Music Monday: Beauty From Pain – Superchick

superchickMusic is a BIG part of me getting through each day. Certain songs, on certain days, really speak to me. Calm me. Validate me. Heal me. So – I decided to start #MusicMonday here on the blog! Each Monday I’ll post the lyrics to a song that helps me in some way. Maybe they’ll help you too.

Today? I’m sharing Beauty From Pain by Superchick. I’ve loved this song for a long time, but it became even more meaningful when my husband told me of the looming second deployment. I couldn’t wrap my mind around having to go through another deployment – this time with a three year old to raise by myself. All our future plans and dreams, put on hold. Again.

My husband kept reminding me how much stronger we became after the last deployment, even with as difficult as it was at the time. So, I present to you Beauty From Pain:

The lights go out all around me
one last candle to keep out the night
and then the darkness surrounds me
I know I’m alive but I feel like I’ve died

and all that’s left is to accept that its over
my dreams ran like sand through the fist that I made
I try to keep warm but I just grow colder
I feel like I’m slipping away

after all this has passed, I still will remain
after I’ve cried my last, they’ll be beauty from pain
though it won’t be today, someday I’ll hope again
and they’ll be beauty from pain
you will bring beauty from my pain

my whole world is the pain inside me
the best I can do is just get through the day
when life before is only a memory
I wonder why god lets me walk through this place

and though I can’t understand why this happened
I know that I will when I look back some day
and see how you’ve brought beauty from ashes
and made me as gold purified through these flamesafter all this has passed, I still will remain

after I’ve cried my last, they’ll be beauty from pain
though it won’t be today, someday I’ll hope again
and they’ll be beauty from pain
you will bring beauty from my pain

here I am at the end of me
trying to hold to what I can’t see
I forgot how to hope this nights been so long
I cling to your promise, there will be a dawn

after all this has passed, I still will remain
after I’ve cried my last, they’ll be beauty from pain
though it won’t be today, someday I’ll hope again
and they’ll be beauty from pain
you will bring beauty from my pain

Heavy Rains, Heavy Heart

Final Rain

Heavy rains, heavy heart.
It’s no secret I hate it when we’re apart.

The pressure is building in the air,
It feels, at time, more than I can bare.

At my weakest, lightening will strike.
The rivers will flood and breach the dike.

The rain pours on, and so do my tears.
Too much uncertainty, too many fears.

The wind is strong, the gusts won’t stop.
I feel like I’m drowning, reaching for the top.

The night is now silent, but the weather is loud.
Another storm looms in the cloud.

The flooding might end, but we’re just at the start,
Of the storm of deployment that consumes my heart.

Unpublished work © 2014 Ashley Ella

Military Equality

All BranchesNo, this post isn’t about race, religion, or relationship equality in the military (although all of those are important topics and most of the following could apply). This is about military equality. Equality within the military. Let’s start with some basic definitions from dictionary.com:

Military is defined as: the military establishment of a nation; the armed forces.

Armed Forces is defined as: military, naval, and air forces, especially of a nation.

Nation is defined as: a large body of people, associated with a particular territory, that is sufficiently conscious of its unity to seek or to possess a government peculiarly its own.

Unity is defined as: the state of being one; oneness.

Equality is defined as: the state or quality of being equal.

Equal is defined as: as great as; the same as.

Please note that the definition above for the armed forces is military, naval, AND air forces. Not “or,” but “and.” Furthermore, we are the United States of America. We are a large body of people associated with a particular territory, and our armed forces serve and protect this country in unity to seek and possess a government that is our own. To protect your freedom. To protect my freedom.

Here’s the big shocker: The Army cannot do it on their own. The Marines cannot do it on their own. The Air Force cannot do it on their own. The Navy cannot do it on their own. The Coast Guard cannot do it on their own.

They must work in unity, in oneness. Here is a summary of the armed forces in the United States Military (in no particular order):

United States Army

  • United States Army Reserve
  • Army National Guard

United States Marine Corps

  • United States Marine Corps Reserve

United States Navy

  • United States Navy Reserve

United States Air Force

  • Air Force Reserve Command
  • Air National Guard

United States Coast Guard

  • United States Coast Guard Reserve
  • United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

To me, they are all equal. What does equal mean again? That means that one branch is just as great as another. They are the same.

