May 11, 2016

A Truly Great Grandpa

My Grandpa Emery finished his beautiful life here on Earth today just shy of 93 years old. I know he is enjoying his first morning coffee, donut, and newspaper in Heaven right now.

Emery Rantz, husband, brother (to 10 siblings!), veteran, father, grandfather, great grandfather, and friend to many, was the epitome of a kind-hearted man. I think Eloise was the only one who got his title just right by honoring him as the great human that he was.

Here are just a handful of my favorite memories of and with my Grandpa Emery.

+ His love of cheese. He passed his cheese-loving gene on to me. He and I shared many sneaky snacks of sharp cheddar together.

+ His sports enthusiasm. For many seasons growing up, our annual Michigan State football tailgates included Grandpa Emery. He loved to hear the marching band warm up with the fight song echoing through campus. Grandpa Emery was also a devoted Cubs baseball fan. Someday (and that is a big, optimistic someday) when the Cubs finally win the World Series, I know it will be for him. Once while golfing with my dad and grandpa, I chipped a ball from a ways off the green and sunk it right into the hole. Trust me, it was a total fluke. But my Grandpa Emery, the avid golfer, smiled for weeks.

+ His smile. Getting Grandpa Emery to smile for posed family pictures was always a challenge. But when he was truly happy or proud? See for yourself throughout these pictures.

+ His love for Brad. Maybe it was their shared service or their matching kind hearts, or maybe Grandpa Emery was just glad to finally have a grandson! Whatever it was, their bond was special. Once the two of them got to chatting together, the rest of the world just faded away. His pride was palpable when they would video chat while Brad was in Afghanistan.

Receiving a flag flown in his name in Afghanistan from Brad

+ His simple pleasures. Grandpa Emery loved my grandma's homemade pie, ice cream, and a good dinner roll or three on his Thanksgiving plate. He loved attending Lakeshore softball games (sorry none of your granddaughters were even remotely athletic, grandpa). He loved his many mornings at Dale's Donuts with his buddies. He loved summer concerts at the bandshell downtown. I love that he cherished the little things.

+ His pride in his service. Grandpa Emery was a WWII veteran, serving alongside four of his brothers. He loved to talk about his time in Europe, and it was very clear how proud he was of his country. His oldest brother was killed in action at the Battle of the Bulge, and he honored him often in many conversations. I know traveling to West Point for our wedding and experiencing it's military history was a major highlight of his life.

+ His adventuresome spirit. My Grandpa Emery and his wife, my Grandma Jean, were married for 67 years and shared a lifetime of adventures. They loved to travel to Australia, and for 18 years they "worked" security at the Masters golf tournament. Their adventures together were beyond what many dream of.

October 1948

+ His family pride. Many of my classmates probably remember my grandpa as the random guy at the gas station who would ask anyone in a Lakeshore varsity jacket if they knew Whitney or Kayla Rantz. He was endlessly proud of my sister and I and was quick to tell anyone and everyone all about it. He was always in the stands for Friday night football, but he was actually just there to see Whitney cheerlead and me dance at halftime. Every time the honor roll was printed in the paper, we were quietly slipped a proud $20 bill from Grandpa Emery. Lately he loved to brag to his medical providers about my nursing career. He was all of our biggest fan.

+ His kindness. Hands down, my favorite thing about my Grandpa Emery was his kindness. His words always made you feel important, and his actions were always in the interest of others. He made friends everywhere he went, and he valued them all. Even in his last days, he was recalling fond memories from decades ago with such sharpness as if they were yesterday.

+ His role of great grandpa. The first time Grandpa Emery met Eloise, his spirits lifted and there was a new spark in his eyes. The rare but genuine smile I mentioned earlier was bigger than ever. He loved to admire her blonde curls, and her grin matched his sitting on his lap for a picture after her baptism just ten days before he passed. I cannot express the joy it brings me knowing Brad and I were able to give him the gift of knowing his great granddaughter.

With me in 1988 and with Eloise in 2015

I could go on and on. Instead, I think Eloise and I will go enjoy a cheese snack together in the sunshine and smile in appreciation of such a long and happy life. 

I think the hardest part of this for me is witnessing my dad's heart break in losing his own dad. This is the first time either my mom or dad have lost a parent. We have been fortunate to have so many great years with all four of them. Dad, I see so much of grandpa in you every single day. The way you love Eloise is exactly the way he has loved me.

