Today’s deployment idea comes from Aprille at Beautiful in His Time. She is a good friend of mine who is an army wife and who has gone through many deployments. I hope you enjoy her rendition of a deployment countdown calendar, because it’s pretty awesome!
You look at that calendar, all those empty days, and wish for a way to make them go by faster. You miss your spouse more than anything, and feel so disconnected from him, especially on days when he’s unable to contact you at all. You don’t know when he’s coming home, just that it’s an eternity away.
I’ve faced this situation at the beginning of a deployment twice now – and survived. I’d like to share with you one of the things that helped those days go by faster and helped me feel more connected to my husband: my “Sweet Nothings, Sweet Memories” deployment countdown calendar. (I just came up with the super-sweet title tonight… before it was just known as “the calendar that takes up one whole wall in my house.”)
- A penchant for saving pretty much every sweet email, text message, or IM conversation your husband has ever sent you. Or taking lots of pictures of you and your man. Preferably both. This is the one bad part about this calendar – it may not be for everyone. If you are heavy on hitting the delete key and light on the snap button, it probably won’t work for you. But keep reading–because maybe your upcoming deployment is far enough out that (after reading this post and realizing that you have a good reason to save things and take pictures) you still have time to start collecting.
- This two-week printable calendar:http://www.printablepaper.net/preview/calendar_week_on_1_page
- Avery address labels 8160/8250/5260 or store-brand alternative. (30 labels on one sheet 1” by 2⅝”)
- A word processing program such as Microsoft Office or Openoffice.org that has the address label template.
- A printer – preferably color.
- A blank spot on a wall – you’ll need a big one if you are facing a long deployment.
- Random other office supplies such as scotch tape, sticky tack, or thumb tacks. Or all three if you’re nuts like me.
Now for the instructions:
- Print off as many sheets of the calendar template as it will take to cover the approximate length of your deployment. Arrange the sheets to your liking on the blank wall (this is where the sticky tack and tape comes in). You will probably also want to number or date the days as shown below.
- Using your word processing program, on each label, paste either an expert from one of those saved texts, emails, or IMs OR insert a photo. (file>insert>photo/image) Format the text to your liking (get creative with fonts and colors); or resize the photo to fit into the area by dragging the corners. Once you have completed a sheet, print it. You can do several sheets at a time or do a sheet every few weeks, depending on your schedule.
- Each day that your husband is gone, you get to pick a sticker to put up on that day. Put it up with joy and pride and remember that you are loved (even if you are feeling disconnected from him), or remember a sweet memory that you shared.
Now that you understand the concept, here are some tips and ideas for you:
- Make it your own. Decorate it however you like (all you stamping and scrapbooking addicts should have a lot of fun with this one!) You can print off the calendar sheets on different colored paper. Use stickers for special days like birthdays and anniversaries. Decorate around it during holiday seasons. Remember it’s YOUR calendar and there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
- Resize your jpg images to smaller size resolution and quality (preferably under 100 KB each) BEFORE you insert them into your word document. If you do not do this, your file will become so huge it will crash every time you try to save it. (After inserting a bunch of images and formatting 30 labels. For the 15th time. And then your word processing program will crash again just trying to recover the document for you. And you will cry in frustration after spending hours staring at your computer screen all because you want to do SOMETHING to stay sane during this stupid deployment. Oh wait…where was I again?)
- Plan for longer than the deployment is scheduled to be. Trust me it’s a LOT more fun to take down pages that you don’t need (deployment #1) than to have to add pages because the Army squeaked an extra week out of your soldier (deployment #2). And just FYI putting a “Home for the Holidays” sticker on December 24th doesn’t work any magic wonders. Yep, tried that one too.
- I did not have older children during either of our deployments, but an idea to include them is to use photos of your service member with each child, and then they can take turns putting up a sticker every few days.
- When the deployment is over, take it down and put each page in a sheet protector in a 3-ring binder. I haven’t done this yet (deployment #1 is sitting in a folder and deployment #2 is still on the wall), but it’s on my reintegration to-do list. It will be neat to have a tangible reminder of everything that God brought you through during that deployment.
If you are reading this and your heart aches a bit because your husband isn’t very vocal in his affection, please don’t feel badly. My husband is a talker but some guys just aren’t. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you – he just might show it in different ways. Like I said above, this worked for ME, and I’m sharing this because a lot of wives have told me it’s a neat idea worth sharing. But it may not work for you. Maybe you want to improvise a bit and just do a photo calendar. (The original inspiration for this idea came from my mother who made me a photo puzzle to count down the last month before my wedding. Each day I got to put up a puzzle piece that held a picture of my fiance and I.)
Above all, remember that a deployment is made up of days. Take one day at a time. Some days will be harder than others, but at the end of the day you can look back and remember that you are one day closer to being reunited with your love.
“In just two days, tomorrow will be yesterday.” -unknown
Aprille is a 25 year old new mommy to a little 18 month little boy and an army wife of 4 years. She blogs at Beautiful in His Time.