Now yes, I understand each plays a different role, and each has a different set of ranks, military specialties, etc. That’s not my point. My point is, they serve the same nation. They serve the same people. They serve you. They serve me.

However, so many times I see them not being treated equal. Even amongst themselves, each branch pits against each other. Sometimes this is all in good fun and leads to a healthy level of competition. But, speaking as a spouse of National Guard soldier – I can tell you firsthand that the inequality can be hurtful, even when unintentional.

See, us Army National Guard families, and other part-time military families, are often the “forgotten” ones. We’re looked at just as the “weekend warriors.” Did you see that list above? The one of the armed forces of the United States? The one where National Guard is listed? We’re just as much a part of serving this nation as any other branch.

Let me reiterate: The Army cannot do it on their own. The Marines cannot do it on their own. The Air Force cannot do it on their own. The Navy cannot do it on their own. The Coast Guard cannot do it on their own. They must work in unity, in oneness. They are equal.

My husband has been in the Army National Guard for about eight years. He’s currently serving his second tour in an active war area. He left behind a career, a wife, a daughter. He left behind his whole life to serve and sacrifice for this country, again. And I sacrifice along with him, again. I live in the civilian world and in a community that is far, far removed from the realities of war. That’s for another post, another day.

Right now I want to address how we are treated even within our own military community. How we are compared to the other branches in the military. *Disclaimer – I don’t feel there should be any comparing. We are all on the same team.

A dear friend, a fellow military spouse that “served” with me on my husband’s first deployment, recently nominated me for the Military Spouse of the Year Award (MSOY). Huge honor. I am humbled. What is this award? According to nomination email that I received:

Military Spouse magazine founded the Military Spouse of the Year Award in 2008 to honor the important contributions and unwavering commitment of the 1.1 million military spouses from all branches of service as they support and maintain our home front.”

Wow, that sounds amazing. What’s amazing?

  1. The recognition that military spouses provide important contributions and unwavering commitment. 
  2. That there are an estimated 1.1 million military spouses (that’s a LOT of support for our troops). 
  3. That it’s for ALL branches of services as they support and maintain our home front.

Again, I am so humbled. Yes, it was just a nomination, but to know that someone who has been where I’ve been thinks so highly of me made me speechless. Well, I was speechless, until I read the list of qualifications to accept the nomination:

“In order to be considered for the 2015 Military Spouse of the Year Award, a nominee must meet the following criteria:

  • Be an ID card carrying spouse of a current member of the U.S. Armed Forces (U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, or U.S. National Guard)
  • National Guard spouses are eligible if their service member has been activated for at least 180 days on or before the MSOY nominations deadline.
  • Reserve military spouses are eligible if their service member has been activated for at least 180 days on or before the MSOY nominations deadline.”

Wait, what? Why wasn’t the first bullet point enough? National Guard IS part of the U.S. National Guard – so why the extra requirement of having to be activated for at least 180 days on or before the MSOY nominations deadline? Do the National Guard and Reserve families and spouses only count when they are activated (for a certain length, by a certain date)?

Well, my husband is currently deployed for up to a year. But, not for “at least 180 days on or before” the required date. My husband has deployed before. For a year. And I served along with him. And so did my friend who nominated me

You see, this fellow military spouse has a husband too. My husband was blessed to come home physically unharmed. Her husband was not so fortunate. Through a serious of IED blasts, he had to be removed from the deployment. He worked through the pain for months. Stayed on deployment much longer than he should have, but he would not leave his fellow soldiers. It got to the point where he could hardly walk. They couldn’t find answers. This was over four years ago. They still do not have answers, and they are still sacrificing. Them not finding answers and the lack of good care for our veterans is another topic I look forward to writing about (or have her write about as a guest blogger). 

Back to my point: just because a National Guard or Reservists deployment is over, or they haven’t been gone “long enough,” they are still serving. And their families are serving with them.  Every day they serve, we serve. Even if only serving on “the weekends,” they are always ready for the call. The motto of the National Guard is even “Always Ready, Always There.”