Grandpa Emery, I will carry your kindness with me always. Rest peacefully. The head of the table at family dinners will never be the same without your smiling face. 

I love you so very much, and I miss you already.

May 8, 2016

For the Dreamers on Mother's Day

Becoming a mom to our Eloise has been the greatest gift of my life. I never have and never will take it for granted. On this Mother's Day, I want to send a different wish out to a special group of people.

This is for you. The one who dreams of sleepless nights. The one who dreams of filling that spare closet with tiny clothes. The one who dreams of scrubbing spit up and blow out stains. The one who dreams of that new baby smell. The one who dreams of soothing teething pains or tummy troubles. The one who dreams of finally seeing those two pink test lines appear.

The good and the bad, you dream of it all.

I, too, have longed for all of the things you are dreaming of. I have felt the sting when another friend is quickly pregnant, seemingly with the snap of their fingers. Keep smiling, keep giving congratulatory hugs, keep happily attending baby showers, keep bringing meals to brand new parents, but most importantly, keep dreaming. God willing, it will be your turn soon. You would not want to look back and regret allowing your sadness to overshadow the genuine happiness you really do feel for your friends.

For a long time, we prayed for our daughter. I could never see clearly why it was taking so long for us despite doing everything right and leading healthy lives while it seemed too easy for others. I promise you that once your baby is finally in your arms, your frustrations and impatience and doubts will vanish. It becomes so simple to see. You were just waiting for the precise genetic mashup of the baby meant to be yours. I truly believe if I had been pregnant any sooner, Eloise exactly as she is would not be here with us. That single thought blows my mind and makes every heart ache along our journey worthwhile.

And lately, it makes every time I am asked, "When are you going to try for another one?" easier to bear.

We dream of the bond of siblings. We dream of pulling out the infant swing from storage. We dream of laying eyes on that first black and white image of a fuzzy little bean. We dream of skimming familiar lists on the hunt for another perfect name. We dream of big sister kisses on a growing belly. We dream of becoming a family of four.

My husband and I dream with patient hearts these days, because this time we know waiting for the baby that is meant to be ours will be worth it.

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there whose dreams have become the realities of beautiful motherhood! And Happy Mother's Day to the dreamers, too. It may seem like you are alone out there in a sea of pregnancy announcements from everyone except you, but that is so far from the truth. By putting my own dreams out there on this special day, I hope you will know that we are all quietly dreaming big dreams of tiny fingers and toes together.

And I am rooting for you!

Let's vow on this holiday to continue to support one another until the day we each can shout our joyous news for all the world to hear. And when those pregnancy discomforts or tired mom moments come, let's turn our complaints into gratitude and send all of our hopes and prayers along to those who are still out there dreaming.

Elation over two pink lines and the beginnings of a bump in 2014

We stopped "trying" for a baby after I was hired into a great job as a research nurse specialist in breast cancer clinical trials at Vanderbilt. Month after month of optimism with no success had left us tired, stressed out, and discouraged. We planned to refocus on our careers and other happiness and let life play out as it was meant to be. I got pregnant the very next month. Eloise was meant to be.

May 4, 2016

A Mitten State of Mind: April 2016

I have said it a hundred times before, and I will say it again now. I hate every second of stolen time the Army takes from our family. Life is just so much harder without my husband and so much happier with him. BUT, with that being said, I do appreciate the trips back up to Michigan that are so often motivated by field training events or deployments. Eloise is able to build bonds with family members during our visits that she otherwise might not, and I get to catch up with many of my Michigander friends from high school and college.

Here is a sampling picture overload of the fun we had in the great mitten state during the last two weeks as seen through the lens of my iPhone (which Eloise dropped in a full bathtub while we were visiting, so quality I cannot promise).

We kicked off the trip with a visit to Clawson to see my college girlfriend Michelle and her then boyfriend, now fiance (!), Nathan. These two love birds got engaged about a week after this picture was taken, and I have not stopped beaming since she called me with the wonderful news! Although I'm afraid Eloise's maniac behavior at dinner may have totally freaked them out. The world might have to wait a little longer now to be graced with baby Stachels. Oh well, I suppose it was a good eye opener to the realities of parenthood as I caught the dish of salsa she chucked across the table!

