Just Call Me Gumby

Disclaimer: This post is going to be a venting session. Here it is, 3 1/2 months since my most recent post, and all I’m going to do is come here and complain. But this is my little space on the internet and my prerogative I guess. So here goes.

 
JD has been on a “normal” schedule for several months now and it has been blissful. I finally feel like we can be a full-time team with household and parenting duties. We cook dinner together, I go grocery shopping by myself(!) while he keeps L at home, I can count on him to pick up L from daycare when I have an appointment or have to work late, and I even get to sleep in sometimes on weekends. You know, normal things that become somewhat of a novelty when you’re married to someone who works non-traditional hours.   (Side note: I have no idea how parents with 2 unpredictable schedules do it).

So one evening, he comes home and tells me that he’s been put on a special project that will allow a small group of officers to focus on a specific problem area in the community. This in itself is great news- JD has felt for some time that something along these lines needed to happen and he is very excited to be included in it. I am happy for him because I know how much it means to him.

 
Of course, there is a catch. He goes on to tell me that he will be working different hours while on the project and will be transitioning to the new schedule in only a few days. Being a planner (and the administrator that keeps our household running smoothly), I immediately start asking questions. What would the hours be? What days would he be working? Would we know in advance? Would we be getting a schedule mapped out? My mind raced with all the things we had coming up, including 2 trips up north for a wedding and a graduation. We had counted on him having those weekends off. We had counted on him being off duty by 4pm so we wouldn’t be up all night driving.

 
He didn’t have those details yet. They were still being ironed out at that point, but he was under the impression that it would be a lot of night shifts. I didn’t say anything for a minute while I processed my frustration, then sighed, kissed him on the forehead, and told him I would do what needed to be done to accommodate his schedule.

 
Just call me Gumby.

 
As it turns out, the new schedule IS mostly nights and evenings, and while it’s not completely sporadic, it’s very difficult to track.  (Want to plan something with us a month from now?  Too bad, I have no idea if he’s working.)  Also, I anticipate it will change at some point- likely at the last minute. Regardless, I will be here to take care of L and manage whatever comes our way because that’s what I have to do. Being a LEO Wife means always coming second to the needs of the city and the whims of the department. When your spouse is assigned something, there are no other options. There is no opportunity to sit down and talk it over. No chance to weigh in on the impacts to your family life. (I can tell that the schedule change is starting to bother L. She sees him less on this schedule than she did on his regular patrol schedule and keeps asking where daddy is.) The demands of the police department make for an unbalanced family life. It gets old.

The real icing on the cake is that he can’t come home with me for my stepbrother’s wedding because he has to work that weekend now.  So I get to make the drive with L alone and I had to call my family last-minute and inform them that JD wouldn’t be coming.

The good news is, I’m not bitter about it.

Just kidding, I totally am.

 

JD’s New Job

So, JD recently switched jobs within the department.  He’s still a LEO, but moved to the Community Squad where he’ll move away from 911 calls and move towards proactive police work and more community outreach type projects.  After 5 years as a beat officer, he was starting to feel burnt out so he’s definitely ready for a change of pace.  I’m excited to see him pursue something new, especially since he’s so great with people and I think it will be a good fit for him.  Selfishly, one of the things I’m most excited about is the schedule change.

I’ve definitely referred to (code for: complained about) his schedule many times before.  He used to have to work 12 hour shifts every couple of days, including every other weekend and work night shifts every other month.  I got used to it, but it still sucked a lot of the time.  Night shift month was hard on both L and I.  She acted out more when he wasn’t around and I got tired of carrying so much of the burden alone.  Because his shifts were so long, he couldn’t help with daycare dropoff or pickup even on day shift months (he left for work before daycare opened and arrived home after it closed).  Plus, with a non-traditional schedule, there were so many things JD missed on weeknights and weekends that people with “normal” schedules plan- birthday parties, social gatherings, and even the occasional weekend road trip.

On top of it all, a few years ago I had to start traveling for work on occasion.  This added a whole new dimension of complication and frustration.  There are plenty of working moms at my company who travel a LOT more than I do.  I’ve asked a few of them how they manage it with kids at home.  The answer is almost invariable “Well my husband really steps up.  He’s great.”  Whomp. Whomp.  I mean, my husband is great too, but it was nearly impossible to accommodate business travel around those 12 hour shifts and night shift months.  So how did I manage?  JD’s grandparents helped us out a TON.  L did several overnights with them while I was away and I probably owe my job to them to be honest.  And while they were always willing and eager to help (not once did they ever say no or do anything that made me feel bad), I still felt guilty and stressed turning everyone’s life upside down for the sake of work trips.

