Reflection

When you return to me,

I look in your eyes and see the

essence of you.

Regardless of the tortures you’ve seen.

Without words you can

touch me

in a way that

turns me

inside

out.

I am laid bare for you.

In your eyes I see

The real me reflected there.

The me

I want to be.

As the moon reflects the sun

I reflect the good in you.

  

Ribbon of hearts

Stephanie, Royal Marine Wife.

Ribbon of Hearts.

  

I always think how we first met makes a funny story; I was out with friends and he was out with some fellow Marines from our home town, Grimsby. There were a fair few of them at the time even though we are six hours away from most camps! He had left his friends, very drunk, feeling hungry and had stumbled into a local takeaway pizza place. It was still quite early in the evening so my friends and I were not drunk at this point, but fancied some ‘cheesy chips’ before having more to drink. I was sat down and this random bloke (my now husband) said to me, very drunk but with complete confidence “You’re gonna be my wife one day, will you marry me?” I laughed it off and told the drunk bloke to go away at which point he grabbed my phone and rang himself with it, so he had my number. I laughed again, got my phone back and we left. I didn’t really think anything more about it until a few days later when I was back at Uni and I got this random text saying “Who is this?” I checked my call log and realised it was the random bloke from the pizza place so I replied with “Your Fiancée”. He was in France for three weeks, so we continued to text for a while until we finally got to go on our first date, and the rest as they say is history.

My first tough battle was Ollie’s second tour of Afghanistan. I didn’t know him during his first tour, but I knew he had been injured, shot in the head by a sniper, but luckily lived to tell the tale and complete his full tour. Also a good friend of ours, Rob, had died in Afghan six months before Ollie’s second tour. I was apprehensive about this tour to say the least. I didn’t really know what I had let myself in for in all honesty.

A few weeks into the tour, on a nice relaxed Sunday. I was spending the day with a girlfriend packing up boxes to send out to Ollie and dressing up in silly Halloween outfits, taking photos to print and add to a Halloween theme box of goodies – just silly things to make him smile. I was at home when he rang and he asked how my day had been. I spent several minutes telling him all about what a lovely day I had and what wonderful boxes he was going to receive. Eventually he asked if my parents were home (I was still living at home with them, having only just started my first fulltime job as a midwife). Then he said he had something to tell me; I felt dread in that instant! Knowing it wasn’t going to be good and suddenly realising he had sounded strange and not his usual self, but I had tried to ignore it thinking it was just the phone signal or something. He explained how he and three other lads had been injured, driving over an IED. He told me he had broken ribs and some fractures. I was in shock and didn’t really take much else in from the phone call. I spoke to his parents and the texts from friends and family started coming through as people heard what had happened. He wasn’t injured so badly that he needed to come home. However, he was injured badly enough that he wasn’t going to be returning to active duty for a few months. This was of little comfort to me and it wasn’t until he was actually home months later that I learnt the true extent of his injuries.

I was in bits, I just wanted him home and it was all I could think about day and night. I waited on edge for every phone call, desperate to hear from him and hear about how the other lads, who had suffered worse injuries, were getting on. I couldn’t concentrate at work and it was like a huge black cloud over me constantly. I couldn’t see it at the time but looking back, from that phone call, I was a mess. My only release was at the weekends, when I wasn’t working I would go out with our friends and pass the time getting drunk. It was a very hard time and one that I only started to get through once I had actually seen Ollie, and had seen for myself that he was O.K and that he had made it home to me.

My second tough battle was a few years later; Ollie’s third tour of Afghan. This time things were very different. After the previous tour we bought a house together, we had our daughter, got married and now, had just had our son. Our son was only six days old when Ollie went on his third tour of Afghan. This time I couldn’t be self obsessed like I had been on the previous tour. I had to function as I had two babies who needed me. It was just as hard, but for totally different reasons. Our daughter, having said goodbye to her Daddy and hello to her baby brother was suddenly having screaming fits every night saying she wanted her Daddy. That was very hard to cope with and I often phoned my parents in floods of tears because I couldn’t console her in those early weeks. I just wanted to cry with her, and I’m sure the hormones didn’t help. I kept very busy. Luckily the night feeds meant I was usually too tired to over think things but when I did get a chance to think, I feared the worst; I wondered how would this affect the kids? Will our Son bond with his Dad? Will he ever get to know his Dad (you don’t like to think of worst case scenario but on bad days it does play on your mind!) Although I had amazing support from mine and Ollie’s family and my friends, I felt essentially alone. I felt that no one knew what I was going through. Although my best friends’ husband was in Afghan at the same time, she lived in Catterick, so it meant support via a phone call, and with both of us having young kids it was hard to find the time to chat in peace. I had friends who lived close by who had babies just a few weeks after mine so we spent a lot of time together as ‘mummy friends’. However, although they were fantastic and very supportive, none of them really understood how I felt. I can honestly say the kids got me through that tour, it was tough but keeping busy and trying to make sure the kids didn’t suffer got me through.

