They really just do. 2011 was the hardest year in my life so far and a large part of that had to do with my husband’s deployment to Cuba when Amber was a toddler and Tyler was a baby. Thankfully he came back home safely (above you see us on the night of his return home) and I have experienced every deployment emotion from the sinking crying of saying goodbye, the bleak depression of trudging along through, and the joyful butterflies in the stomach from reuniting after so long apart and being so excited and nervous you wonder if you’ve been married for years because it feels like a first date!
So anytime I get offered the chance to read another military spouses story–especially if it has a unique twist on it–I’m the first to jump in line!
Dinner with the Smileys: One Military Family, One Year of Heroes, and Lessons for a Lifetime is the story of Sarah Smiley and her family–her Navy husband and her three boys–and how they turned his year long deployment into an experience to remember. For 52 “Dinner with the Smileys” they had community members–from gold medal athletes to the boy’s preschool teachers–come and fill in her husband’s seat during his deployment.
My first thoughts on hearing about the book were “Oh how cool!” then they were, “How on earth does someone even DO that? I was in basic instinct survival mode during deployment….what is she some super woman or something???”
Once I picked up the book and began reading I was so delightfully drawn in and impressed. Not because Sarah was the super woman I was fearing–but rather because she gives you what a true deployment looks like–the bad, the ugly, the exhausting. From children’s temper tantrums to days you just fall apart because your basement is flooding or your child is sick and your husband isn’t there, she experienced and shares it all.
The beautiful thing about this book is that she also shares how stepping out of your comfort zone and reaching out to others even in your time of exhaustion and need can create beautiful, moving moments in extremely hard times. The people they got to meet and the things they were able to experience through this book, not to mention how the community really gathered around them just touched and warmed my heart.
I literally laugh out loud during this book–and I also cried, quite a bit! When she describes their farewells and their reunions it brought back such a torrent of memories and emotions for me from my own personal experience with my husbands deployment! One thing that I also really loved about this book is that it showed a deployment where the military member isn’t in a war zone but is in an area that could be dangerous–and his absence is still extremely difficult and keenly felt. I was able to relate to that so deeply as my husband was deployed to GITMO and while it is comforting to know they are (probably) not getting shot at it doesn’t make it any less difficult for your children and it doesn’t make the empty space beside you in bed and at the dinner table any less lonely.
Every person should read Dinner with the Smileys. Military spouses will laugh and cry along with Sarah as they see themselves in her story, civilians will gain empathy for what military families really go through, and everyone will leave inspired and overjoyed to reach out to others for the community we all need whether our husbands are at home or not! It’s being released May 7 but you can pre-order your copy from Amazon right now!
Be sure to check out this awesome Dinner with the Smileys Book Trailer as well-it sums up what you can expect in this gem of a book!