But all of that is behind us, because with JD’s new schedule he now works Monday to Friday 8 to 4 most weeks of the month (one week each month he has a second shift 4 PM to 2 AM).  And while the transition has been a little strange for both of us (the other night we turned to each other and said “it’s kind of weird being together all the time”) it’s been amazing to have him home on weeknights and every single weekend.  I finally feel like we’re a true team and we can tackle all of the household and parenting tasks together.  I have his help for the morning routine/daycare dropoff and his help in the evenings getting dinner ready and getting L to bed.  On weekends I can go grocery shopping All. By.  Myself.  (ALL BY MYSELF!)  I never have to worry that he’ll miss something a friend has planned or an important event.  This past weekend we drove to Atlanta to visit my sister… because it was a holiday weekend… and we can do things like that now. 

I’m not saying there weren’t some benefits to his old schedule and there aren’t trade offs with the new one.  We both miss the weekdays the JD got to spend at home with L- the new schedule means that she has to be in daycare full-time.  We’re both getting used to the fact that we don’t really have one-on-one time with L or really any of the alone time that the old schedule allowed. Most of these things can be remedied- we talked about each of us doing a mommy-daughter day and a daddy-daughter date once a month so we still get our one on one time with Loralai but allow the other person some time to themselves.   But, at the end of the day Loralai actually loves daycare and gets excited to go play with her friends and it’s totally worth the trade off of having her there full-time to be able to have JD home on holidays and weekends.

I have no illusion that JD will have this schedule for the rest of his career.  His squad could change the way their schedule works or he could move to a different unit- there are a lot of things that could change.  But for now, I will enjoy a bit of “normalness” that’s been inserted into our lives.

Sorry for Word Vomiting

“I could hear people getting bored with me, but I couldn’t stop. It just kept coming up like word vomit.” -Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls

So, I’m a bit of a talker.  Actually, to say I’m “a bit of a talker” is an understatement.  Those that know and love me can attest to the fact that I’m a hard-core extrovert.  I will talk till dinner plates get cold, till I’m running late for appointments, till people are getting irritated with me.  In fact, I do this to my husband on a regular basis.

Night shift can be rough.  Our conversations on those days are brief and generic, usually limited to “How did you sleep?”  “Did the baby take a good nap today?”  “How was work?” etc.  Dogs don’t talk back and L’s vocabulary is limited to toddler necessities such as “Elmo,” “Cake,” “Poopy,” and “No.”  Sure, I have co-workers and friends to keep me company, but it’s not the same as JD.  He is my ultimate best friend- he’s the one who I tell everything to.

On the nights he’s working, I’m like a balloon, slowly inflating with words that I’m unable to share with him.  By the time his off day rolls around, I’m ready to pop.  Although he’s slept all day and it’s mid-afternoon when he gets up, I know – I KNOW – I should give him at least a few minutes to wake up.  He doesn’t like to be assaulted with my blur of thoughts any more than I like him to crawl into bed early in the morning after a night shift and start rambling about hookers, drugs, and gang members.  But my need to talk is a compulsion, and after the build-up of being away from him for a few days, I can’t help but vomit out the words as he stares off into space, silently begging me to stop talking.  Being the good sport he is, though, he sits there patiently while I ramble on about the shoes I ordered for L, the latest Facebook drama, or how delicious the taco truck that comes to my office is.  Does he retain any of the information?  Probably not, but it makes me feel better.  And this is how I know my husband loves me.

Close Call

Just the previous night as JD and I crawled into bed, I had told him “I’m so thankful for every night you come home safely.”

“Me too,” he said, and we both drifted off to sleep, side by side.

The next day was Saturday. He got up early to get ready for another full shift, while I stayed snuggled in bed, happy to sleep in (or as much “sleeping in” as I can get with a 1 1/2 year old). He gave me a kiss on the cheek to say goodbye, and I groggily told him to have a good day.

I didn’t hear from him all morning, which isn’t unusual. They had been busy Friday so I figured Saturday was much of the same. L and I left for a baby shower for a fellow officer’s wife, and we happily cruised along country roads, enjoying a beautiful October day, the warm sun, and the contrast of the leaves that had started to change against the perfect blue sky.

My phone rang- it was JD. I was happy to get a chance to talk to him before I arrived at the shower and hear how his day was going.

“Heyyyy” I answered cheerfully.

His voice carried the same adrenaline it had the last time we had a close call. “I just want to give you a heads up, in case there’s anything in the news about an officer getting attacked with a knife. That officer was me, and I’m okay.”

A thousand questions entered my mind, but I could sense he was rushed.

