The Reaction Factors

I belong to an organization called Blue Star Mothers Of America, Inc. A dedicated group of men and women who have children who are deployed.  I am Proud to be a Blue Star Mom. This flag hangs in my window- A single blue star representing my child who is currently deployed- and it will stay there until she comes back home to America.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love talking about my children and I’m lucky to have a job where I get to talk to a lot of people who are on vacation at the beach.  We mostly engage in conversation that is light and fun but sometimes an opportunity presents itself to talk about my daughter’s deployment.   However, no matter how big I smile or how peppy my deliverance, by the time I’m finished raving about my awesome daughter, most people still end up looking at me like this:

Apparently, the phrase “deployed to Kuwait.” seems to trigger loss of proper body mechanics. First their smile slowly slides into a tragic frown. Then I watch as their eyebrows begin to raise slightly causing concerned wrinkles to form in their forehead. Lastly,  Cervical Dystonia sets in and their neck muscles fail causing a dramatic tilt in their head to one side.

Thank you Zach Galifianakis for your concern.

Now, I completely understand people wanting to express their empathy for me as a mom of a deployed soldier, but some people look at me like I just told them their dog got hit by a car.

My first reaction is always to try to make them feel at ease by saying something relatable to home like, “‘No, no, she’s doing very well.  She’s in a place with a Starbucks and a Subway.”  I know that sound kind of silly, but it works a lot of the time and at least brings a half-smile back to their face and makes their head stand up straight.

When I start to see a really dramatic face change, I’ll try to keep it light by telling  a funny story about Janessa-  like how my daughter’s idea of camping was to stay at the Marriott and not be able to order room service. 🙂 – tap, tap — hello? Is this thing on?

And other times, in the midst of saying she’s doing great and she can buy toothpaste at the PX whenever she wants, I see their eyes glaze over as they search their brain for something to say to me.  I’ve dubbed this look “The Nicolas Cage Effect”.

Just a simple Thank You and a smile is fine, Mr. Cage.

Then there was the time I saw Mr. Ice Cube at Fro Yos eating a strawberry-shortcake cone He looked up at me, mid-lick, and caught me staring with a big cheesy grin on my face.  I took it as an invitation to fly across the room and start talking about everything, like- how I could recite every line from Friday, the up coming Last Friday movie, frozen yogurt, Janessa’s deployment.  I was rambling a mile per minute and his expression never changed once.

         Thank you for your support Mr. Cube!

He was completely interested in what I was saying, wow.  When I was almost done talking, he flashed me the peace sign and I knew exactly what he was saying.   That he’s very proud of my daughter and supports our troops and wishes peace for the world.  Wow! Ice is Ah-maz-ing!   I took the cue, turned and walked away in a daze.


I love talking about my daughter and her life.  War has become a part of that life but just because a subject has a negative connotation, does not mean the person talking about it has a negative experience to share.

My 5 Reaction Factors

  1. Notice the expression and stance of the speaker.
  2. Give your undivided attention.
  3. Take cues from the speaker and relax your mind. You’ll begin to feel the story.
  4. Share your similar experiences if applicable.
  5. Hugs are optional.

 DO THIS                                                        NOT THIS


12 thoughts on “The Reaction Factors

  1. cavernas says:

    Fabulous, what a blog it is! This website gives helpful information to us, keep it

  2. Mike Lyles says:

    Every line to Friday ? Really?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Jennifer, it was very nice to meet you yesterday at your work. I did go see the show I questioned you about. Our conversation was very inspiring and thought provoking. I went home really thinknkg about the true meaning of life and the simple things. I am going to start a blog as you mentioned and feel it woul dreally be a great outlook on my thoughts. Your Blog is a great start. I look forward to more content related to the minimalist life style you live. Have a great day on the beach. Ryan from MIchigan

    • Ryan- I am over-thrilled that you stopped by. That 10 minute conversation also stuck in my mind, it energized me. The minute you left, I downloaded both books you suggested and started reading them like I was starving for knowledge. I used PARETO’S PRINCIPLE in my “7 Habits of Procrastination” share series on my facebook page. My Life Without Stuff- coming soon. –I quit my job yesterday to leap 100% into connecting with people to help them realize their potential to create their Dreamlife. And probably the most important realization that came from our meeting was- getting back to the basics of the purpose of my blog. I love writing about whatever comes up in my life and will continue to do so, but I felt like I was holding back the very reason I started Dreamlife Moments. To help people realize their infinite potential in creating their Dreamlife. “You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you can change the world, the world will change.” Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

      • Anonymous says:

        Wow, love the energy. Swift action will bring quick success. When I get my site up I will definiltey email you and let you know. Maybee going forward we can work on a project of sorts to change the world. Feel free to contact me anytime to bounce ideas or brainstorm.

  4. Marie Marion says:

    Great post Jen! I was in the Air Force myself, back in the day. 😀 Good for Janessa, the experience will build strength and character…May God’s Grace cover her in all she does!

    And you too!

    Cheers, Marie
    P.S. Thanks for packing up my exit sign… I appreciate that!

    • Thank you Marie! I’m so glad you came into my life even for such a short while, you’ve been inspiring! I can totally see you in the Air Force- would love to see pics of that. Thank you for your keeping us safe too! p.s. you’re welcome.

  5. jen says:

    Thank you and Janessa for keeping us safe and inspired.

  6. Jennifer, this is an amazing post! I am never surprised by your ability to convert thoughts and feelings into meaningful, effective words. You are an amazing mom, and I thank Janessa and all of the troops for what they do!

    • I will have to try harder to surprise you Bri! –Support starts @ home and I’m so proud that she is serving. Thank you for the encouraging words. And congrats on your freelance writing job! I love it when those Dreamlife Moments add up.

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