Deployment gets the better of us all at one point or another. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first deployment or your 500th. Something happens that knocks us off our equilibrium. We all hit a wall at some point. And it gets hard. We feel burnt out. And there’s still a dude or chica somewhere out there who needs us to be strong.
I hit a terrible wall right around my birthday when John was gone. It wasn’t because of my birthday. It was because I missed the first phone call from him in five-ish months. I didn’t have my ringer on.
I was devastated.
I was frustrated. Lonely. Worried. Sad. You know the feelings. And if you haven’t experienced them with deployment yet– I hope you don’t– but you probably will. Those feelings take a toll fast. I mean, how many emotions can one person have floating around in them?
The worst part? I knew we had at least seven more months to go. Maybe more. Maybe less. (Again, you know the feeling!) There was no way out except through.
There are so many things you can’t control when it comes to deployment. Know what you can control? Care packages. (Ha! You probably knew I was going to say that.) And you can change your care package habits so that your loved one is still feeling taken care of and loved and you can catch your breath.
Wrap the Inside
If you’re into decorating and you can’t bear to send a care package without some kind of decorating, wrap the inside of the box. It is faster than cutting out a whole bunch of pieces of paper– and it still looks great. Here’s my no-fail tutorial on how to do that.
Mail from Amazon
Amazon offers APO/FPO shipping (which a lot of big box online retailers do not). Your dude or lady need something right now? Buy it on Amazon and ship directly! Oh, and make sure that you send a gift message with the box– Amazon offers that option for free.
Send Digital Gifts
John and I bought Nooks before he deployed because linked Nooks can share books with each other. We thought it would be a fun way to create memories and have things in common even when we were not physically together. If your loved one has access to the internet and has devices, you can always send digital gifts like songs, movies, books, and gift cards. They’ll receive them instantly (no worrying about customs or things melting in a hot plane) and you’ll be able to make their day in the click of a button.
Send a Warfoodie Box
Y’all know that I love, love, love subscription boxes. I received a box from Warfoodie to try, and let me tell you, it was hands-down the best food subscription box I’ve ever gotten. Warfoodie is a subscription care package service created by a Navy officer who realized that a care package subscription box specifically for a healthy deployment was something that both the homefront and those deployed could feel good about. It has full-sized (actual, literal, full-sized, not weenie trial sizes), healthy (and actually) delicious foods packed into it. We’re talking fabulous-smelling coffee, whole leaf tea, locally-sourced, natural peanut butter, gluten-free hot sauce, and OMG, the granola. I wish computers had smell- and taste-ovision!
The box is lovingly put together– there’s ribbon and colorful packing– it’s not just chucked in a box and shipped haphazardly. It’s actually a fun process to get a Warfoodie box, open it, and check all of the products out. (And if you don’t have someone deployed right now, you can always donate a box and send one to a service member who would like to get one.) Yes, you can send one to someone who is not deployed, too– they ship to US addresses. No matter who you send to, you can also send a personalized message– so the box is from you— it won’t be a guessing game.
The price is absolutely reasonable when you consider how much money you spend sending a care package yourself. (Goodbye, $14 on shipping… every time I sent a large USPS Priority box.) Unlike most subscription boxes, the price of shipping is already built in, so there are no extra fees. You pay $29 for first two items and then $7 for each additional item.
Make a Schedule
I’ll admit, I was HORRIBLE at this. I used care packages as a way to feel closer to John. I saw something I thought he’d like, I bought it, and I created a care package around it. That’s fine when you’re not feeling stressed. But when you are, you need to make yourself a schedule and shopping lists. You need to give yourself the opportunity to plan ahead so you don’t feel like a constant failure or feel like you always have to be doing something. (You can download my free eBook on care packages– with shopping lists– riiiiight here.)
Look for Ideas
If your brain feels totally fried, find inspiration from other people’s care packages. It’s not cheating! It’s elaborating. There are so many wonderful care package Instagrams, Facebook groups, and Pinterest pages that it will be nearly impossible for you to NOT find something. (I have a Pinterest page just for care package ideas and gifts that has more than 2,300 pins on it. I promise you’ll find an idea or two there!)
Sandboxx is an app that allows you to send letters and a photo to someone deployed or in boot camp directly from your phone. Basically, you download the app, upload a picture, type out your message, and then click send. They’ll print and mail your letter. The best part? Your service member will receive a letter that has paper and a pre-paid envelope, too, which means they can write you back right away (as long as they can bum a pen from someone). That means you can send your loved one a letter while you’re watching the kids at the playground or waiting in line at the grocery store.
Enlist Extra Help
You don’t have to be everything to everyone. If you’re struggling right now, reach out to groups, organizations, businesses, and your family. People want to help you. They want to be there for you and your loved one. But they can’t do that if you don’t ask. John was so fortunate to have a whole community of people who had his back when he was deployed. He received care packages and letters from acquaintances and friends of his parents, from his parents’ and my churches, from college friends, from businesses… even one from my 3rd grade teacher. There are even organizations that focus solely on sending deployed military care packages. You just have to ask.
Got some ideas for how you can get over the tough parts of deployment? You’ve got this– you can do this!
Buy Gift Sets
Don’t want to roam Wally World or Target for hours looking for items to go together? Buy and send gift sets or multiple packs of things. Once, John got an entire box of single-serve tuna packs from me. (He wanted them!) Another time, he received an entire package full of boxes of Cheerios from his sister– and yes, he wanted that too. Care packages don’t have to picture, Instagram, or Pinterest perfect for them to be awesome for the recipient. (Don’t forget that!)
Send Mini Packages
You don’t have to send full-sized care packages for them to be meaningful or fun for your recipient. Check out these mini-care package ideas that I created over the course of John’s deployment (some of them have printables!). And my friend, Heather Goffrier, has some great ideas about how to send a care package… in a large envelope.