I Now Pronounce You a Military Spouse

Congratulations! I hope you’ve popped the bubbly and are thrilled to start this new life. Whatever your vision is for the day, entering this new world starts with a wedding. Large or small, church, courthouse or beach, every couple says “I do” somewhere. Weddings are such an exciting time and marrying your service member adds a whole new level of happiness. It only makes sense you want to incorporate aspects of the military into your wedding. After all, it is about to become your entire life.

I married my Army husband this past November. Although the Army has been my life since I was born, I wanted to pay a special homage as I became a part of it in a new role. Bridesmaids draped in OCP American Flags wasn’t really my thing, so I needed to find other ways to make my vision details work. Luckily, I have a very creative and crafty family who helped come up with the best ideas. I hope to help future military spouses in their weddings with a few ideas I had at my own.

  • Start with yourself. Your garter can be a name tape or you can sew a name tape into the back of your dress. Your shoes can be the color of your spouse’s branch. Double points if that branch color is blue

  • Get the men and women in uniform involved. If you and your spouse have friends who are in the military, ask them to participate in the arch of sabers. The arch of sabers is a tradition where the newly married couple pass under the sabers and the last person welcomes the spouse to the military. You can also request people wear their Military Dress to the ceremony so as you say your vows, you’re surrounded by your present and future.

  • Seating assignments and your guest book. This is a fun place to play with the military world and get creative. For my seating assignment, everyone got their own dog tag with the table number and their “social” was the wedding date. This also doubles as a cute little takeaway. When thinking of your guest book, try to envision something you will actually want to put on display in your new home to remind you of this day. If you and your spouse love to travel, you could have everyone sign a globe. If you’re marrying a pilot, maybe everyone signs a plane. My husband and I wanted a piece of art that would be one of the first things hung up. For our guest book, we had everyone sign a large wooden cutout of the U.S. Written on the top is “Home is where the Army sends you.” Amen to that.

  • It’s all in the details. There are so many other little spots within the reception you can include military touches. What fun and creative name can you call your signature drink? Your cake topper is a blank canvas waiting for you to put something cute on it. Foregoing a favor is becoming more popular. Consider donating to your favorite veteran or military family organization instead while also raising awareness for a great cause.

However you decide to include the military in your wedding, remember the day should be a reflection of you and your spouse. Welcome to the best club in the world and happy wedding planning!

A MilSpouse and her daughter share a quiet moment.

To the Lost Mama

Oh, the moments we are gifted in this unimaginably beautiful, lifelong endeavor as mamas! Our first nine months of motherhood are showered with celebration, happiness, presents and cookies (my favorite). The joyous moments brought into our lives by our babies are immeasurable. If our lives were glittered with these magical moments all the time, we would be an entirely different human race.

But our experiences aren’t limited to joy and happiness, are they? There is a darkness that can cast shadows through our lives, too. There is a second side of motherhood, one that goes unmentioned far too often. We lose ourselves and our claim to be someone other than mom. We shed our dignity at the door and we thrust ourselves into isolation. We completely give up on ourselves. And as devastating as it is to admit, I have been there so many times. Maybe you don’t know where to start on the journey back to yourself. Don’t worry, as a fellow mama struggler, I’ve got your back.

  • Prioritize yourself again. We get so uncomfortable with the idea of focusing on ourselves. When we are in the throes of motherhood, it is a taboo thought. Here’s the deal – if you don’t admit how important it is to find yourself again, you won’t do it. It’s okay to be your own first priority every single day. In fact, if you aren’t, then your partner and children are getting a second-rate version of you.
  • Schedule alone time away. Just getting out can change your mood and your perspective drastically. This could seem challenging, especially for us military spouses who aren’t surrounded by family and whose spouses aren’t necessarily there to help. There are creative solutions though. I guarantee you there are other mamas around you who need time away, too. You could create a schedule and switch out alone time with other moms. I equate getting alone time as an overworked mama to the feeling the patriots must have felt when they dumped tea into the harbor. As soon as I step out of the house, I just want to scream “Freedom!” When you make a habit of getting time to yourself, you will become a new woman…promise!
  • Reconnect with old friends. There is nothing that will bring out the old you faster than rehashing memories with an old friend. When we become mothers, all our focus shifts to our little babies, and we forget how important spending time with friends can be. It can feel incredible to reconnect. Just taking the time to remember who you were before kids is super helpful.
  • Write a plan. After you remember a little more about yourself, you must come up with a plan. Sit down and write out everything you can think of that makes you feel like yourself. Organize your thoughts into priorities. Then, create a calendar that is conducive for your reality.
  • Take care of yourself. Oh boy, I could write a whole book on how little I took care of myself as a new mom. I didn’t care at all about my appearance, let alone care about my body. I didn’t drink water, eat well, work out or really put any effort into caring for myself. I spent way too much time in front of a screen and never challenged myself in any area of life. Losing ourselves in motherhood has a lot to do with our valiant efforts to serve our children, but it also has a lot to do with neglecting ourselves. Do the simple things, drink water, work out, take a shower, get dressed. It will work wonders in your life.