On Tuesday my parents and I took a whirlwind trip down to Saint Joseph to see my Grandpa Emery and my Aunt Ninie. Many of you know my grandpa's health is declining in old age, and my aunt suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm a few months ago and is now completely paralyzed. She does open her eyes to voices, and I swear she tried to smile when she saw Eloise, but it is hard to say how much of her is really "there" anymore. It was good, although emotionally draining, to see them. I have been longing to be at both of their bedsides since I got the tearful phone calls from my parents. Please continue to pray for their peace and healing. 

The following day continued tour de grandparents as my mom and I made our way to Grand Rapids. Eloise really bonded with her Great Grandpa Jim during our visit and giggled at just about everything he did. I love this shot of her looking up to him with such admiration. I used to hold his pointer finger exactly like that on walks when I was little. 

We took soup from my parents' restaurant for lunch; I'm fairly certain Eloise thinks she owns the place now. 

Thursday was a quiet day after four days of travel. It was rainy and my parents were busy catching up at work, so I took Eloise on a donut and library date. It was her first ever trip to a public library, and we lucked out arriving just in time for a special musical story time. My heart was in a total puddle watching her participate and sit with the big kids.

On Friday we hopped in the car again (are you tired yet just reading this?) and made our way to Brighton to see Brad's Aunt Lanie and cousin Liz. Her son Charlie was born just two months after Eloise, so our visits watching them interact and grow side-by-side are always a blast. 

That evening was spent eating pizza and lounging with my dad, mom, and sister. It doesn't get much better than a Rantz family Friday night! 

Saturday was truly "A Beautiful Day for Football!" We attended the spring football game at Spartan Stadium with my Uncle Scott, cousin Eric, and our family friends, the Stevens. Michigan State's campus was incredible in full spring bloom. The building peeking through the pink blossoms is Beaumont Tower where Brad proposed to me five years ago. Eloise was all smiles and dancing to the marching band until we got into the stadium with the sun beating down. I totally forgot to pack her a sun hat. Mom fail. We only stayed until halftime, but I enjoyed every minute in one of my favorite places. How many days until football season? 

We wrapped up the weekend in Flushing visiting Brad's parents. I shockingly did not snap any pictures, because Brad's mom spoiled me with a shopping trip while Papa Mickey entertained Eloise. Trips to their house always reminds me how lucky I am to have in-laws I love and enjoy spending time with, even when Brad can't be there.

Monday took us to Holt Junior High School for a lunch date with Aunt Whitney, or should I say, Mademoiselle Rantz. It was great to finally see her classroom, and I loved witnessing her in proud aunt mode showing off her niece to her students. After lunch we took a cruise around the capital building, which is literally in my parents' backyard, in the red radio flyer from my childhood! When Eloise wasn't scaring the pants off of us trying to stand up, she was loving the wind in her new pony tail/water spout/Cindy Lou Who hair/"do-dop-on-top". Little girl moms, what are your favorite hair styles for this awkward transition length we've finally hit?

During a visit the next day to see the new baby of my sister's best friend, Eloise surprised Aunt Whitney at the door with an extra special balloon. A note tied to the top delivered a message asking her to be Eloise's godmother. Of course, happy tears were shed and she said yes. Baby Claire's mom Nicole is avoiding posting pictures of her on social media, so you'll just have to take my word for it that she is a bundle of perfection.

On Wednesday my dad and I travelled back down to Saint Joseph to see my grandpa and aunt again. I stayed over night and hopped the early morning train to Milwaukee to spend the weekend with my long time best friend Aura and her husband Alex. Eloise was an angel on the train, and I thoroughly enjoyed the lakeside view from our window as my girl quietly read her books.

I had the best time with Aura. We have been friends now for 16 years, and I know we will be a big part of each others' lives forever. I loved touring Milwaukee and appreciating the shops and restaurants they frequent. Most of all, I enjoyed our time at their apartment, just chatting and watching Eloise and their sweet pup Hobie play together. 

Brad had planned to fly into Chicago on Saturday and reunite with us. When we found out he was getting back from training a day early and had Friday off, we jumped at the opportunity to book a new flight. Money suddenly becomes no issue after a month apart, even if just to gain 24 hours of bonus time together. Worth every penny.