“Do you have time to talk about it?”

“No, but I’ll call you later.”

“Okay, I love you, bye.”

“Love you too, bye.”

And that was all I got. What do you do with information like that? With all of your lingering questions and fears? Do you pull over? Call your mom crying hysterically? Throw up? All of these thoughts crossed my mind, but I’m a LEO wife, which means you just put fear aside and go about your day. You put on a happy face, you take care of your family, and you carry on.

I looked in the rear view and watched L as she looked at a book. Innocent. Unknowing. She adores her father and he adores her. Nothing makes me angrier than to worry that her father will be taken from her and she would have to grow up with out him. There would be no greater injustice than that.

Fortunately, JD was unscathed, but they did send him home early, so L and I got to see him when we got home from the shower. He filled me in on the details. He had been patrolling his beat when he saw an assault taking place. He quickly intervened and the man came after him, taking a swing at his head. Luckily, JD ducked and made him miss, because what JD didn’t realize immediately was that the man had a knife in his hand. He was able to hold him off, and eventually backup arrived.  JD’s instincts and quick thinking kept everyone in this situation safe, including the victim who later told him he’d probably saved her life.

It’s moments like these that remind me how real the danger of his job is, that it’s not just hype or drama or anxiety. That there are a million moments our LEO’s face that DON’T make the news (this one didn’t either) but leave them literally inches from harm. It’s terrifying to think how quickly our lives could change, but JD has sworn to me several times that he refuses to die on the job, and he’s nothing if not stubborn, so I believe him when he tells me that.

But it’s not just death or injury that worries me. In light of recent events, I have to wonder what would have happened if JD was forced to take more extreme measures to keep himself safe? What if he’d had to fire his gun? What if that shot had been fatal? What kind of repercussions would there have been then? What version of the story would have made it to the news? How would our family be impacted?

What if?  That is the haunting question lingering behind every police shift.

Still Here

Hey, y’all (I’ll always be an Ohio girl, but with NC being my current home state, sometimes I feel the need to throw a y’all in there).

I’ve been neglecting the blog, and I’m kind of okay with that. Life has been a whirlwind. It seems JD’s injury and the schedule he maintains on light duty has opened us up to doing more, and we’ve managed to quickly fill all that “extra” time we now have. In the past month, there have been birthday parties, dinners, a baseball game, a goodbye to L’s babysitter, a transition to a new daycare, and a motorcycle trade-in (JD’s sport bike for a “safer” cruiser).

This past Sunday, we were so desperate for life to slow down that we physically marked the day off on our Joint Calendar so that neither of us could make any plans (and yes, we had to turn some people down). We had a quiet day at home as a family, just watching movies and recharging.

It. Was. Amazing.

I felt SO relaxed by the end of the day and felt like I had finally had a minute to ENJOY my weekend and time with JD and L. It was a reminder that sometimes you just have to say no to things. Sometimes, shutting out the rest of the world to enjoy a quiet moment with your family is necessary and worthwhile.

So, I’m still here. Hopefully I’ll get back to posting more frequently, but for now, I’m just enjoying family, friends, summer, and stealing a quiet moment here and there.

Thankful for This Monday

Usually, Mondays are a drag, but sometimes, I’m so thankful for a new week and a fresh start. After dealing with JD’s dislocated shoulder and surgery last week, I was physically exhausted and mentally drained. I was overwhelmed, not so much because I kept busy taking care of JD, L, three dogs, and a household on top of my full-time job and the stress of finding a new daycare for L. What was most draining to me is that JD wasn’t therementally. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say he spent the week in a narcotics-induced coma. He was only awake for an hour or so while I was home, long enough to eat, but he was still in such a trance from the meds that he couldn’t even hold a conversation.

After the hematoma last fall and epic failure of whatever they prescribed him then, we wanted to be a little more proactive and asked the doctor to make sure JD got something decent, pointing out all of the injuries/surgeries he’s had, and how he’s built up a tolerance to pain meds. While the meds the doctor prescribed were certainly enough to take care of JD’s pain this time around, it seems we went to the opposite extreme and what he was taking was too much, even for him.

In retrospect, that may have been what made the week so hard. I had a lot going on, obviously, but when I couldn’t come home and have a decent conversation with my husband, talk through the daycare situation with him and get a valid opinion, or even laugh with him about something funny L did- when the man I know and love was there physically but was emotionally vacant, that was where my real struggle came in.

