having all sorts of test. We stay half a paycheck from being put out on the streets and yet, I feel blessed.
I feel blessed because I am.
I watch Mark, this man I have the honour to call my husband, my lover and my bestfriend. A man I am willing to follow through hell itself, knowing he will lead me to heaven is on the other side.
And frankly, we are going through hell.
We had been to SkyTop Lodge three weeks ago for the Yellow Ribbon and looked forwarded to returning. True, we won't have much time alone. But it is still a lovely place for a get away.
And since the event counts as AT (Anuuel Training) Mark does get paid.
Money always helps.
An hour into our trip, we both laughed over the fact that we had forgotten our music CDs, so we listened to the radio once again.
Sometimes it was a talk program. Sometimes an oldie-but-goodness station laughing with happy surprise of "YOU know that song?"
We stopped for the stretching of legs and rest rooms. The weather was being to become chilly. Good thing we had jackets in the back seat.
I thought this was rather pretty, giving visitors of the rest stop a taste of the surroundings.
I never did find out the name of this river. Maybe one day.
Soon, we were back on the road again.
I rather like these times. Since August of last year, we have attended a miliarty program of one sort or another. The pay Mark recieved for each trip has truly helped, and the get aways have been great respite from all the stress we have been under.
During these rides we talk, we laugh. Mark tells me how much he loves me. And I share my love for him.
And then it happen.....
Mark who though he could remind how to get to SkyTop without a map, got lost.
At first, I managed not to get angry or panic. I chose to believe we would by the grace of G-d get back on track.
We didn't.
By six pm, we didn't have the faintest idea where we were.
And by now, my sense of adventure was long gone. The only reason why Mark lived was because I don't drive.
We did find a Rite-Aid, with a map. We were a half an hour from the Lodge. However, somehow, someway, Mark got turned around and we were heading AWAY from SkyTop.
And yes, I was mad. Mark, being a good sport, allowed me to vent.
No, I didn't hit him.
Finally, we did get back on track, seeing buildings and signs we recoginzed, leading us to the Lodge.
I had to work through my anger, not wishing for it to ruin our weekend.
It was about nine pm when we finally arrived to SkyTop. This time we would be staying in one of the cabins.
Mark went back to main lodge and found one of the food outlets opened.
Hamburgers never tasted so good.
Knowing we would have an early morning, we headed off to bed.
And I had to pray hard.
Yes, I was angry about Mark not having the map. I knew he was sorry.
And I wasn't going to allow this to ruin our weekend.
I had to pray hard that night.

Strong Bonds

 Last weekend (Januray 6-8) my husband and I attended a program known as Strong Bonds
And what is Strong Bonds?
Strong Bonds is a chaplain-led programs for commanders and thier families. Its mission is to increase soldier and the family readness through relationship education and skills training. There is so much pressure on military life today. Today we face more and long deployments that can put a stain on both marriage and family life. Strong Bonds helps the family not only to prepare for deployment and/or post-deployment, but helps the miliarty family to strenghten and keep the lines of communications open.
Couples like Mark and I volunteer to participate in a Strong Bonds retreat. Though it counts as AT for the soldier. It is held offsite, the retreat is design to maximize the family relationship training impact. Also known as a getaway, it provides a comfortable place for training, but for the couple to unwind. It is at these sites, chosen by the chaplens that offer emotionally safe and secure environment, where one can address the effects of miliarty life.
The Strong Bonds we attended was held at the amazing SkyTop Lodge, SkyTop, PA.

We had attended another event here, The Yellow Ribbon Reinteration about three weeks ago and was looking forward to our returning for what we knew would be an amazing weekend.
Strong Bonds first began in 1999, with four events and 90 couples in the 25th Division, Hawaii, Strong has since spread throughout the Active and Reserve Componernts of the Army.
In 2004, the US Code was amended to allow command funding for "chaplain-led programs to assist members of the armed forces--in bulding and maintainging a strong family structure," (Title 10-1789).
In the fiscal year of 2010, the Army completed the third year of a five year longitudinal study evaluating the outcome of Strong . Preliminary outcome shows a fifty percent lower rate in divorce with an increase in marital satisfaction for participants.
 Very true. For Mark and I walked away with a few tools in our toolchest. Even though it has been a week, we still are practicing the lessons we learned from Strong Bonds.
So why is this program so important to the Army?
Because strong families are the backbone of the Army. The Army realizes that when the Soldier's family is healthy and secure, the Soldier then can focus on the task at hand. Knowing thier loved ones are recieving the support needed back home, relieves their minds and hearts. Strong, loving marriages and relationships contribute to the maintenance of a healthy Army and a secure future force. While we have not gone through duty relocations, we have felt the stain of frequent deployments, we have had our relationship tested.
The research done on Strong Bonds has shown that the training couples recieves, improves communication skills, imtimacy and conflict management. As stated before, it increases marital satisfaction and reduces the rates of Family violence.
I am so happy to say that the Army sees the need and is going out of its way to help Soldiers and their Families get through the ups and down of Miliarty Life.
I highly recommand the Strong Bond Program to all our soldiers and their families.
It is truly worth the weekend.
If I had an complain, it would be it needs to be one day longer.

Love From Virginia

Now that the war in Iraq is over, I have thought about changing the title of this blog.But that would be wrong, for that is how this blog began.
It is more than my husband's last two deployments. It is the blog of our life as an Army Reservist family. Of life during the progress of predeployment, deployment and post-deployment. It is our lives when Mark returns home and has to return to every day life.

Mark's last deployment ended 15 months ago. In that time Mark has gone through the Wounded Warrior Program, caring for a sick friend, several knocks to our marriage, illness, and umemployment. Mark is amoung those Veterans who has been looking for work.
He did have one job that was contracted for six weeks. But it did little to get us back on our feet.
It is a daunting task to remain hopeful for 15 months of job searching and nothing. There has been several calls to hire Vets, but few are taking up the challenge.
Like so many, we too face losing our home, and we pray for G-d to step on our behalf. But not just us. For as I watch other miliarty families struggle with losing their homes, going on food stamps and worse, marriages breaking up under the strain.  I don't write this for pity, just stating hard facts.
It is hard to face twelve months of being in a warzone, away from home and loved ones, to fight for one's counrty and freedom, only to come home and find, you can't find a job or being tossed out of your home.
It is times like these we cling to the G-d of Abraham, Issac and Yacob. We hold onto our faith and we pray for each other. We helpe each other.
I pray for all of my fellow americans who are one paycheck away from being homeless. For those who need to find a job or create some means of earning an income to support themselves and care for their familes.
I remember when I was still doing private duty, caring for older folks who lived through the Great Depression. So many of my former patients would take me of how they came together as neighours, helping each other out. It was a time we as a nation learned to make do and to believe these hard times would not last forever.
I chose to believe that now. I chose to believe that our nation will not forget those who have served. I chose to believe that we as a people will continue to reach out our hands to each other.
I chose to continue believe in the goodness of America and her people.