My highest reward would have to be charity based; after our friend Robert Pearson died in Afghan I initiated getting a community group together. We planned a huge Memorial Day and superheroes themed night to raise money for Help For Heroes. We raised about £6000 on that one event. I then became a Help For Heroes rep and the group continued raising money for the charity. I feel very proud of all the work we did. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to continue this since having kids. I found working part time and giving everything I can to my kids (often being both Mum and Dad to them) I just didn’t have the time anymore which is a shame but they are, and always will be, my priority.

I also feel immensely proud of the fact I completed the Commando Challenge along with 22 other Royal Marine Wives, Girlfriends and Mums raising a total of £9000 between us. I would have felt proud of this achievement anyway but I did the challenge exactly a week after Ollie had been involved in the IED incident. I wasn’t in any fit state to be running, never mind running with all the extra bits like the sheep dip! But I did it! I came home with a medal, and the biggest blister ever (thanks to borrowing Rob’s boots which didn’t fit me properly!) I was lucky enough to get a phone call from Ollie the next morning and to be able to tell him I had completed the challenge was fantastic. I was a mess and for several months after that I was a mess, but for that one day I achieved something I could really be proud of.

The tours, the injury, the constant distance and time apart, essentially feeling like I am bringing two kids up alone is what I find hardest for me. But the homecomings and special events are so good! I think we enjoy them more because we have to make the most of our time together. The best memories I have are after Ollie’s third tour of Afghan; I was still on maternity leave, our son was eight months old, our daughter was three and we had about six weeks of just spending time together. We went to Butlins, had a week in Scarborough (thanks to the British Legion) days out, days in the house doing normal things, and to end that time together we were lucky enough to have a big family holiday to Turkey. It was so nice to see our family bonding together again, making the most of our time together and doing normal family things without feeling constantly rushed!

If I’m being honest, I can’t wait for Ollie to leave the Marines, I know the grass isn’t always greener, but I long for more of a normal family life. I’m fed up of the months spent apart with hardly any contact (at present two months done another five weeks to go!) and I just want us to be together more!

Having said that I will fully support whatever Ollie chooses to do. We still live in our home town, so I always have the support around me from family and friends. Although I sometimes wish for something different I can, and will, continue the ‘Marine Wife life’ for as long as it’s needed because it is better to spend hardly anytime at all with the right person than all the time in the world with the wrong person.

We try to prepare the kids several weeks in advance of a deployment or exercise reminding them that Daddy is going away with work for a very long time but when he comes home we will have something to look forward to, (most recently Christmas). The last time we said goodbye our daughter was crying hysterically and it was heartbreaking, I think now she’s older she understands more. We use a plaque we had made to count down the number of days until Daddy is home. When he was last in Afghan we got creative with the last month and painted/ coloured in thirty envelopes and stuck them to a pin board, each envelope had a number on and a chocolate inside. The final bit of the countdown saw us turning each envelope over and eating the chocolates until we were left with all the paintings on show making a sign saying “Daddy’s home” plus the final envelope contained a full size chocolate bar! I seem to remember my daughter cheating and helping herself to extra bits of chocolate so I did have to refill them! We have a Royal Marine teddy which we tend to get out when he’s away too, which I think is nice for the kids. Packing up boxes and sending letters is also good for them to help with. I bought the kids a book which explains that even when someone is away from you there’s an ‘invisible ribbon of hearts’ that joins you together forever. Our daughter has spoken about how she never wants to break the ‘ribbon of hearts’ and that she will always be ok as long as she has the magical, invisible ‘ribbon of hearts’. She tells me how much she misses him all the time but neither of the children like talking to him on the phone for some reason, I think because if they do they realise how much they miss him and it makes them sad