Luckily, JD made the decision to go off the pain meds on Friday. He was tired of being so out of it, and wanted to see if he could manage without them. By Saturday, he felt awful, not from the pain, but he was actually suffering from withdrawal from the meds, a testament to how strong they were, especially considering he was only on them for a few days. He spent most of Saturday upstairs in bed, and couldn’t even manage to get out of bed long enough to watch L while I mowed the lawn (fortunately, a neighbor at least did the front lawn for us, so our yard is less jungle-like). Sunday morning, I was pleasantly surprised when he got up before me, took his first shower since surgery, and offered to take me to breakfast for Mother’s Day.

I felt an enormous weight lifted off me. My husband was back, he was coherent, and my Mother’s Day was not going to be spent in post-surgery isolation. I don’t think I realized how much of last week’s frustrations had been about the fact that he couldn’t offer me emotional support until that moment.  This morning I was back at it, up at 5:30 sharp for yet another full day of raising a daughter, commuter traffic, work, dogs, dinner (I make frozen pizza like a champ!), and attempting (albeit unsuccessfully) to start our goddamned mower.  But all of this is far less stressful than last week just because JD is there, loving, listening, and appreciating.  Dealing with the post-injury madness won’t always be easy on our household, but knowing that he’s there with me will certainly  make it a lot easier.

 

Upheaval

There is one word that comes to mind when I think of the past week. Upheaval.

The weekend started out fantastically. It was JD’s weekend off and his first weekend back on a day schedule for the month. We grilled out with our neighbors Friday and kicked off the weekend with drinks and plenty of laughs. Saturday morning L slept in till 9- 9!!!– and we went out for breakfast as a family. We had the whole weekend ahead of us- sunny skies, warm weather, and no plans. I was giddy with possibilities.

But it was all downhill from there.

JD went to the opening of a new skatepark in the area. BMX is one of his many hobbies, although he hasn’t done it in quite some time, so he was really excited for a local park to open up and get some riding in.

A couple of hours later, I got The Call.

“Don’t be mad,” he said as soon as I answered.

I immediately knew. I’ve been married to JD for 5 years. I’m quite familiar with The Call.

“You hurt yourself.”  (It was a statement, not a question.)

“I dislocated my shoulder,” he specified.

Saturday afternoon was spent at the ER, then JD followed up with an orthopedist on Monday. I had held out hope that surgery wouldn’t be necessary, but talking with the orthopedist made it clear that was the way to go. He’d torn ligaments and JD’s job depends on him being physically active and strong; we couldn’t risk him not healing correctly or fully, so we went ahead and scheduled surgery for Wednesday.

I was already feeling tired and vulnerable when I picked L up after work Monday. Unfortunately, the babysitter had another bomb for me.

“So, I have some bad news,” she began.

I immediately knew. What other news it could it be? What other news could she possibly share with me that would be considered bad? I could already feel the tears welling up.

She confirmed my fears when she said, “We’re moving.”

The tears came. She jumped up and hugged me. I assured her I was happy for her (her hubby got a job with the Sherriff’s department on the coast- how could I not be happy for a fellow LEOW?) but those tears had been building up for days, and I had just reached my breaking point.

When I drop L off in the mornings, I’m entrusting a piece of my heart to someone else. K has watched L for just over a year, and to lose her, the trust we’ve developed and, most importantly, the relationship L has with her, is almost unbearable.

As much as I like to pretend otherwise, I’m not Superwoman. These few days were overwhelming for me, but the good cry I had Monday night helped me take a deep breath and just move forward.

I started researching daycare centers in the area. As much as we’ve loved having L in an in-home daycare, she is transitioning to toddler, walking all over, exploring her world, talking more and more, and ready for more social interaction. I found a local daycare center I’m actually really excited about, and plan to visit in the next few days.

JD’s surgery this morning went well and he’s now on the road to recovery. It will be a long, tough journey.  Once he’s back at work, he’ll be off patrol and assigned to light duty somewhere (his worst nightmare). He can’t lift or hold L for at least 6 weeks, and he’s under strict instructions to avoid combat sports for 6 months (his other worst nightmare).  He does what little he can at home, but without use of his right arm, that’s not much. Poor little L doesn’t understand what’s up or why daddy can’t pick her up, which is hard on everyone.

The silver lining to these situations always seems to be the friends and family that step in and offer to help.  Many have offered to watch L, and David’s grandma stepped in last minute to pick her up at the ER Saturday afternoon then took her overnight last night since JD’s surgery was so early in the morning. We had a friend who let us borrow a recliner so JD could sleep comfortably (sleeping in bed is out of the question) and another friend who picked up the recliner and delivered it in his truck. Where we would be without these people, I’m not sure, but I can tell you we’re forever grateful for caring people who go out of their way to help out.

For me, I guess my new motto is, “Just keep swimming.”