I’m not big on New Years Resolutions but I am big on looking back on history to see how far I’ve come.
2010 was quite the year.
The Life of an Army Mom
First, I came home from Iraq. Technically, this happened at the end of 2009, but since I didn’t actually settle my family back in Texas until after the new year, we’ll count it. The transition from being deployed to coming home was so much harder than I ever imagined. There were many, many days when I thought that life was easier in Iraq: no laundry, no dogs to clean up after, no screaming kids melting down about not eating.
There were many, many days when I stood in my shower and cried. It should not have been this hard to become a mom again. It was brutal, worse than I ever expected or prepared for. There was no one to take the strain off my husband and I, no one we could pawn the kids off on for a little while to just catch our breaths. And when our oldest had a terrible time getting used to her new school, we both considered getting out of the army right then and there. I’m eternally grateful I had a company commander who gave me flexibility to adjust. There were several instances where I went into his office and said, Sir, I need to go home and clean my house before I go insane. He said take all the time you need.
I don’t know that I would have made it through this had I not worked for him.
We made it through though. I reconnected with an old high school friend who, oddly enough, was getting ready to go through Officer Candidate School and who worked with troubled kids. There were so many nights where I said, she’s screaming, now what? And though it might seem obvious, sometimes, you just need to be told to walk away. The girls are doing much better now. We stuck to a routine and hired a new after school babysitter and the girls barely blinked when Daddy went to the National Training Center for a month.
I’m not sure how the upcoming deployment will affect them, but I’m much more optimistic than I was six months ago. We’ll get through and hopefully, without my kids requiring hours of therapy. There are still mommy fail days where I’m certain I’m the worst mom in the world, but we get through them together.
I never expected to become a company commander. Honestly, I’m older than most of my peers by at least six years but I interviewed anyway when I heard a position was opening up across post in the signal battalion. When I was selected for the job, a whole new world of pressure settled around my shoulders. Since taking the guidon in October, stress has been a constant companion. There’s never enough time in the day to do everything I have to get done. I’ve got a great company though and my support structure that I depend on is incredibly motivated. I worry about my soldiers and the choices they make, I worry that I won’t have enough time to train them for everything we need to train on before we deploy back to combat.
I’m lucky, though, to have fantastic mentors. Ones that get the full dose of my crazy and give me a healthy kick in the fourth point of contact when I need it. Never, ever take for a mentor the person who tells you you’re doing everything brilliantly, no matter what the field. You need someone to give it to you straight, to include tough love and when you find those mentors, hold on to them and thank them (though not too much that they accuse you of writing hallmark cards instead of emails.)
I wrote a lot in Iraq. There are several completed first drafts of novels that will never see the light of day. By comparison, 2010 was not a productive novel year in terms of quantity. But, I landed a gig with PBS Regarding War and entered into the national dialogue about women in uniform. My positions were in the minority and I caught a lot of heat rounds but I learned so much from my fellow panelists.
I wrote a book proposal about mothers in the military, in part as a protest against the media portrayal of mothers in uniform as victims, which landed me my second agent. But the military ethics police shot me down and it was back to the fiction drawing board for me.
Oprah called, though she wasn’t looking for me and technically, it was her producer, not Oprah herself. I learned a valuable lesson that when Oprah calls, wait to find out what she wants before tweeting to the world. But it was exciting for exactly one day. And though I didn’t see the entire episode regarding military moms, the parts I did see were very well done.
I went to my first RWA National Conference and had a blast, despite my fear and nervousness. Yes, I meant it when I said it was easier to deploy to Iraq than go to conference but I’ll also say it again: social networking paid off in leaps and bounds during that trip. I learned so much and met some of the most amazing people. And my husband put up with the kids in a cramped hotel room just so my agent could introduce me to people and I could cheer for my friends who won their first Rita!
After the non fiction project was shot down, I pitched several ideas to my agent – who thankfully did not drop me when the nonfiction got shot down and despite my own neuroses about where I stood as a writer (you know who you are who helped me through this. the guilty shall remain nameless but I owe you a lot!) – and he liked exactly 2 of them.
So I started working. 2010 was the year I learned to write a synopsis. It was the year I learned to cling to my synopsis as a method and I am so glad I finally learned this daunting task. My agent never saw the first draft of that novel, but he worked with me through 4 other drafts (which is finally ready to go out to editors wide). 2010 was also the year I learned to revise without throwing away the entire novel and starting over and even though my 4th draft is nothing like the first draft, the process is dramatically improved because I learned to draft a synopsis first.
A lot of authors look at those novels who will never see the light of day as wasted time. I’ll admit I was one of them for a very long time. I spent 3.5 years writing all of them and still they sit, never to see publication. And I’m okay with that. I realize that I learned something new with each of them and despite the amount of time I spent on them, I now know it was time well spent. Oh and I’m so glad they’ll never be published. I can only imagine the horror of the reviews if they had been printed.
2010 was a very big year for a lot of reasons, both on the family front, the writing front and the army front. I look back on everything I learned and I’m grateful I had to go through all of them. I wasn’t at the time, but hey, there’s always that thing about hindsight.