Eloise was a little bit shy for the first few minutes of our reunion, but by the time we got to the car she could not stop planting big, open-mouthed kisses all over Brad and wrapping her arms tight around him. I love them both so much, and I love the love they share even more. The rest of the weekend was spent visiting the Milwaukee zoo, eating tacos, drinking margaritas, and laughing together. Brad and Alex had not been able to spend much time together, so it was great to see them sharing common interests and twinning in their accidental matching blue sweaters.

Thank you, team Brackman, for a fabulous visit! We will be back again soon. 

On our way back to Saint Joseph we got off the train in Chicago to catch Elise, my brother-in-law's girlfriend, in The Theatre School and DePaul University's production of Peter Pan and Wendy. She played the role of Nibs the lost boy perfectly, complete with mohawk and all! Eloise loved her first play...for the first 45 minutes or so. I spent the rest of the show chasing her around the lobby in a crowd of toddlers with limited attention spans. Uncle Preston and Aunt Elise gave Eloise a crash course in popsicle eating and brain freezes before we hit the road back to Michigan. I just know Preston and Elise, with their city lifestyle and love of art and literature, are always going to be the cool aunt and uncle in Eloise's eyes. 

As the cherry on top of a great trip, we celebrated Eloise's baptism on Sunday, May 1, 2016. It was just too good of a day to summarize, so stay tuned for a separate post soon. I'll leave you with a sneak peek of one of my favorite pictures from her special day. Perfectly poised godparents next to parents trying to wrangle the rambunctious star of the show. Sounds about right!

If you are still reading, give yourself a pat on the back, and perhaps a nap too! You deserve it. Lord knows we earned ourselves a nap or two after bouncing between friends and family all over the midwest. I would not have traded our time with loved ones for any amount of rest though. I woke up in Tennessee on our first morning back home with bags under my eyes and mounds of laundry, but the elation I feel after being loved on by so many people will stick around for a long, long time. 

Until next time, Michigan!

May 2, 2016

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

We have always said, "Home is wherever I'm with you." But where is home when I can't be with you?

Military wives share many ties that bind. Our mentalities are so similar, because no one understands the highs and lows of our complicated lifestyle better than each other. But when the patch chart says it is our turn to face a deployment, I have noticed that one big decision tends to split us right down the middle.

Should I stay at our current duty station in a military community that understands how it feels to live a deployment? Or should I temporarily relocate back to my childhood home with the support of family?

All military wives, even if just for a moment, contemplate this dilemma. But I do think those of us running the circus of parenthood now with one ringleader rather than two tend to wrestle with it harder and longer. There are are a handful of pros and cons to each option, and my head spun trying to navigate them all when it was my turn. There is no better way to sort through it than to hear first-hand experiences. I hope this collection of real life reflections will help guide those currently sitting at the scary beginning of one of the biggest challenges we face as military moms.


"My husband deployed and three weeks later I found out I was pregnant with our first baby. I had a full time job and was going to school, so I had already planned on staying at our current duty station for the length of my husband's deployment. When I found out I was pregnant, my parents wanted me to move back home (California), but my home was in Arizona, and I had a job and friends to help with anything I needed. I decided to stay home, work, and finish school. Our son was due around the same time my husband was to redeploy, so the plan was for my parents to drive to Arizona the second I went into labor and be here for me until my husband came home. Our son was born the day my husband landed, but he missed the birth by like 18 hours. The pros to staying home was I was in the home I made with my husband and our dog. We lived on post so I felt completely safe. I loved my job and school which helped keep me busy and my mind off missing my husband. Minus my husband missing the birth of our first child, I would not do things differently the next time. I have learned that people back home don't always understand the military community and often don't know how to support family members going through a deployment."
-Breanna, Fort Gordon, Georgia 

