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Secrets Don’t Make Friends: Getting Personal at Work

Secrets Don’t Make Friends: Getting Personal at Work

Oct 25, 2013

There is a lot of discussion in the military community about should or shouldn’t you talk about your military family status at work. For me, two months in to our first deployment experience as a family, keeping the deployment a secret was not an option — nor should it have been. I want to be loud and proud of my husband’s service, with the hopes of challenging the military-civilian divide that we military families so often decry. I’ve spoken freely with my co-workers about the process: him leaving, dealing with the kids, solo parenting, the joys and pitfalls of Skype. But finding the right balance of personal sharing during this most recent job transition has been more difficult than I expected. Never was that more obvious than a recent work-related weekend trip. It was a great opportunity to get to know my new co-workers and our organization leadership. It was also a great opportunity to make embarrassing pronouncements about my personal life and awkwardly introduce people to my lack of a filter. When is it too much? Should I have told my coworkers how the three-year-old missed daddy on the very first day? How the one-year-old high fives with daddy on Skype? How my heart breaks when my daughter draws pictures with only three people in it? How the thing I miss most about my husband are his Eddie Vedder and Ira Glass impersonations? I’ve never been very good at separating the professional and the personal. My first job was 3000 miles away from home. Moving to Los Angeles sounded like a grand adventure, until I realized I would spend my weekends by myself going to movies and driving up and down the PCH. (Side note: OH HINDSIGHT, I would love to be solo driving up the PCH right now. SIGH.) I had a great job at an Internet company where my coworkers took pity on the new girl and invited me to join their families for weekend outings and late night adventures in L.A. They became my home away from home, my family. Have you ever tried to work with your family? Yeah. There were some struggles. Building from this experience, I tried to keep my private life out...

The Tyranny of the Deployment Care Package

The Tyranny of the Deployment Care Package

Sep 24, 2013

In addition to attorney, wife and mom, I am also a nerd. This is best evidenced by the glasses I wore starting in the fifth grade, a fashion accessory that told everyone who saw me all they needed to know about me. As a nerd, I hate not knowing. If I don’t know about something, I research. I gather. I learn. My worst habit is pretending I know something when I don’t, an affliction held by many attorneys borne out of a primal need to not look stupid in front of judges and/or the entire world. Enter the Internet, the best thing to happen to nerds since science. Obviously a double-edged sword, I never have to admit I don’t know something — but I also end up seeing things I can’t unsee. Enter The Deployment Care Package Search on Pinterest. When I asked my husband what I could send him, his response was, “I dunno. Whatever?” I appreciate that he loves me too much to feed into my obsessive need to know the “right” answer. I know he will tell me he loves every bag of trail mix and box of cookies I send, but I’d rather send useful things that won’t wind up in the “Take It Please” box of orphaned care packages. I wanted a list of smart things to put in a care package, a list of things that are durable, won’t melt in South-Central Asian heat, and that Soldiers might, you know, like. Like the good and loyal nerd that I am, I went online. And maybe this is where I went wrong: I started with Pinterest. Oh, Pinterest. I had such high hopes for you. A virtual inspiration board? There’s no way I’d have the time or patience to make the offline version — I’m in! But instead, Pinterest has devolved into the place to put projects for the homemaker I wish I was: mom who dyes rice for a sensory box for her toddlers; mom who crafts a pine cone turkey with her three-year old; mom who makes homemade taco seasoning; mom who takes the time to untangle Toddler Rapunzel’s hair with the fabric softener cocktail. And the...

