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.

 

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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.

Refresh

Let’s talk about how long it’s been since I posted.  I had to reset my password on my WordPress account because I couldn’t remember my login.

Yikes, guys.  It’s been a while.

Here I am, 6 months after my most recent post, wondering where time has gone and how I’ve gone so long without posting.

So what have I been up to? Traveling to visit family and friends. Enjoying my summer. Enjoying my new house. Recovering from traveling and my summer and the move into the new house. Avoiding the internet and the trolls who post hateful, hurtful things about our LEOs. Spending my evenings in survival mode as I continue to muster through a very stressful year at work- opting to completely check out with a glass of wine (oh, so much wine).

I miss the blog, I really do. The thing is, I just truly haven’t had the energy or the inspiration in months. All of that energy was being consumed by other things, and I had to reserve what little I had left for my daughter, for my family, and even sometimes, just for myself.

Part of me feels like this was the time I should have been stepping up and posting. This was the time that we as LEO supporters needed to come together, to speak out, to know that we’re not alone. We needed people to voice positives instead of the negatives. We needed people to speak truths instead of rhetoric and lies.

I’ll admit, there were times I wanted to tell JD to quit. To let someone else take on that burden. Our officers are being attacked, hunted, and gunned down simply for wearing a uniform and a badge, not just on the job, but sometimes in their own homes. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, this happened and I felt broken on a whole new level. She wasn’t just a member of the LEO community. She was a mother– a mother who didn’t get to take her baby home from the hospital. Every time I think about it, my heart breaks all over again.

But, we are not a community of quitters. We are passionate about what our partners do; we recognize their calling. We agreed to this knowing the sacrifice, the struggles, and the worry that would come with it. We acknowledge the need for our good men and women to stand strong and represent our community, even when it seems the good stories aren’t the ones being shared. Even when it feels like the tides have shifted and we’re viewed as the enemy.

We’re still here and I’m still here. So now feels like a good time to hit refresh- on the blog and on life. For now, I look forward to life getting back to the mundane, for a quiet holiday season spent at home, and hopefully a blog post once in a while.

Stay Strong, Blue Families

One night recently, JD arrived home from a shift, walked in the door, and the first words out of his mouth were to announce that the blue line stickers were coming off our cars.  He immediately grabbed a razor blade and headed back out to the driveway to remove the stickers before he’d even changed out of his uniform or eaten.  The threat to LEO’s and their families is very real and growing, unfortunately.  There’s intelligence that some plan to use these stickers to follow LEO families back to their homes.  I had a feeling this day was coming given the current view of Law Enforcement, but it doesn’t make it any less scary or sad.  Removing the stickers feels like giving in, like we’re letting the hatred win.  I always have been and always will be a proud police wife, but I hate feeling like I have to hide it, like I’m supposed to be ashamed of it.  If I meet someone who asks what my husband does, I’m not even sure I should tell them anymore.  Maybe it’s safer to go with the generic “he works for the city,” not because I’m truly ashamed, but because I have a family, and my number one priority is my daughter’s safety.  You just never know.

I have never had a lot of anxiety about the type of work JD does all day.  Sure, I worry, but I don’t let that worry consume me.  When people ask how I deal the stress of sending my husband off to such a dangerous job, I tell them that it’s equal parts faith and denial.  I am confident in his abilities as a Law Enforcement Officer and trust that those abilities will bring him home, but quite honestly, I know I can’t let myself think about the realities of his job because it would start to take me to that place of extreme anxiety.  Now that the atmosphere is changing, worry is becoming a greater part of my daily life.  There’s a heaviness on my heart, a fear that comes with sending him off to every shift that I’m not used to.  Officers are being targeted.  I trust in JD’s abilities when the fight is fair, but now that our officers are being executed and shot at while performing everyday duties, putting on that uniform has become more dangerous than ever.

The voices of hatred and violence have been louder than the voices of support.  Sometimes, it feels like LEO’s and their families are on their own, that no one is standing behind us anymore, but every once in a while, someone takes time to tell JD thank you or posts something kind on social media.  I think all of us in this community need to be reminded that there are people out there who recognize how hard this is.  That we’re not forgotten about.  That we’re still appreciated.  That all of this is still worth it.

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.

To Speak or To Keep Your Mouth Shut: The Police Wife’s Dilemma

The first rule of being a police wife: Never read the comments section.

Seriously just don’t.  It’s nearly impossible not to take some of the accusations and hatred personally.  After all, they’re attacking the integrity, the very heart of our LEOs- the men and women who sit at the center of our lives, of our children’s lives.  Who we watch strap on that vest every day and do the impossible.  The things they do, the things they see, it takes someone special to dedicate their life to that type of work.  You can’t just sit back and let them be berated.

So you’re compelled to respond, though your response likely won’t change anyone’s opinion anyway.  You’ll go around and around in circles till you’re shaking with anger.  It will take you to a very dark, very negative place.

I resent any implication that my husband is racist, blood thirsty, lazy, or any other hateful term that comes with the territory.  I know him better than anyone in the media, better than the Internet trolls, better than some bullshit cop hate blog. I can assure you he is none of these things. In fact, he is the opposite. He is called to a life of service; his soul craves it.  Do you know how rare and beautiful these people are?  Nothing else has fulfilled him the way his military and law enforcement experience has.  I rarely see him happier than when he comes home after feeling like he truly made a difference in someone’s life and helped them in some way.  Nothing hurts him more than to feel like he couldn’t do enough to save or help someone.

And you…. You who are hiding behind your computer screens talking about things you’ve never experienced.  I don’t see you stepping up to a life of service.  I see your ego and self-righteousness making things worse.  I see you causing the hatred, the hurt, and the problem.  So maybe you should strap on that vest and work alongside my husband for a few days.  I’d love to see what you have to say then.

Halloween Recap

Although this wasn’t L’s first Halloween, in some ways it felt like it.  Last year, she was only 9 months old, so Halloween equated “this bulky thing you put on me is weird and annoying, mom.”  She looked darn cute though!

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This was also the first year since JD started with the police department that I can actually remember him having the night off.  We debated taking advantage and actually taking L trick-or-treating (who knows what his schedule will look like next year), but decided she’s probably still a little too young.  Instead, we hung out on the porch and handed out candy.  As it turns out, L was probably just as happy doing that anyway.

I was a bit worried that all the kids in costumes would freak her out, or that she would catch on to the fact that she was giving away all of our precious candy (leaving none for her), but she actually took on the role of Official Candy Giver-Outer enthusiastically.  She spent most of the evening parading around with the candy bowl, and when she saw kids coming up, she would take a piece of candy out of the bowl and put it in their bag, then wave as they walked away and say “bye!”

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It’s funny how parenthood makes you see things from a fresh perspective, how something like Halloween, which I stopped appreciating several years ago, is new and exciting again.  Now I get to see things through L’s eyes, and there is so much joy in that.