Military Spouse magazine also says: “During that time (nomination period), Military Spouse magazine encourages both the military community as well as all Americans to consider nominating their military spouse friends, relatives, neighbors, and colleagues for this prestigious honor.”

I have served alongside my husband for eight years, including two deployments (one currently on-going). I’m a military spouse and serve the role as a friend, relative, neighbor, and colleague. My role as a military spouse affects each and every role, differently, each and every day. However, I do not qualify to accept my nomination. I am baffled.

I am now thinking to myself: how many other spouses have not qualified due to this additional requirement? How many were elated, humbled, and honored to be nominated, but then felt to be shamed and discounted because their service “wasn’t enough.” Please know that your sacrifices ARE enough and that you are not alone.

So, Military Spouse magazine: while I cannot accept my nomination due to your additional requirements for National Guard spouses, I want to publicly take this moment to nominate every National Guard and Reservist spouse to be the winner of the 2015 Military Spouse of the Year Award for their “branch”- regardless of your rules.

In fact, I nominate every single military spouse, of every single branch, for every single year (past, current, and future). If you need clarification as to what the United States Military is, please see above. Why do I nominate every single military spouse?

Because the sacrifice does not end with deployment. Sacrifice in the military is not defined by a deployment. We do not quit being a military spouse, even when our spouses are no longer in the service. And, National Guard members are just as much a part of serving this nation as any other branch. We sacrifice too.

We are all on the same team – the United States Armed Forces.

Please know that I think that the purpose and mission of Military Spouse magazine is an amazing one. I want to personally thank your entire organization. Thank you for supporting and loving my fellow military spouses. Each and every one of us can benefit from your resources. Thank you for recognizing those spouses that go above and beyond to serve here on the home front. They deserve recognition for their contributions to the armed forces community. I do not discount your award in any way, shape, or form.

However, I call on Military Spouse magazine to re-evaluate their nominations requirements and remove the additional stipulation for Guard and Reservist families. And no, this has nothing with me accepting my nomination. This has everything to do with Military Equality.http://www.pagecovers.com/user_cover/128224/always_a_military_spouse.html

Please read the update in this post. I have heard back from Military Spouse magazine, and some pretty amazing things are happening!

Identity

who-are-youWhat is your identity? Who are you? These are some of the questions I was asked today. So few words, yet such deep, perplexing answers. Usually my response would be well, I’m a 30’s something female, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, I do xyz for a living, and I live in Little Town, USA. I enjoy traveling, being crafty, and I love a good deal.

But, think about it. What IS your identity? Who ARE you? What defines you? What drives you every day? Being the spouse of a deployed soldier – I often feel labeled as “M’s wife.” Not Ashley, but “M’s wife.” Yes, I’m a spouse, and yes, I’m his spouse. But – I’m still Ashley.

Who is Ashley? I thought I knew, but when my husband told me of this second deployment, I really started to question what I knew in my life – and realized there was a whole lot about myself that I didn’t know.

When M and I first started dating over 10 years ago, I was into horses (used to have one), I loved to write, and I loved to try new recipes. I loved to surprise him with really romantic gestures, like driving an hour in the wrong direction just to drop off cookies before a ten hour drive in the opposite direction to see family.

I loved to “work” on cars. I put “” around that because I THOUGHT I liked to work on cars – that reality is that I just love classic cars and don’t really have the patience to try and figure out what’s wrong!

Anyway, we started dating and I had just sold my horse. I had been riding since I was three, but I’ve never had a horse since. Heck, I haven’t even been riding in over 10 years.

I stopped writing. Not because I wanted to stop, but because life just got too darn busy. Driving around I’d have all of these thoughts I wanted to write down, poems would start to develop as I was getting ready for the day, but I never wrote them down. Those thoughts were lost.

When we first got married I tried to put on my best show of trying new recipes – but again, life got busy so I stuck with what I knew (which wasn’t a whole lot). I sold my classic car so we could buy our first house. I gave up all those things I love up freely to start this new life with the man that I loved. I never even thought twice about it, it just happened that way.

