My husband is now a United States Navy Sailor. I am proud beyond words. No, really, beyond words. I have started and stopped typing at this blank screen for a good 15 minutes now, and I just can’t find a way to express the pride and the joy and the excitement I feel. Or just how amazing Friday, August 2, 2013 was. So. I’ll just let the pictures share what my words cannot. Because really guys, I don’t even know what to say.
After a LOOOONG day of driving, waiting, more flying, more waiting, delayed flights / connections, waiting some more, rental car mishaps, driving some more, and finally, hotel sweet hotel at 2am – my dad and I safely arrived in the Windy City.
The adventure was long and action packed. By action, I mean, my feet swelled up like marshmellows stuck in the microwave during the flights. I have come down with edema that would be fascinating if I were observing it in others, but simply freaked me the eff out when it was my own feet trying to eat my toes. My dad the coroner kept squeezing my ankles to see the pitting from the fluid retention and commenting, “That’s what ankles from corpses that died from congestive heart failure or deep vein thrombosis look like when I get them in the morgue.” My feet inflated so much that my shoes would not fit after the flight and I had to walk barefoot off the plane and through baggage check. So that was fun.
But it’s another day, my legs feel much better, and while my ankles and feet look like those stuffed Halloween store limbs you buy to stick out of the trunk of your car, the swelling has massively gone done. I just woke up from a delicious 8 hours of sleep, and am about to embark upon the great “Jonathan’s Navy Graduation” adventure. Which I insist starts with food, since I slept through the complimentary breakfast here at the hotel.
Anyhoo, this is more of a post to say that I won’t be posting in the next few days. Sightseeing, deep dish pizza, Lake Michigan and most importantly, my handsome sailor man awaits.
I can’t believe it’s here.. Sarge’s Meet in Greet is in just 6 1/2 hours, and then my honey graduates tomorrow morning. I’m in a kind of numbed emotional state (or maybe I’m just really hungry and still partially asleep), but I expect to explode in a frenzy of tummy tickles and pent up emotions any moment now. I’ll wrap this blog post up now before that occurs and spare you all the excessive caps, exclamation points and made up words I spew when I’m hyper and excited. ^_^
Thanks to everyone for all your love and support, and thank you to those reading my blog and keeping me busy during these last two months when I’ve been lonely and restless and pregnant without my husband! I appreciate you more than you know! See you guys after the weekend!! ^_^
I’m leaving tomorrow morning for Chicago to see my handsome husband graduate Navy Boot Camp as a United States Sailor. I’m going insane with last minute packing and with my preggo brain, I’m terrified that I’ll forget something vital to pack… hence this super long and largely common sense list that I’ve compiled. As I have personally never attended a Navy PIR, this is all info I’ve gleaned from seasoned Navy wives and mothers, and things that I’ve found that I personally would like to bring or include.
Since I’ve thoroughly raped this checklist in my Word documents, I thought I might as well share it with the blogosphere. I hope someone out there finds it helpful, haha!
THINGS TO BRING TO NAVY GRADUATION (PIR)
Plane tickets, hotel reservations and car rental information – Have all of your important travel reservations and documents handy, along with phone numbers and street addresses of hotel, car pick up / drop off locations, the Meet and Greet and the Great Lakes military base.
Phone, laptop and chargers – These are essentials for me when it comes to travel. I usually don’t forget the actual phone or laptop, it’s the chargers that I have a tendency to forget.
Camera, lenses, batteries, charger, memory card and uploading cord – One of my worst nightmares is the thought of forgetting my camera right before an important event, or just as awful, any one of the elements of my camera that are required for photography. I literally have nightmares before major happenings – my honeymoon, a vacation, a graduation – so I’ve gotten really anal about checking and double checking this part of the list. And just last week a gal on the 900 division Facebook group reported having to take photos on her iPhone because she forgot her camera’s SD cards! It happens. So make sure you have your camera, your lenses (standard and telephoto), your batteries, your cameras charger and an uploading cord for getting your photos safely stored onto your laptop ASAP.
Your toiletries and medications – I could go on an even greater checklist with this little category (and my unabridged checklist on my iPhone notebook does just that), but for brevities sake – toiletries and medications. You know what you need / want.
