“Military life throws some doozies at you and you have to stay strong to power through it.”

We have all been talking a lot about the “new normal” and life with COVID-19. As a military spouse, I’ve had to endure a lot of changes. The pandemic is just another change of course, and we adapt and overcome. We lean on each other and keep moving forward. Before you know it, you are on the other side of the hard times. It’s important to me that I share with you how grateful I am for the experiences that brought me to this point, and how I know that we will definitely move forward in a positive way –personally, professionally and with Heroes on the Water.

Let’s Talk Change

Obviously, my background could not fully prepare me for a pandemic, and I’ve had several adjustments to make. Fortunately, none are drastic. First, I always work from home, but the pandemic brought my husband home to work and my youngest son home to complete his sophomore year of college. All of us trying to find a spot for our conference calls or video meetings without disrupting the others was a challenge. Throw in two curious, spoiled rotten cats and it sometimes became comical.

Second, my mom has many significant health issues and is currently living in a senior living facility not far from us. When the first wave of the virus arrived, she was put on lockdown and confined to her room for her safety. I usually take my mom out once a week to run her errands but that immediately stopped. She understood what was going on in the world by watching TV, but she was scared. I struggled with not being able to be with her and trying to help her through her roller coaster ride of emotions only by phone.

Third, I miss spending time with all of my people. I’m a hugger and most people in my life just deal with it. I miss hugging my loved ones. Rusty’s parents, brothers and their families all live just a few miles from us. We hadn’t seen everyone in weeks which is very unusual. We spent Mother’s Day sitting in lawn chairs social distancing in my in-law’s driveway. It was amazing to see everyone but hard to stay 6 feet away.

Even today, with so much of the country trying to re-open, things are different. We may be asked to wear masks, we have to still distance, and not all parts of the country are the same. Being in a situation that is constantly changing is something I am comfortable with, thanks to being an Army wife.

Military Spouse Training

Being a military spouse is tough, but now I realize trained me to handle just about anything thrown at me. The hardest part of being a military spouse was the time away from my husband, Rusty. Whether it was military schools, training, or multiple deployments overseas, he was sometimes away more than he was home. Raising two boys as a geographical single parent was not always the easiest either. I feel that the 19 years as a military spouse prepared me to face most any crisis even alone, if needed.

I learned quickly to not take for granted time we had together. When you are in the military you always know your time somewhere is short. Making friends is easy. They become your family and you celebrate holidays and birthdays together. Unfortunately, you only have so much time before one of you is being stationed in another location. Time together is always precious. That has become true today, with all the separation we are experiencing, not being able to see friends and family as I wish.

There’s a phrase that goes something like “When people make plans, God laughs.”  I would add that “When people make plans, God laughs but the military takes it as a challenge to upend.” It never fails that the moment you finally paint that room or finally feel like you are settled, your spouse shows up with orders and you are moving in 30 days.

Moving Forward – Our “New Normal”

For me, the most important thing to remember as we return to some level of normalcy is that we still must be careful. Caution must still be exercised. I think we can all agree that we would never want to unknowingly expose someone else to this virus.  Since I could be asymptomatic and be carrying the virus, I would feel awful knowing I exposed anyone because I couldn’t take the time to put on a mask or use hand sanitizer.  I think of my mom, in-laws, our precious church family who are mostly in the older bracket, and our elderly neighbors. They are the ones who must be protected, and it is up to each one of us to do everything we can to keep them safe. A small inconvenience on our part isn’t worth the risk of exposing anyone to this deadly virus.

My biggest concern about re-opening the country is timing.  Is it too soon?  To date, there is no vaccine or cure. The quarantine didn’t erase the virus from the planet. It just gave us time to get some infrastructure in place to handle the number of cases. Some people can get the virus and recover easily. Some aren’t that lucky. My primary care doctor contracted the virus and almost died. He lost 50 lbs., was in ICU for 3 weeks without any family, and now has to use a walker. This virus is no joke. If we aren’t diligent with limiting our exposure, we may be back on lockdown sooner than later.

That said, as our communities re-open I am most excited about spending time with my friends and family, to include my HOW family. I’m excited to go to the movies again. The pandemic also made me greatly appreciate my wonderful hair stylist. She works wonders on all of my grey hairs.

HOW is Preparing to Meet the Need

It has been difficult not being able to hold our normal HOW events. Ideally, kayaking and fishing is a great way to enjoy social distancing. The issue with HOW events is preventing the contamination and exposure element.  Just like restaurants and stores are having to do employ additional steps to ensure the safety of their patrons, HOW is also looking at ways we can limit exposure at our events. Most HOW events have between 25-50 participants and volunteers. Most of the country is still not able to have gatherings of that size yet. Also, we have to look at sanitizing the equipment before and after each use. We provide all the equipment to be used at a HOW event: kayak, paddle, PFD, rod, reel, bait, and refreshments. We are working with experts to find the best way to clean the HOW gear. Most of our volunteers have stated that they are still finding it difficult to find cleaning supplies in their area especially in the quantities needed for an event.  Personally, I still can’t find hand sanitizer in my area even in a travel size. We want to make sure when we do start having HOW events again that we do them safely.  Fortunately, our team has been working around the clock, and we are very close to having a good strategy for re-opening.

Take Nothing for Granted

For me, the quarantine made many things immediately stop. My work trips, family vacations, parties & celebrations were all canceled. We were told to shelter at home unless absolutely necessary. I have thoroughly enjoyed the extra time with my husband and adult son. We have cleaned and organized many parts of our house that would have continued to have been ignored because we were too busy. We have gotten our money’s worth of our Netflix & CBS All Access subscriptions. Going forward I hope to remember to not let myself get so busy that I forget to focus on what is right there in front of me.

Also, I think we need to expect changes and have an abundance of patience. We should anticipate that things will not be back to normal anytime soon, if ever. Expect the changes and adapt to them.

When this virus is behind us and we get to go back to whatever normal will look like going forward, I hope gratefulness is expressed far and wide.  I will admit that I took for granted the freedom I had. I took for granted that I could hang out with my friends and family whenever we wanted. I hope we all remember this time and going forward express gratitude for every aspect of our lives. We are very blessed.

  1. Kay Arbenz May 30, 2020 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful testimony, Amber. I so agree with everything you said. I am so proud to call you and Rusty my friends. You are the daughter I never had! Love you. You and Rusty raised beautiful boys. I understand it was mostly you! (been there, done that!). Your boys are so protective of you. So proud of the job you have done with HOW!

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