I’m going to start celebrating now. Why not?
If you know Chris and me personally, you almost definitely know that the past year has brought a unique rhythm to our lives.
We’ve spent a large majority of the past year apart. Chris will be graduating in May with his PharmD and has spent the last 9 months completing his intern rotations. This means that every six weeks, he has had to move to a new pharmacy in a new city to live and work apart from Poppy and me. So, aside from rotation five that started just before Thanksgiving and ended after the Christmas holidays, we’ve only had weekends together.
Now, trust me – I know this is nothing to complain about compared to what many families endure (yep, I’m talking about you, highly-respected and oft-prayed-for military families), but it’s still been difficult to spend so much time apart.
I’m generally a planner, and I love making lists. So, long before that first rotation started, I had a rough draft of a plan in mind about how we could keep in touch – ways that I could bless and encourage Chris from afar and maintain our family relationships among the three of us.
FaceTime aka “Phone Daddy”
The same could be achieved through Skype or any other video chat, but we chose to invest in iPhones before this year apart started so that we’d have easier and near-constant access to communicating with one another.
Especially for Poppy, the ability to see Chris each night and have him pray with us before bedtime, or the chance to “invite” him to a dance party we girls are having, or to even show him something here around the house has been invaluable.
We got better at this as the year went on, but we now have Daddy pray for Poppy every night before bed. It’s a wonderful way to include him in some of our day-to-day routines and keep the two of them on one another’s mind.
Chris and I have always been very accustomed to communicating via text, and so it was easy to maintain that. Some balk at texting, but it’s a true lifeline for us! There’s something nice about being able to send anything to him at any time and not having to try to remember every detail throughout the day until we’re able to talk on the phone.
I also send a fair amount of photos and videos. Whether it’s a funny meme I saw that I want to share or the latest video of Poppy’s hiccups (um, yeah :)), it makes me feel connected to him to share even the small, silly, random, and often pointless stuff with him.
I have written Chris a letter to read for every night he has to go to sleep without me. I’ve actually written more than that (usually for any day that we don’t see him when he awakes and goes to sleep), but Chris reads them consistently before he goes to bed.
This idea is not my own. In fact, my mama used to write me letters when I was young. I remember how awesome it was to have a piece of her each day, even though we were apart. Sometimes she wrote gentle reminders about minding my manners, playing nicely with my brother, etc. Sometimes she would write backwards so I had to read the message using a mirror. There are lots of fond memories from those days, and I know I have at least some of the letters saved (somewhere!).
For Chris, I try to always write letters that build him up. He is encountering new challenges and faces each day, and regardless of whether or not I’m there when he walks in the door at night, I still want to be his biggest cheerleader. Words of affirmation are important to him – it’s one of his love languages (thankfully I have a lot of words!)
I also share verses, dreams, prayers, and even some (often lame ;)) chemistry or pharmacy jokes. Many a time, Poppy has drawn in a letter for Daddy, and we’ve also traced her hands and feet for him several times. Weeks I’ve been pregnant over the past year, I’ve shared with him baby’s current development on the weekly “change day.” They’re short letters, but I’d like to think they pack a punch. And, I’m happy that I’ve been able to consistently get them written for him! He has saved each one. ❤
Originally, I thought it would be fun to mail him some care packages throughout his year, but honestly, I haven’t done it! I do believe I mailed him a card and gift card once, but never a big package. I have, however, hand-delivered a care package and also sent him away many weeks with some kind of goodie. I loved care packages in college, so I thought it was a great idea. Sometimes I just felt like he wasn’t actually gone long enough for it to have the same effect for him now as it did for us in undergrad.
“The Super Daddy”
Poppy and I ordered Chris an awesome book his first Father’s Day. I had seen a recommendation for it on an online forum, and I fell in love with the concept. I simply emailed a good photo of Chris – good as in one where he’s looking straight at the camera, etc (all photos of Chris are good ;)) – and this company inserts his face into a book! The book is called The Super Daddy, and it was done by a company called Flatten Me. (Google them… pretty cool!)
I have to admit that I had the book put up for the longest time. Poppy was at the stage where the pages wouldn’t have been safe with her! She’s growing up and learning how to treat things more carefully, though, and so I was happy to pull this book off the shelf to read to her! We must have read it a dozen times in the first few days. She loved it! And, it made me feel good about keeping Daddy on her thoughts and seeing his face.
In many ways, it has been our mid-week visits that have been most special. They truly are “splurge” visits, and I recognize how truly blessed we are that we can have such visits. I am in the most wonderful situation right now, cocooned by family, where I can come and go as needed. And, though Chris can’t be with us during the week, he still has evening time that we can spend time together.
Many times, we have had to stay in a hotel for the night due to his student housing accommodations, but other times we’ve have been able to stay with the friends or family members that Chris has been able to stay with! Double blessing!
Making a Few Lists
One thing that I didn’t plan to do but that has come in very handy from time to time is making a list of things we need to discuss. Texting is great for staying in contact but not usually the best for making big decisions or recounting lengthy stories. At the beginning of the year, I was struggling to remember everything on the weekend that would have cropped up over the past week that I needed to talk to Chris about.
I literally made a note in my phone titled, “Things to Tell Chris.” Now, whenever something comes to mind, I write it down there and feel confident that we’ll address it when we have time!
Additionally, as a list-maker, I feel better about thinking ahead to the weekend and giving Chris as good a head’s up as possible about what to expect. He’s transitioning from one routine and schedule to another every few days, and I want to respect his time. I don’t want to have his whole weekend planned out of have so many things on my to-do list that we don’t get good time together. So, I plan ahead as best I can!
A Surprise Visit!
I only managed to pull this off once, but it was awesome! I arranged for my parents to keep Poppy overnight so I could drive to have a date night with Chris! It was awesome to surprise him in this way. Frankly, this was the biggest surprise for him I’d probably ever pulled off in our marriage, so it was a big deal!
Guarding Our Time Together
Ultimately, throughout our year, I’ve tried to always put Chris first. I want him to know that our marriage is more important to me than a girls’ night or a weekend away, etc. I have tried to make careful decisions that help us make the most of the time that we do have together instead of scheduling him out of the picture. I think I had to be more intentional about this at the beginning when I was still adjusting to my new living arrangement and was overwhelmed with opportunities to get involved in the community. Otherwise, this has been kind of a no-brainer.
I know many of you have prayed for us throughout our year and helped us out in various ways. We really thank you for the support!
What methods do you use to stay close to far-away loved ones?