Make up with waterproof mascara – Emphasis on the waterproof mascara. Don’t forget to pack make-up remover wipes as well. (Or better yet, don’t wear any makeup on PIR day, to avoid smudging the Navy whites.)
Outfit for the Meet and Greet – From what I can tell, the attire is casual. I plan on wearing a nice-ish top and leggings, with comfortable pumps.
Centerpiece and place cards for the Meet and Greet – Division families are encouraged to show support for their divisions by creating centerpieces for the tables at Sarge’s Meet and Greet. It’s obviously not a requirement, but our division group is so tight knit and ambitious, we went all out and plan to take the Meet and Greet by storm. In a fit of Martha Stewart-esque craftiness I decided I’d make personalized origami boat place cards for all the people in our group and ensure that we can all sit together.
Gifts for fellow division families at the Meet and Greet – If you were lucky enough to find an amazing support group of fellow Navy families from your sailors division through Facebook that you plan to meet up with, show your appreciation for their company and support with a small gift, candy, cards, whatever (if you’d like, it’s certainly not mandatory)! In the first few weeks of discovering my new online friends, I decided to make up a batch of patriotic lapel pins as gifts. The group has since grown to a number that exceeds the lapel pins I made, so my generosity and act of friendship is only extending to the 938 Facebook old-timers. (Classy, I know, lol.)
Parking passes, base pass and IDs – Make sure you have all of this printed out and set aside prior to leaving for Great Lakes. These guys don’t mess around. If you don’t have the appropriate documents, you won’t be getting in to see the graduation.
Outfit for the PIR – The going consensus is that the attire is business casual, though there is currently no enforced dress code, so jeans and a tee are welcomed. But really? Jeans and a tee for a NAVY GRADUATION? Come on. I’m planning on wearing a nice navy blue knee length day dress. I was agonizing trying to find the perfect dress to show off my baby bump to my husband, and had planned on wearing a 1950’s style circle skirt with an empire waist, but finally decided to opt for something simple, comfortable and classy.
Comfortable walking shoes – Make sure you plan to wear comfortable walking shoes – if your sailor wants to go out on the town, you may be spending the day in whatever you are wearing.
Support ribbons or attire – Don’t forget to pack any ribbons or other support trinkets if you are planning on sporting them to the PIR.
Jacket or wrap – I have been hearing rumors that the PIR room is pretty cold. A lot of gals online are advising bringing something warm to cover up with, like a light jacket or a wrap.
Tissues – If you’re not crying like a baby, you’re a robot. Or a monster. Or a robotic monster. Anyway, make sure you bring something to sob into when you see your sailor on the PIR floor. And when you hear liberty call. And, you know, for the whole weekend.
Graduation gifts for your sailor – I got my husband the Performance Division’s Ship 2 Challenge Coin, and a leather Burberry bomber jacket that I found pre-used for an AMAZING deal. I am going to wrap them and bring them in my checked luggage, but as I have had wrapped gifts unwrapped by TSA before, I’m bringing extra paper just in case I need to re-wrap.
Sailors cell phone and charger, and other electronics. – Your sailor will be able to take these things with them to A School, but they have to be handed off at the airport after their day of leave. I’m going to make sure I have Jonathan’s phone charged and activated during his free time after graduation though, as I’m sure he’d enjoy checking his phone, logging onto Facebook or Google searching random things throughout the day.
Sailors rings and personal jewelry – I’ve been wearing Jonathan’s wedding ring and his Aragorn ring on a necklace since he left for Boot Camp. I can’t wait to see them back on his fingers, and I’m sure his hands have felt naked without them.
Change of clothes for your sailor – If you plan on spending any time in your hotel room, give your sailor the option of changing our of their sailor uniform and into some comfortable and familiar clothes. I’m planning on bring my husband some pajamas, an actual outfit (jeans a tee shirt), and one of his favorite loose hoodies so he has a choice of what to wear / change into.
Your sailors favorite cologne, deodorant or shampoo – While Jonathan isn’t big on cologne, he does love him his Axe brand shampoos and deodorants. People talk about how much their sons / husbands loved returning to their familiar and personalized scents and grooming products. I don’t know how much the gesture will be one that Jonathan delights in, but I’d rather have that option open to him if it would make him feel that much more “at home”.