"My husband deployed when our son was 18 months old and returned when he was 27 months old. I decided to stay where we were because we had a great support system. I had a ton of friends and generally loved where we were in terms of our life there. I also wanted the consistency for our son. The biggest reason I chose to stay is because I wanted to still be close to the resources the Army provides when spouses are deployed and to be near our Army family. The biggest positive for me was avoiding the hassle of moving and then moving back, and I was able to be really connected to and involved with the FRG. The biggest negative was that we were not near family at all. But, while being closer to our families would have been great, we weren't lacking in support from our Army family. You really learn how to make the people around you your family. If I had to do it again, I'd absolutely make the same choice. In a way, I already kind of did. I'm 30 weeks pregnant with our second, and my husband is at Ranger school. The next graduation date he would qualify for is 5 days after my due date. I decided to stay here at Fort Benning for many of the same reasons I decided to stay in Kansas. Our Army family takes care of us because everyone knows that you'd do the same for them. Even though I'll most likely deliver our second without my husband, I wouldn't change the decision to stay. Being near our families would be great, but our son and I don't want for anything. All I have to do is ask and someone will help. So, I guess I stay because I want to be able to pay it forward to our Army family when the time comes."
-Jessica, Fort Benning, Georgia

"Our view is wherever we live is 'home'. He and I are from completely different parts of the country. I chose to stay in our military community when my husband deployed for a few reasons. Our daughter was about 4 months old, we have a large dog, and I work full time, so moving to where my parents live would have been a major event in and of itself. We also had been at that post for about a year and had a decent network of friends. Not to say it was easy, I had to find childcare on my own so I could go back to work, but I think that it was the best solution for us. I met some incredible people who became surrogate family. I really feel like the stability was best for our daughter, even though she was so young. She had the same room, same crib, and same routine the entire time he was gone, and I really think it made homecoming that much easier. He was able to give her a bath, bottle, and read to her (he had recorded videos before) the night he got home. To be honest, I am pretty certain I will stay wherever we are living if/when we have the same situation again. I feel like the stability is better for all of us." 
-Nicole, Texas 

"When we found out my husband was going to deploy I was quick to decide that I was going to stay put in our house in Georgia. In the almost six years he's been in the Army we've moved five times, so the last thing I wanted to do was have to move yet again. Instead, I have planned trips to visit home, my in-laws in Houston, and a few Army friends that are scattered throughout the US. To me, my hometown and my parents houses don't feel like 'home' anymore. It always feels as though I'm just visiting. Besides that, my friends at home, although I'm still close with them (and love them dearly) are in a completely different chapter of life than I am. With being a stay at home parent, I have found a community at our current duty station of other stay at home parents who we stay busy with. In New Jersey, all of my friends and family work, so in my eyes it wouldn't provide me the support during the day I would like. I want people to keep us busy, which is much easier in our military community. I think the positives are a military community who understand what you're going through and having your own space. My son is currently one and a half and will be a little over two when my husband gets back. I don't think he even realizes daddy is gone so I think this is a good time for him to be deployed. As for if I would do it this way again, I'll get back to you about that in January, but I don't think I would change anything. Three months down, nine to go."
-Alli, Fort Gordon, Georgia


"My boys were almost two years and six months old when my husband first deployed. I wasn't working at the time, so we went to Wisconsin. Most of my family is up there and it was a great opportunity for them to spend some time with the boys and the boys to get to know their family. My husband will be deploying again in a short while. The boys are now three and a year and a half with a baby due in August. He will be gone until winter and will miss the birth. I would love to be able to stay at Fort Bragg the entire deployment, but I am not comfortable with my birthing options. We had our second baby in Wisconsin and had an amazing experience. My parents live five minutes from our small town hospital and I was able to have a water birth with a wonderful midwife. Even if my husband was here for the birth, we'd still have the baby in Wisconsin. This deployment we will head to Wisconsin in June and head back to Fort Bragg in September. I'm always ready to go back to my own home after a few months. For me, the negatives of leaving include missing the comfort of my own home during a stressful life transition with a new baby (there is something about your own bed, kitchen, bathroom, and house in general that can't be replicated), missing my friends, packing up everything for three kids and traveling 19 hours with two 100 pound dogs and then traveling back with a new baby, transferring medical providers for me and the kids, having to get someone to watch the house and mow the lawn, and figuring out daycare (either pay to keep their spots or risk losing them). I'm more than happy with our decisions thus far, but as far as going home again for an entire deployment, I don't think I'd ever do that just because it's so much easier to keep everyone happy with a routine."
-Addie, Fort Bragg, North Carolina