As hard as it is, I do love the ‘Marine family’, that part of the Marines is fantastic! Most of the local lads I knew in Grimsby who served in the Marines have now left and gone on to pastures new, but no matter how long they were in the Marines it’s like they say, ‘Once a Marine always a Marine’; they support each other no matter what. For the Royal Marines 350th birthday and in the summer before Ollie left for a training exercise there was a big local event for the lads to celebrate. I just know when all of them are old and grey they will still be meeting up in the local pub, the Navy Bar, and catching up and sharing ‘dits’ and will still support each other as much then as they do now. That part of the military brings a huge smile to my face and makes me feel like it would definitely be O.K for Ollie to serve as many years as he wants in the Marines!

  

Afghanistan ~ and why I can’t talk about it in my book!

So, I had my book launch event on Armed Forces Day! It was  huge success! I wasn’t completely ignored! I got to sell lots of copies of the book and also meet so many people with great feedback and positive things to say. So thank you to all who came along….

22/06/2015 - Pic by Lucy Davies Military wife Elizabeth Eager with her new book Warrior Wives which has been published in time for Armed Forces Day. Reporter Sarah Contact Rebecca (Elizabeth) Eager on 401144 / 07933846569

Military wife Elizabeth Eager with her new book Warrior Wives which has been published in time for Armed Forces Day.

I also met many current and former military wives who praised the book which was lovely. One of the older ladies said that she didn’t know how my generation of military wives did it with Afghanistan. She was  what she called a ‘peacetime wife’ and it was hard enough then! Before I had the chance to explain that I don’t focus on Afghanistan in my book she was gone; into the crowd clutching her copy of ‘Warrior Wives’… and I was left feeling like a fraud!

I felt like a fraud because I only did ONE tour of Afghanistan. It was a tough, arduous, terrifying experience. The wounds run deep and if I’m honest I am still licking those wounds which is why I skim over that part of my story in the book…

Let me try and share some memories from that tour: November 2008 Hubby had been gone approximately 8-10 weeks (I lose track of time!) The phone lines and email service had gone down, which by now I already knew meant a fatality… so I waited! Like every other wife/girlfriend whose partner was serving. Watching the news or making sure you can hear the radio in every room… waiting desperately to hear the horrifying, cold, formal words ‘Next of Kin have been informed.’  … because then you know it wasn’t a knock at the door meant for you. Sometimes the waiting, with a constant knot in your stomach would go on for hours, or days, not knowing if every unknown car you saw drive into your street, every ring of the phone, every knock at the door would be the one to break your heart!

Then, when you finally hear those words, you release the breath you didn’t realise you’d been holding for the last two days! And for me, it was ALWAYS with a sob and sudden, hot, fervent tears for the families that had received that knock. Families, wives and girlfriends that I didn’t know – but who would always be much more to me than just ‘Next of Kin.’

So, November 2008 I’d sobbed my tears for an unknown family and continued to check my emails waiting to hear from my husband until 1 am. I went to bed – nothing. I got up early – nothing. I went to work. (Or rather my body went to work, I was ‘present’ – but I wasn’t really present). I came home from work, I burnt a microwave pasta (how? I don’t know!) … and still nothing!!

Eventually after I had gone to bed for the 3rd day in a row not hearing anything. I had a phone call. It was late and there was always a slight delay on the line, so I knew it was him:

“Babe, thank God you’re ok! I’ve been worried sick!”

A long pause… too long! Finally his voice, thick and strange sounding. “It was …” his voice broke as he told me the name of his friend who had been killed. My husband has had a long career and unfortunately this wasn’t the first time he’d told me of a friends death – either in combat or accidents. But I’d always been near him before, or at least seeing him within a few days.

I didn’t know many of his friends on this particular tour because he’d changed units right before the deployment. But I knew of this lad, I knew of the family he left behind. The tears I’d shed the previous evening were not for an anonymous family and those tears quickly burnt my eyes again.

The silence hung between us. I didn’t know what to say. ‘Sorry’ was just not enough. So I cried. and I told him I loved him.

