The Hidden “I” in Team


At regular intervals throughout his 26-year military career, my husband has been promoted to the next rank. Each time this happens, there is a little ceremony, during which my husband gives a brief speech. After two decades of being married to a Navy man, I have that speech pretty much memorized.

“Captain So-and-so, thank you for the wonderful introduction. Also, kudos go out to Petty Officer Whatsisface for the lovely decor and delicious cake. *clears throat* When I joined the Navy [#] years ago, I never imagined making [current rank]. I merely aspired to learn, to travel the world, and to serve my country. But I stayed in the Navy because, simply put, I love my job. And the reason I love my job is because of the people I’ve been fortunate enough to work for and with. [Names various people in the command, to include Admiral Whooziewhat, seated nearby.] But there is someone else here that I need to recognize. Someone, without whom, I would not be standing before you all here today. Someone who has been my teammate for [#] years — my wonderful wife, Lisa.”

Women swoon, men wink, cameras flash, I blow my husband a kiss, and he smiles in return. And every time, at that moment, I actually believe it’s true.

Soon after, I find myself alone, changing the wiper blades, taking the dog to the vet, paying the exterminator bill, and ordering our son to shave. My teammate is not around, because he is halfway across the globe. It’s not his fault; he’s working to support our family.

But, when I become the sole manager of our family, I am often frazzled, overwhelmed, and unshowered, walking around with my arms held up like a crazed zombie in search of Sauvignon Blanc. My personality waffles between deranged inmate, vicious dictator, catatonic robot and hormonal sobbing mess, while I try my best to handle our chaotic home life on my own. This doesn’t feel like teamwork, but more like some bizarre form of solitary confinement.

My husband just left for Italy. He’ll be gone for a only a week, then back for a week, then gone again to Alabama for a week, then home another week before he’s off again to Texas for another week. These little work trips are minor annoyances when compared to the long deployments other military folks are enduring, and besides, managing the home front alone gets easier the older you get, right?

Uh, not so much.

Like an old umbrella stroller with a wobbly wheel, an old shirt with a loose button, an old desktop computer with too many image files, an old blender that gives off a burning smell every time you try to make a frozen margarita — I used to work really well, but the older I get, the more likely it is that I’m gonna blow.

The kids tiptoe around the house, hoping that I’ll wipe the smudged mascara away from my eyes before I take them to school, and wondering whether I’ll force them to eat cheese and crackers again for dinner. The dog senses tension, and follows me around the house, licking my pant legs. But with the distraction of the DVR, therapeutic happy hours with the neighbors, and a secret can of Pringles stashed in the laundry room, I know I will cope until my husband gets home.

I must admit, I have come to enjoy certain aspects of my temporary solitude — total control of the TV clicker, sleep uninterrupted by snoring, cheese and cracker dinners. And he, too, relishes his “me time” while on travel — total control of the TV clicker, sleep uninterrupted by his wife telling him to stop snoring, restaurant dinners.

Despite the suitcase full of dirty laundry and the generous gift of hotel mini-soaps he deposits with me upon returning home, we are undoubtedly happiest when we are together. But as a military family, we must often work separately toward our common goals. As sports writer Amber Harding once said, “… there most certainly is an ‘I’ in ‘team.’ It is the same ‘I’ that appears three times in ‘responsibility.'”

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Comments: 16

  1. annie May 24, 2014 at 11:15 pm Reply

    Wow … so well written. We’re not a military/navy/army family, but my husband travels a lot, and no, I don’t get hotel soap momentos, but I wish I did, I am left alone at home with two small kids, and I’ve gotten so used to that, that I don’t what a “normal” family life is really like. I appreciate well-written posts like yours to let me know that I’m not alone, going stir-crazy at home. :-_

  2. John Coleman April 4, 2014 at 12:24 pm Reply

    Sending energetic thoughts your way, Lisa. I honestly couldn’t do what you’re doing–alone with the kids. Whew. Peace and best, John

    • Lisa Smith Molinari April 4, 2014 at 1:46 pm Reply

      You could do it, John, as long as you have a DVR, some tasty treats, and some good friends for diversion.

  3. andrea navarrete 2014 April 4, 2014 at 4:36 am Reply

    Hi Lisa! I really like your blog because its always funny ! By the way congratulations!

  4. Masterpiece Makers April 3, 2014 at 4:31 pm Reply

    I have never been in your position, but I can somewhat relate because I am a stay at home mom on weekdays. Your story is inspiring! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Simon April 3, 2014 at 12:53 pm Reply

    This is really good, I will spend the rest of spring trying to work up the courage to compare my wife to a blender making the burning smell that subtly hints that at any point this margarita could be the last haha. Great stuff Lisa.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari April 4, 2014 at 11:17 am Reply

      As always, this comment means a lot coming from you – a great, sincere writer, who can see the humor in the reality of family life!

  6. Michelle Mikatarian April 2, 2014 at 11:33 pm Reply

    If you ever need to replenish you Pringle stash in a crisis I usually always have a tube of them rolling around the mini-van, stray dog hair and carpet lint included no extra charge!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari April 4, 2014 at 11:15 am Reply

      HA! So true Michelle…we could put together the stuff we both have rolling around our mini-vans and have a veritable feast!

  7. teenstodayproject April 2, 2014 at 4:11 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on teenstodayproject.

  8. energywriter April 2, 2014 at 11:48 am Reply

    That pretty much sums it up. Great job. Will u be in Dayton next week? Sd

    Sent from my NOOK

    The Me

    • Lisa Smith Molinari April 2, 2014 at 4:12 pm Reply

      I am not going to Dayton, and am very bummed about this. My husband is traveling for work a lot over the next two months (which makes this posting so timely!) and having just moved here in July, I do not have the kind of support network one would need to ask them to take responsibility for my house, three kids in three different schools, and a big sloppy mutt! Not to mention, our tuition bills have hobbled my ability to galavant off to conferences. I had to prioritize, and I decided to go to the NSNC conference in DC this June when the kids are out of school. I can drive or train it, and my mother in law lives there, so I will pay her a visit. I wish I could be there with you, Sharon, but Life Happens!

  9. lauriebest April 2, 2014 at 9:24 am Reply

    Well written and right on point! At least the dog still licks your pant legs…

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