"Brian went to Korea for a year straight out of West Point. We got married five days after he came home, and then two weeks later he moved to Fort Lewis. Unfortunately, he joined a unit that was already deployed, so after spending two months at home he deployed to Afghanistan for six months. We had no kids yet, and I was unhappy in my grad school program in Florida, so I ended up leaving the program and moving out to Washington to spend three weeks with him before he left. I didn't know a soul, but I felt like it was important for me to go out there and be 'initiated' (for lack of a better term) as an Army wife. It was my first experience with a deployment, and I felt like it was important to be surrounded by those in a similar situation, to make fast friends with those I could relate to, and to seek comfort in being surrounded by camouflage. I also thought it was an important growing experience for me as a person. I basically have a ton of self confidence now in knowing I can move to a place where I literally know no one and find friends and happiness. It was definitely the right decision for me at the time. My second deployment experience was eight months after Mikey was born. We had just gotten to his new unit at Fort Sill when Brian was selected to replace one of three casualties for the remaining eight months of a deployment. We had 13 days notice, so it was a whirlwind. I hated Fort Sill, had no support network, and the unit lacked communication so I knew immediately that I would move home. It worked out that we had a friend move into our house and paid all the bills and rent. This was the best decision ever. I didn't care that I wasn't surrounded by military, I was with my family in a place that I loved. I had help with Mikey, and I stayed busy. It was a very positive experience and I would do it again in a heart beat. I gave Mikey and my mom a rare opportunity for military families. They bonded so strongly, and I'm thankful they had that chance. It was just great all around."
-Marianna, Fort Bragg, North Carolina

"I'll start off by saying that we chose for me to go home. However, this decision was not easily reached. There were many nights that my husband and I discussed what I would lose and gain from each decision. I have always been very close to my family and my husband's family. So spending time with them while my husband was away seemed like the perfect fit. On the flip side, I had developed really great friendships on post, and I felt guilty to leave them. In a short time, they had become my family, too. I knew that I had an OBGYN back home that I wanted to deliver my baby. I had developed a really great relationship with her, and it seemed like any other doctor fell short of what she could provide for my pregnancy. These two factors played a huge role in our decision. To be honest, my husband and I did not agree on my placement during his deployment at first. There are so many benefits to living on post during a deployment that are not easily accessible when you're living at home. The bond within the Army community is unshakable. My husband wanted me to be a part of that, but as time passed, the need for me to go home became more clear. The only negative that I faced going home was a lack of understanding at times. I always had my family's support, but until you experience the Army lifestyle, it is hard to relate to what a family faces during a deployment. Things may seem okay on the outside, but there's a constant strain on your mind about if your husband is doing okay. I will admit that living under my parents roof again was challenging, but that's expected with any situation. The positives for going home far outweigh the negatives, especially in my situation. I was not well during my pregnancy and having my family's help each day was huge. Things felt right. I was back home with my family, friends, OBGYN, and church. Ultimately, I do not regret my decision to go home. Some days would have been easier if I were on post, but I've grown so much since I've been back home and I've become even closer to my family. I would make the same decision again in a heartbeat."
-Anonymous, Fort Riley, Kansas

"I don't want to leave this brand new beautiful house we have built, but I know I can't sanely survive out here with two babies by myself after another c-section. For me, it's about staying busy and positive. There are several pros to moving home. First of all, both sets of grandparents are there. That gives me a ton of helping hands. Our current home is about 25 minutes away from the nearest urgent care or hospital, so it scares me to think about what I would do in an emergency by myself. What if something happened to me even? Who would know? It would just give me a sense of security having family around. Before we moved to Oklahoma I was very involved with lacrosse. Coaching fills this huge void in my heart. I was also dedicated to cross fit. That community was my family and a huge support system for me as well. They are so encouraging and motivating and I need that physically and emotionally over the nine months Clay will be gone. It's easy to be sad especially when you're alone, so I plan to fill my life with positive people during that time. I felt like going home would be selfish for a lot of reasons, especially after building this new house with my husband, but I've prayed about it a lot and I think in this case it's okay to be selfish. As wives we always put our husbands and our family first, and we can get lost in the routine of things. I have to feel like I have a purpose outside of my home too in order to be happy, so I am going back to a place where I know I have a purpose. I may get home and feel like I've out grown everything from my past, but I'm going to at least try. Home is where our husbands are, and when your husband is gone you have to do what you need to do to keep home a happy environment. Everyone's way of doing that is uniquely different!"
-Brooke, Fort Sill, Oklahoma


My husband was given unusually short notice in September of 2014 that he would deploy in October to Afghanistan as a combat engineer platoon leader for nine months. The anticipatory grieving period was short for us, and I did not have long to determine where home would be for me. I decided to stay in Tennessee to deliver and raise our baby girl rather than return to Michigan to live with family, and here are the reasons why.