“I can’t talk anymore.” He said “I just needed to tell you I was ok. I love you too.” and he was gone. The dial tone resounded deafeningly in my ears.

phone call

I couldn’t reach him, I couldn’t comfort him, I couldn’t be there for him…. and he didn’t want me to. He needed to get his head together, keep his focus and get on with the job at hand. There was no rest. Barely enough time for a quiet prayer for his friend before he was back on the front line himself.

I sat at the top of my stairs listening to the dial tone and sobbing my heart out. In pain for him. In pain for myself. In pain for the family of his fallen comrade. Stroking my pregnant stomach and wondering if I would ever be able to reach my husband again.

I know he shut me out because he needed too, but it still hurt….

A few weeks later (I always count down deployments in weeks!) I was sat on my sofa, eating a giant bag of Doritos – I was pregnant, and shamelessly giving into cravings, watching X-factor. Another ‘vice’ I could happily indulge in without Hubby’s moaning from the other sofa about the ‘crap’ I enjoy on tele (whilst he secretly enjoyed it himself!) The episode did a ‘special’ on Help for Heroes and The Royal British Legion, and they featured a mini film on Mark Ormrod – the Uk’s 1st triple amputee.

You can see it here

I can honestly say this was the first time I had even considered the possibility of injury. Not because I was naive, or ignorant, but because I couldn’t. I couldn’t cope with thinking about that – the implications were too huge for a pregnant woman to comprehend. But seeing the reality on the screen in front of me was impossible to ignore. I bought the X-factor single, but could never listen to it, or watch the series again. I’d wait until he was safely home, moaning by my side about my trashy choice of TV before I could watch it again!

Afghan was hard and there were many more memories like this; many that I am still not brave enough to face or talk about. I guess as I said – I’m still licking my wounds… and I am one of the lucky ones!! My husband came home to me. He came home and he wasn’t injured. I can NEVER FORGET how lucky I am!

IMG_9353

And I only did this ONCE!!!!!!

I did it once for 6 months, 6 years ago and the memories still hurt. The pain runs deep…. There are friends of mine who had to repeat this fear up to 3 times!! 18 months of their life spent in this constant state of panic and apprehension. My children weren’t born when Daddy went to Afghan, they have no memories of who he was before that time. I know people felt sorry for me during Afghan – who wouldn’t? I was alone and pregnant whilst the love of my life was fighting on the front line. But I didn’t want sympathy- then or now.

I was angry about Afghan for a long time. Or at least I thought I was, until I reached out and went to a coffee morning with other military wives and realised that I wasn’t angry about Afghanistan at all! -I was angry about all of it!! The lack of control I had over my life, and the situations I found myself dealing with. Moving 5 hours away from everyone I cared about to spend 60% of my time apart from the person I’d moved to be with….

In the process of learning to be strong I had put up walls and got confused and angry. I didn’t want to be a bitter, angry wife or mother. So I made a choice then, I decided to let it go….. Writing it down, making friends, sharing our stories was all part of that healing journey for me.

Being a military wife is so much more than JUST the Afghan’s! They are hard, there’s no denying that. But people can recognise that is hard. But the bits you don’t see are just as hard. The phone calls from ship, that you’ve waited all week for, to then have intermittent signal, (“Hello? Hello? Babe, is that you?”) the parts of the call you can hear interrupted by a sodding unintelligible Tannoy announcement and then having the call cut short for some unexplained reason, and having nothing but next week’s call to look forward to. The times when they are given a ‘shore draft’ or supposed to be ‘home’ but they spend most of it halfway across the country “on course”. The times that people don’t understand, because after all “we knew what it would be like when we married them!”……..All equally as challenging in their own way.

But the most important reason of all ~ My book isn’t about having people feel sorry for me, it’s NOT about saying how hard it is!

WarriorWives-FINAL cover_Amazon WarriorWives-rear cover

It is about celebrating the good parts of our life. The relationships that are unbreakable! The brotherhood and sisterhood of serving your country – whether on the front line, or in a supporting role at home. The sacrifices from Afghanistan should never be forgotten, but they are already talked about. There are countless emotional movies about it – all of which reduce me to a blubbering wreck, and I didn’t want people to be reduced to a blubbering wreck with ‘Warrior Wives’ – I wanted them to come away feeling inspired, as I was inspired to write it.