Lingerie and massage oil – This is for the wifey’s (obviously). I don’t know when / if we’ll have time to ditch the in-laws and indulge in some, uh, quiet time – but in the off chance that we do, I am planning on bringing my classy honeymoon lingerie as a sweet surprise (Don’t look at me like I’m some kinky temptress, it cover more than the average swimsuit. I wore this for my 30 week maternity photos), and some massage oil, and I’m hoping to give my honey a long, relaxing, peaceful massage. Hey, he’s earned it!
Lint roller and tide pen – The sailors must wear their white uniforms in public at all times during PIR weekend, so if you are planning on going out and about, make their life easier and have a lint roller and tide pen to keep them neat and clean.
Dental floss, mint gum, chapstick – Keep some handy “just in case” essentials in your purse. This is not the weekend to be irritated and made uncomfortable by a pesky / stubborn piece of food stuck in your (or your sailors) teeth. Or chapped lips. Or a rank breath from the extra garlic on your deep dish Chicago pizza. Take extra steps to make the weekend a cheerful, joyous, stress free one for all!
Change / cash for toll booths – If you plan on driving in to the Chicago area at all, make sure you have loose change and cash on hand for parking, toll booths and various expenses.
Directions to places you may want to see in Chicago – In my experience, a GPS can get really spotty once you get into the downtown areas. So it’s a good idea to know where you are going, what the address is, and a the directions for getting there instead of embarking on a point by point Google maps excursion.
Letters for your sailor – I have been writing to my husband every single day since he departed for Navy Boot Camp two months ago. Even though I’ve had to stop sending letters with his PIR date approaching, I have not stopped writing them. I plan to bring the unsent letters for him to read on his plane trip to A School.
Book for your sailor to read on the plane – I have not gotten a clear response on whether sailors will have room for an extra book on their flight to A School, but I figure it wouldn’t hurt to bring my bookworm baby a novel just in case. If he can’t take it, I’ll just have to bring it to him when I follow him to A School later.
Well, I am quickly approaching the one month mark of my husband being away for Navy Boot Camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. Since he’s left, in the past four weeks I have received one four minute phone call, and zero written letters. It’s been a complete blackout.
It appears other divisions with his graduation date are receiving regular letters and calls – and have been from week one! It’s a little hard to not be bitter when I hear, “Got a third phone call today!” Or, “Seven more letters came in the mail today!” I’m not sure what the hold up is with Jonathan’s division – though I’m sure being a performance and push division has something to do with it – but at the moment I’m not feeling like the average wife with a husband in Boot Camp. It’s like the universe is conspiring against me and my sanity. Not hearing from my sailor recruit like other families are hearing from theirs, I KNOW I am having a harder time with the distance and the silence. As a result I’ve found that these following tips have done wonders to keep me healthy, happy and distracted this past month – and will continue to help keep my sanity intact for the remaining five weeks of separation.
Like I said, I’m new to all this. So the following tips are less personal sage advice and more a result of good recommendations from military family and friends, personal observations, plus some plain ol’ common sense.
1. KEEP BUSY
This is the main key here, the North Star if you will, the primary foundation upon which all the other points rest. It’s just a simple fact that sitting around feeling sorry for yourself will not help the time go faster, in fact it will actually make the time go slower. If you’re busy, there will be some days where you’ll be surprised at how fast the time flies! Get yourself a calendar and start writing down things that you can do to keep yourself busy each day, along with a checklist of things you’d like to do to keep busy in the future. The only thing is: Don’t overbook yourself in the name of keeping busy! That’s what I did the first week Jonathan left. My back to back social whirlwind the first week was a little overwhelming and not only did I exhaust and stress myself, but I actually made myself sick. So keep busy, but don’t overdo it.
2. WRITE TO YOUR HUSBAND EVERY DAY
This will not only make the separation easier on both of you, but it’s actually quite therapeutic! Tell him all about your day. The good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Send song lyrics. Send pictures. Nothing is too trivial. Having been text-aholics prior to Jonathan leaving, we were in the habit of sharing little thoughts and jokes and funny tidbits to one another throughout the day. So I’ve found that it’s easier to open a notepad in my phone and keep a running note of things I’d like to share with Jonathan throughout my day. That way, when I sit down to write the actual letter, I have everything from the important, “The dog ate our couch” to the trivial, “Your cat threw up on the comforter again. You owe me Starbucks.”