  • HOME | We moved into a beautiful house off post in January of 2014. It is truly the perfect home for us right now, and I could not imagine packing up at 30 weeks pregnant to leave the place where I and my beloved dog and two cats felt best. Plus our neighborhood is so quiet and safe. My neighbors always have eyes on our house and cared for us during deployment through small acts of big kindness (mowing the lawn, cooking meals, shoveling the driveway, recycling our Christmas tree, etc.). Given all of this, uprooting us from an ideally secure and happy living situation seemed senseless. There is something to be said about sleeping in your own bed and cooking in your own kitchen, especially during the messy transition of bringing your first baby home. 
  • WORK | I started a great nursing job at Vanderbilt working with breast cancer clinical trial patients in March of 2014. Although the brutal combination of new baby, lengthy commute, and deployed husband did bring me to leave my position eventually, having solid roots I was proud of in my career played a big role in defining which home felt right for me. My boss, coworkers, and patients were and still are incredible sources of support and encouragement.
  • SOCIAL | I had already formed a close knit group of girlfriends by the time deployment orders were written. Through mutual friends, I knew of four wives, who would later become family, whose husbands would be deploying with mine. Before the day for goodbyes had even arrived, our first girls night was already on the calendar. We carried each other through our worst days. Don't get me wrong, my friends who are not military affiliated were great sources of strength for me and counting down to their visits kept my chin held high. But in my opinion, there is no replacement for spending time with friends who just get it.
  • FAMILY | The glue that sealed the decision for me was my family. I am fortunate to have parents who will drop nearly anything to lend their support. My mom was in the delivery room with me and lived with us for the first six weeks of Eloise's life while my dad ran their busy restaurant solo back in Michigan. He and my in-laws made weekend trips down to provide much needed respite too. I know not everyone can be afforded this kind of support, and my decision would have certainly been more difficult to make if I had been entirely alone. I spent many days after my mom left functioning independently, but I always had a countdown going to the arrival of a chance for me to catch my breath.

Brad has now been home for almost exactly as long as he was gone, and our deployment baby has grown into a beautiful 16-month-old little girl. Looking back, I 100% believe I made the right decision for all six of us (fur friends included). There was priceless comfort in knowing I could avoid the look of pity and disgust when someone heart me say my husband was not there for his daughter's birth and would miss the first half of her life. That horrible look from just about everyone outside of our military community was enough to sour a perfectly good day for me. You just don't have to deal with it when you are amongst people who have been there themselves. I also think Brad was proud of us for embracing the military community during a deployment rather than running from it. It eased his mind, too, to picture us in the home we had built together for our growing family.

For me, the decision ultimately came down to the length of time we had at our duty station prior to deployment and the roots we had been able to plant. My home, work, social, and family life were all settled enough to serve as a solid foundation. There is no right or wrong decision when it comes to defining home during a deployment, and I hope these courageous ladies' stories have shed light on exactly that. You have to do what will make your heart the most happy and your daily life the least chaotic.


  • Network of support and friendships
  • Proximity of quality healthcare
  • Availability of desired birth plan components
  • Safety of neighborhood and home
  • Commitment to career or education 
  • Meeting the needs of pets
  • Home security and lawn maintenance if vacant
  • Availability of childcare and school needs 
  • Involvement in hobbies and fun
  • Ability to plan visits or host guests
  • Building bonds with extended family
  • Comfort of personal space and belongings
  • Consistency and routine for kids
  • Involvement with deployed unit's FRG 

If this helped even just one confused reader with a deployment looming, mission accomplished. And if nothing else, I hope you have enjoyed reading the wise words of eight superhero military wives as much as I did. Thank you all! Each of your unique stories and strength left me in awe (as always) of military wives and mothers. 

What helped you decide where home was during deployment?