I’ve written a book!!! 

Feel the fear and do it anyway!!!

So, I haven’t written on my blog for ooh almost  at least a year! Except maybe a little re blog post somewhere….. 

The reason I started this blog was because I wanted to write- I’ve always wanted to write! And I have stories to tell, (mostly) made up stories that come from my own head, but stories from my own experiences too, and these were what I wanted to share. Once I’d done that, I started to realise my blog was just another pro-crastination tool to stop me actually writing that book!!! Somewhere else (other than my countless notebooks!) to splurge with creative freedom and never actually have to craft it all into a book. 

So I stopped blogging (not that anyone except my mum read it anyway!) I don’t think the blogging world missed me much, let’s put it that way! 

Anyway,around the time I was giving up blogging to focus on a real book, a psychic told me I was scared of success. She said “you want people to like you so much that your scared success will make them dislike you or judge you. It’s holding you back in your business and your writing!” Fear of succeeding was as much an issue for me as fear of failure. 

So I made a choice to write a book I’d wanted to do for a long time. A collections of love stories from real military wives and girlfriends. The strength behind the strong. By writing other people’s stories it made me accountable- I had to finish, because I told them I would. I also decided to do it for charity – another tool of accountability. Who could not finish a charity project just cos they were too busy distracting themselves with their Pinterest world and twitter followers? The modern world with all it’s tools of engagement is a minefield for people like me, who constantly seek approval, and whose imagination is vivid enough to actually disappear a little into my Pinterest life.

Anyway, I had no idea how hard it would be! To write other people’s stories in a way that they liked and that fitted with your book idea, and which did them justice because so many people play down their achievements.  To write for others in more ways than just readers- a brave or stupid move. I’m not sure which yet! 

So for the last year I have been on a merry go round, roller coaster ride with a huge learning curve of self publishing thrown in! (Did I mention I also suffer with vertigo and dizziness? My nan used to call me “dizzy lizzy”) I also have driven my husband quietly insane starting every conversation- “in my book…” (Like the girl in American pie “and this one time at band camp!”)

But it’s done!!!!! 🎉✨🎉💋 I have written my book. I am very close to getting it into print.  


But it’s not over yet…… I still have to learn how to market my book, I have to build up a social media presence. I have to SELL THEM!!!!! 
I also have to edit it, and this is proving harder than I imagined.  

I know People support this project- it genuinely is an awesome idea (I don’t mind blowing my own trumpet here!) but what if they don’t like the finished product. I am sure it will be smaller/ thinner than they imagined ( I only had a limited number of volunteers and had to harass a few old friends to get involved too!) but worst fear of all – what if there are spelling mistakes!!!! 😱

This,to me, is a cardinal sin in books and the self publishing world has unfortunately made it all too common! But here I am about to put my baby into the world and I know how hard it is to get every little error, to make stories sound as though they were written in different ‘voices’, to make similar stories interesting and engaging, to spot every tiny typo!!!!!!!!!! I genuinely used to have to read a dictionary as punishment when I was a little girl- so I know I’m good at spelling- but I am TERRIBLE at typing!! And predictive text makes that 100 times worse……

So after all that look out for my book! 📚 It’s going to be awesome, and please don’t hate on me for typos!! Grammatical errors I am more than happy to discuss! – Everyone needs improvement and educating there ….. But please don’t mention the spelling!!! 

With love and big kisses 💋xxxx

I am grateful, now fuck off.

This!! I’m so there & understand… we should be able to talk about the good the bad and the ugly! xxx

Mama Said

It was some time between midnight and 3am. I was dead asleep. I’d fed the littliest at midnight so it was after that, and it was before he woke up for a feed at 3am. This hardly matters, because that time of night is Hell unless you’re pashing, happy drunk, smoking in a bar, dancing, or on drugs – y’know, generally having a fulfilling life that doesn’t involve milk dripping out of your breasts or playing the fart or shit game.

So, I’m asleep and I feel this tiny hand on my face and then there’s a kiss on my forehead. And for a second I’m confused like – did the tiny one do that? He’s only four-weeks-old? Is he a mutant? That would be amazing. And then I realise it’s my big baby and I pull him into my arms while still asleep and think “oh he’s delicious”. But…

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