I’m Worried Neko Case Thinks I’m a Bad Person

I’m Worried Neko Case Thinks I’m a Bad Person

Sep 11, 2013

By Josie Beets I am a parent to a one-year old boy and three-year old girl. They are magical beings, and they are cuter than your kids. (Sorry.) From time to time, my beautiful, joy-filled children are like little foreigners to me, speaking some strange language and hailing from some despotic country with an un-benevolent dictator teaching the children in his/her image. When that moment strikes, I normally can hand them to their dad and let him know I’m going to go stand on the porch and yell “GET OFF MY LAWN.” The inability to hand off my tiny despotic bundles of joy has generally gone better than I expected. Our weekends have been mostly filled with playdates, birthday parties, and trips to the farmer’s market. Granted, each excursion, no matter how short, has been excruciating, but only very slightly more insane than when we are practicing “man-to-man” rather than “zone” coverage. But, occasionally, in the midst of handing off only to realize there is no hand off, I have found myself wondering when exactly it was that I decided I wanted kids. My perception (pram through the Park Slope Coop, breastfeeding while the New Pornographers play Celebrate Brooklyn, and co-parenting with your 50-50 partner) has tuned into reality (Wal-Mart tantrums in west central Louisiana, baby’s first Army FreedomFest with Trace Adkins, and always-on, 24/7 parenting). It is in the moments that a fresh fear approaches me: I worry Neko Case thinks I’m a bad mom. Neko Case, for those of you who don’t know, is an angel alien sent to us from that place where awesome things are born — Canada. (Technically, she’s American but I think she would agree that culturally she’s Canadian.) Her voice parts seas. Her songs haunt my waking dreams. And she just released a new album, called: The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight. The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. That title alone launched me into tears on my morning commute — which, truth be told, is not all that difficult. The list of tear-inducing incidents this week include a toilet paper commercial and a really really bad Trent Reznor interview. On this new...

Kisses from Daddy

Kisses from Daddy

Sep 3, 2013

By Josie Beets “But I don’t want to go to day care. I want to stay here and wait for daddy to come home from Afghanistan.” For a three-year-old, she pronounces the country where daddy’s deployed with remarkable accuracy. But her diction is not what’s stabbing a knife of emotion into my stomach. Daddy’s only been gone for twenty-two hours, and I’m not ready for her to be this far along in her stages of deployment comprehension. Also, it’s 6:10 in the morning, and if we don’t leave the house in the next twenty minutes, I’m late to work. “Daddy’s going to be gone for lots of days, remember?” I mange to eek out, swallowing the ginormous lump in my throat. I tell her it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to miss daddy, mommy misses him too. This does not appease her. “How ’bout a kiss?” “OKAY!” While I wish I had the power to ease my child’s tears with a well-placed peck on the cheek, the truth is it takes chocolate. At 6:10 in the morning. (With my apologies to her day care.) We have a “Kisses from Daddy” jar, filled with Hershey’s Kisses. She gets one when she misses daddy, or more commonly, when mommy needs her to get scootin’ in the morning. It is the most depressing collection of candy known to man. Each day is full of unexpected deployment-related emotional minefields. Several inquires from well-meaning co-workers have ended up with us both in tears. The radio is a constant source of emotional terrorism — you do NOT want to be around me when that Macklemore gay marriage song comes on. And my first trip to the post office ended up with me in controlled sobs, over-sharing with the postal clerk (“I’m sorry, it’s just this box will see him before I will… *sniffleSOB*”). This overindulgent raw emotion actually makes me feel more normal. Army normal, that is. For the first days after I dropped my husband off in the rain and sent him to That Place With The Shooting, I was in a sort of state of grace. My living room was no longer a sea of MultiCam. I...

I sent my heart to Afghanistan. And then I went to work.

I sent my heart to Afghanistan. And then I went to work.

Aug 20, 2013

By Josie Beets Last Monday morning, my life took on the characteristics of a Lifetime Original Movie. Not the one where I convince my teenage boyfriend to kill my parents, or the one where my gymnastics coach is so harsh I develop a debilitating eating disorder, but the one where I send my husband off to war. In the pouring rain. While crying, of course. He joined the Army right after 9/11 attacks, inspired to fight back. (My reaction to 9/11? Stockpile beer. You know, just in case.) He got out, went to law school. We met volunteering in New Orleans after Katrina. (I know. Really. We were in People Magazine.) We married, he went back in the Army, we moved, then we moved again. We have two kids, I have a full time job and an hour commute, and now a husband in a war zone. I didn’t plan on marrying into the military. Counterculture was my thing in high school and college. I moved to Los Angeles then New York so I could fully immerse myself in the culture of the other, of the non-mainstream. I took great pride in smoking and drinking and staying out late, and made a hobby of having grand ideals about politics. I even protested the Iraq war my future husband fought in. But while I was busy on my way to being a bleeding heart liberal punk rock public defender, I fell in love. GROAN, right? For the most part, I’ve grown to love being a military family. The pay sucks, but what it lacks in cash it more than makes up for in honor, integrity and pride. Everyone is definitely not doing it — in the all-volunteer force, only one percent of Americans are currently in the military — so it plays into my underdog, outsider mentalities. But it’s not a perfect institution; like any micro-community, it has its bad apples and bad actors. Even worse, sometimes the Army fails its Soldiers, a hard truth when you think about how much a person has to give up to serve. And our military lifestyle is not easily compatible with my professional career. I’m a lawyer by...

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