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Would You Give Your Spouse a Reintegration Cheat Sheet?

Must-Have Parent

You've heard of Angie's List and Craig's List.

You've made grocery lists, to-do lists, and packing lists.

I present to you, Rhonda's List.

Rhonda has been an Army wife for 25 years, and by that, I mean that for all 25 years of their marriage, she's had to share her husband with the Army. She's learned a few things during that time. Specifically, what it takes to get ready for reintegration -- and how to make reintegrating slightly less painful.

Rhonda recently told me about her list, and I thought it was such a simple but brilliant idea that it was worth sharing.

We all have things we do to get ready for a spouse returning after a deployment or long trip -- the things we do to our houses and the things we do to ourselves, all as a gift to that person who has been gone for so long.

But then, often as not, that person doesn't notice.

And we read them not noticing as them not appreciating.

We're stressed out and exhausted running the household and being alone with kids for that whole time, and we've summoned up the last of our energy for the mad-dash, final week preparations. Our spouse says something -- anything, really -- that we take the wrong way, and all the resentment just comes flowing out of us.

(By the way, I just got a mental image of the bodies of those people in Pompeii, overcome so quickly by volcanic gases that their surprised expressions stayed permanently on their faces. That's the kind of flowing resentment I'm talking about here.)

"This time," Rhonda said, "I just told him all of the prep work I've done for homecoming, instead of being disappointed when he doesn't notice."

This, I told her, is how you know that you're still in love with someone after so many years of marriage. Instead of testing them and waiting to see if they pass, you slip them a cheat sheet.

Here's Rhonda's List:

Bought new, really nice, sheets for the bed
Had house professionally cleaned
Had carpets and furniture cleaned
Had messy son clean the garage so Dad's head doesn't spin around
Got hair cut, colored and deep conditioned
Got a manicure
And a pedicure
Threw out all of my old undies (This was convenient. I just pitched them at day's end the last few weeks instead of putting in laundry.)
Bought nice, new, sexy undies
Pitched scary, completely unsexy, pajamas and bought some comfy but dainty ones and some nighties
And I did all the shaving, buffing, etc. that is SOP

She did all of these things and then she emailed this list to her husband. Not so he would feel indebted, but so that he would know (and hopefully) comment on how nice the house and garage look, how much he likes her hair, and tell her that she looks pretty each night before enjoying those luxurious new sheets.

"He was impressed and grateful for the thought and effort, and now we will avoid that topic when we have the Day Three or Day Five blow up!"

I told my husband about Rhonda's List, just to get his opinion on it. To be honest, he didn't understand.

"I don't expect the house to be spotless," he said, "just reasonably clean. And I always think you look nice."

I told him he was missing the point, but as I explained the point, I realized that there was no way he could have not missed it, which is what makes Rhonda's list idea so genius.

I explained that, weeks before he's due home, I start deep cleaning the house, washing the walls and baseboards, dusting ceiling fan blades, and replacing all the burned out light bulbs.

You know, things he's never going to notice because he wasn't home to know how grubby those baseboards got or that the family has been living under the dim lighting of a single 40-watt bulb in each room for months.

(Something no one complains about because most of my household goes to bed shortly after sunset.)

He doesn't notice my new highlights because he didn't realize that I'd been rocking an unintentionally ombre look for months. He doesn't appreciate my new PJs because he's completely forgotten how worn out the old ones were.

Enter the list.

So try this one at home. Make and send your own list before your next homecoming -- and then let me know how it goes.

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Rebekah Sanderlin Reintegration from deployment

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Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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