He never asked me to give up those things, but it just happened.

Well, now we’re here. Years into our marriage, on a second deployment, and I’m left wondering: “Ashley, what is your identity? Who ARE you?”

I’ve learned that I’m strong. Stronger than I ever realized. I am not a push-over. I come from a long-line of strong women, and I’m proud of that. I’ve been “beat down” by a lot of people. I have been so blessed that my husband came into my life – he gave me a sense of security, peace, protection, and love that I had never known before.

I was raised to stand up for what I believe in, yet always try my best to be respectful. I do not judge people. I’m an over-committer. I’m a perfectionist.

I love travel – LOVE it. If I’m not on a plane or traveling at least 3-4 times in a year, I feel closed in and that life is passing me by. I love photography, although I’m totally a novice (I still feel cool with my fancy camera though).

I love a good deal – shopping at garage sales, goodwill, random sale sites on Facebook. I love being in control of my own schedule (note, this one is a HUGE challenge due to our life circumstances – blog to come later about this one).

I love popcorn with so much butter its almost soggy (I can thank my sister for that one).

I have a soft spot in my heart for children – all children. It pains me and angers me to see any injustice for a child. My heart longs to be a foster parent, to give some child a place of refuge and love in a time of fear and unknown.

I still love classic cars. I see them drive by, and my mouth drops open. I will have another by our 20th wedding anniversary. My husband and I are still negotiating the fine details over that one.

I do not have a lot of patience. I’m sporadic, yet a planner. I’m probably the most chaotic organized person you’ll ever meet. Yet, see above – I’m a perfectionist. This causes an endless cycle of self-inflicted stress.

I’m sentimental. I kept the little baby rattle that my sister gave me when she first told me she was pregnant. I kept it for years, like 10 years, just so I could give it back to her and announce I was pregnant. She didn’t even remember what it was from! Then I told her the whole story and we had some GOOD laughs.

I could go on an on – I’m so many things. We all are. I want to be so many more things. Each of us has such a unique set of life experiences. Yet, I find myself searching for answers and resources for me in my current life situation: the PART-TIME military spouse.

What do I mean by this? Yes, I’m a full-time wife alright, but most resources are for full-time military spouses. Those that live on base, who’s spouses career is in the military. I am not disregarding those spouses in any way. My world is just different.

In my world, I’m always pulled between the civilian world and the military world. I don’t live near a base, all the other spouses of my husband’s unit live far away, there’s only really one chance a year to even meet the other families, and I’m surrounded by a bunch of civilians that have NO clue what I’m going through.

I looked for books, for blogs, for anything that could help. Someone who was going through what I was going through. Maybe I didn’t search long enough, but every book, blog, and/or resource seemed geared for the full-time military family.

But hey, I’m part of the military family too. I love my spouse just as much as you do. My heart breaks just like yours when my child cries out for him. I can’t sleep, as I worry for his safety just like you. I eat alone for a year, just like you.

We have so many similarities, yet I feel that we’re this forgotten group of spouses. I’ve even been told, “at least this isn’t your life full-time.” Does that make our deployment any less meaningful? Are our spouses not fighting side by side?

I’ve done two deployments in less than five years. I know there are spouses that have gone through way more than me – I want to get away from the “my level of suck is worse than your level of suck.” I just want people to know that we’re military spouses too. We need support too.

And we live in the civilian word that doesn’t understand an ACU from a BDU or an LES from a MOS. Heck, most of us didn’t even know what these were until the deployment was thrown in our face. We have to constantly explain ourselves to the civilians around us, drain ourselves emotionally.

I hope that you stay with me over the next few months (and maybe years), as I navigate through my second deployment. I’m far from having all the answers, but tonight as I think about when I was asked “What is your identity? Who are you” I have an answer. I AM a mother. I AM the wife of a deployed National Guard soldier. I DO live in Little Town, USA.

But, I am also strong, committed, brave, compassionate, sensitive, emotional, and driven. And, I have a mission: to help my fellow part-time military spouses survive their deployments AND life in the civilian world, and know that they are not alone.

Unpublished work © 2014 Ashley Ella