I don’t believe any of us are fully equipped and educated on all the seasons we will walk through in our motherhood journey. One day we wake up and realize how isolated we’ve become and how incredibly lonely this job can be. We spend all day (and a lot of nights) pouring energy and love out for everyone else. What’s left? A shell of a person coated in spit up and stains. The selflessness required to raise humans is immeasurable. Sure, we get rewarded with slobbery kisses and adorable pats on the back from tiny, sticky hands. And on the good days that’s enough. But we all share deep, dark valleys along the way. Maybe if we took more time to talk about the hardships of motherhood we would spend less time feeling alone.

Deployment: Underwater Edition

When your spouse calls and says “Hey, so change of plans…,” you can probably feel the dread building up inside you. That’s exactly what happened to me as I was packing up my car to move to Virginia with my husband. He told me he was leaving two days after the move to go underway – a Navy term for at sea. While it wasn’t his first underway, it would be our first where I wasn’t close to friends and family. All underways or deployments, however long or short, aren’t easy. If your spouse is a submariner like mine, there’s certainly a unique set of challenges and emotions that come with the job.

There’s a reason they’re called the “silent force.” Everyone sort of forgets about submarines. Trust me, I get it, they’re not as cool as fighter jets and helicopters. And when they’re underway, communication is very, very minimal. There’s a lot more unknowns and a lot more silence. Days or weeks can go by without a single phone call. Even as spouses, we aren’t allowed to know where they are or where they’re going next. A lot of times it’s just a guessing game when your next communication will be. They’re literally silent, underwater planes.

During underways, the primary form of communication is email. Sometimes they pull into port and you’ll get a quick “Hi, I can’t tell you where I am, but I’m safe. Bye”. Then they’re off to sea again. Of course, this type of communication in the 21st century is difficult. It’s easy to feel alone and disconnected from each other. It’s also VERY easy to feel alone when you’re in a new state where you don’t know a single soul – which is my situation for this particular underway.

There are also a lot of mixed emotions that come with your spouse being on a submarine. The first two days after my husband went underway were obviously rough. It’s always the initial change or shock that’s the hardest to get through. By day three, I knew I had to start pushing forward and making the best of the next few weeks. I had some down time before I started a new job so I knew I wanted to  prioritize myself with my newfound free time. There had been a lot of little things I had put off because “I didn’t have the time.”  So I jotted together a list to focus on.

I was travelling, working out and just living life as a normal person. One day, I was at the beach soaking in the sun after a week of thunderstorms, and I began to feel guilty. Here I was, just enjoying something so simple – the sun – which my husband hadn’t seen in weeks. It was a mixed pot of emotions; I was proud of my husband for what he does while also feeling lonely and guilty.

I learned a lot about myself during that underway and grew as a person, too. I realize there are a few things I take for granted. Mainly, I appreciate the fact that I don’t have to be underwater in a metal tube for weeks or months on end. I became a lot more independent and confident, and I realized how incredibly proud I am of what my husband does – I cannot even imagine the amount of courage it takes to do what he does. Despite not having a ton of communication, I learned how to make each interaction we had valuable.

When your spouse is gone it is hard, regardless of their job or branch. Each one has their own set of adversities to overcome. Even each time they leave is a different experience. It’s so important to treasure every phone call and email – and to remember that it will all be worth it the second they come home! What deployment challenges have you had to overcome?

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