3. SPEND TIME WITH FRIENDS
DO NOT NEGLECT YOUR FRIENDS WHEN YOU ARE ALONE AND HUBBY IS AWAY. Get out and invest in your friends. No one is or should be an island. You will need a shoulder to cry on from time to time, trust me! Besides, time flies when you are having fun with friends, and you need – now more than ever – the social interaction and emotional support of those who care for you. I, personally, could use another crafting date soon, nothing speeds up time faster than watching your friends scald themselves with hot glue. Oh oh oh! Or High School Musical marathon! Yes! Another High School Musical Marathon!
4. FIND A NEW HOBBY AND LEARN SOMETHING NEW
Go bowling. Start a walking routine. Learn to write in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Whatever you do, do something you’ve never done before. Nothing requires more focus, attention, or energy than trying to master a new skill. Not only will you be widening your range of interests, but it will help the time fly! (And give you plenty of new things to talk about with your sweetie when he gets home!)
5. ACTUALLY MAKE THE PROJECTS ON YOUR PINTEREST
Everyone has one and you’re lying if you say you don’t. You know what I’m talking about. It’s “the board” on Pinterest, the one covered in the do it yourself tutorials for random household goods and crafts that you don’t need but desperately want to try your hand at. Well, now’s the time. Go ahead and bake those Oscar the Grouch cookies. Make that melted crayon canvas art. If it looks like a train wreck, you can always blame it on your husband being gone. “Being sad makes my art look like poop!”
6. GIVE YOURSELF A PILE OF BOOKS TO READ
There is something encouraging about giving yourself pile of books that you desperately long to read, and realizing, “There’s no way I could read all of those before he graduates.” I am a bookworm, and my “must read” list is sinfully huge, so it’s simultaneously encouraging and depressing looking at how many notches I can put in my book list before seeing my honey again. Any nerd can tell you, gauging time by book pages is a rewarding experience. Read whatever helps you pass time time. Read fantasy and non-fiction. Read self-help and informational books. Read manga and history books. Devour it all. ALL DA BOOKS!!!
7. WATCH A NEW TV SERIES / VIDEO GAME SERIES / HAVE A MOVIE MARATHON
Now is the time to rewatch your favorite TV / movie / game series. Or better yet, introduce a friend to your favorite series! Know anyone that needs to be hooked (then subsequently emotionally crushed) with some Firefly? (Don’t tell them it was prematurely cancelled and then revel in the sweet tears of their gut-wrenching sorrow.) You could also organize a mini party to watch your favorite movie series… I made my friends watch the High School Musical movies with me. (Not sure how that one devolved into a drinking party.) Or, just make a living room fort and settle in to watch the new series you have been meaning to watch. (FINE Dr. Who bullies, I’ll watch your stupid show now!)
8. KEEP ABREAST OF LOCAL AND NATIONAL NEWS
Here is one point where almost every Navy wife out there has disagreed with me. The primary fear is that “the news is too depressing”. But I am firm believer that ignorance is not bliss, it’s just ignorance. And that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing”. It’s so important to be an educated voter and to know why you believe the things you believe. Every social injustice on the planet has been carried out under the noses of a complacent public. Do not become one of the mindless and ignorant sheeples that helps cock up the country that your husband is swearing his life to defend and protect. Know whats going on in the world. Get involved. Do your part to defend and uphold the freedoms your husband is fighting for.
9. GET INVOLVED IN LOCAL GROUPS
Search Facebook, your local newspaper, or just ask around your friends to see what’s going on in your community. Get involved in local parenting groups, special interest meet up groups, cosplay and geek convention groups, and generally keep an eye on local events. Aside from friendship and hobby networking, consider getting involved in political groups and social activism. Take the time to volunteer for causes you care for. Homeless shelters, animal rescues, pregnancy resource centers and community clean up events are always happy to have extra helping hands. It’s personally edifying, and you are making a difference in your community to boot!
10. PUT YOURSELF THROUGH A DOMESTIC BOOT CAMP
Life is a journey to better yourself and your family, and that doesn’t halt when hubby is away. What skills and tasks do you find vital to running a happy home? Look at areas that need improvement or ways that you can improve in the daily chores of your household. Focus on time management. Or cleaning tips. Or give yourself a financial overhaul. I find it’s helped me when I set up a routine and checklist of things I’d like to improve or accomplish before Jonathan comes home. That way while he’s off bettering himself to better our family, I know that I’m doing my part to do the same.
11. PAMPER YOURSELF
Do this. At least once a week. Take a candlelight bubble bath. Indulge in some aromatherapy. Try out a new hair cut or color. Give yourself a manicure. Do something special to spoil yourself and destress. You deserve it!
12. CULTURE YOURSELF
Make a point of expanding your horizons. Go to museums. Attend art walks. Try new foods, exotic cuisines and listen to new or unfamiliar music. Whenever I get restless, I just start planning my next vacation and learn about the local cultures and heritage of the region. There is so much to learn, and experience, and see and do in this great wide world, and once you peek at the myriad things you’d like to do on your bucket list, it’s hard to want to stay sitting on the couch feeling sorry for yourself.
13. FOCUS ON YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE
Now is the time to start a new Bible study or commit to a new devotional. Those theological aspects of Bible study that you keep brushing off because they are too labor intensive? Now is the time to pursue them! Do a study on the aspects of the Trinity. Spend a day reading about the use of anthropomorphisms in the Bible. Relearn the history and historical implications of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Take a course in apologetics. Invest time in prayer and dive into a deeper relationship with your Savior. Get plugged into a church body. Whatever you do, keep Christ centered in your life! His promises never fail, and with Him, you are never alone.
14. NETWORK WITH FELLOW NAVY FAMILIES
There are so many references and websites out there for family members of Navy sailors. A couple of resources that I definitely recommend is the official U.S. Navy Recruit Training Command Facebook page. In addition to posting photos of sailor recruits in boot camp, and airing live graduation ceremonies on Fridays, they will hook you up with your sailors PIR group Facebook page, where you can connect with all the other families that will be at your sailors graduation. From there you can join your sailor recruits individual ship and division group, so you can connect with the moms and wives of sailors who are working alongside your husband. It’s great for morale, camaraderie, networking, and keeps you abreast of any news regarding your honey.
15. START A PERSONAL OR FAMILY BLOG
Post photos, personal thoughts, chronicle your new journey into being a military wife, etc. etc. This blog has been a life saver for me. I started it one month prior to Jonathan shipping out to Great Lakes, and it gives me something to do, gives me something to focus on, and is already a joy to look back on. It’s also connected me to so many other Navy wives and families, fellow geeks and cosplayers and crafters, and tons of photography buffs. If you don’t already have a blog, start one, even if it’s set to private. It’s been one of the best investments of my time since my hubby left.
Hope these tips help you as they’ve helped me! If I’ve forgotten anything that you’ve found essential during separations, let me know!
I am a happy happy happy woman today because I received a letter from my husband who, as most of you know, is away at Navy Boot Camp. When it arrived in the mail yesterday I was so hyper dancing around the house singing that the dog started howling. Not even joking.
Granted, what I received in the mail was less of a letter and more of a form, but it doesn’t matter. I’m still walking on air! (And he snuck my pet name, FreeCougar, on the recipient line. Tricksy boy!)
The form provided his mailing address and his graduation date, which is set for August 2, 2013. (Only 48 more days to go! We got this.)
For those of you who know Jonathan, and even to those of you who don’t, but would like to adopt a sailor – if you would take a moment to write him an encouraging letter, send a card, or even drop him a brief line, it would be greatly appreciated! I want to smother him in love and support!
Jonathan will be at Boot Camp during his first Fathers Day as a daddy (June 16th), his 28th birthday (June 25th) and Independence Day (July 4th, duh).
If you would like to drop him a line, his mailing address is:
SR Freeman, Jonathan T
Ship 02, DIV 938
Recruit Training Command
3600 Ohio St.
Great Lakes, IL 60088-7105
This is the longest we have ever been apart and I know he is missing his wife, his unborn daughter and his five cats. Also, apparently the 900 divisions in Navy Boot Camp entail extra performance duties, so Jonathan has additional tasks to learn and rehearse and events to attend on top of the expectations required of him in Boot Camp, so he’s working extra hard. Any support and encouragement would be greatly appreciated! I am so proud of my handsome husband.