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Mother Nurture: Giving Birth During a Storm

 Posted by on September 19, 2018 at 15:25
Sep 192018
 

When I learned that my baby’s due date would fall during my husband’s deployment, I knew that the birth would be challenging. We spent months deciding where I should give birth and how to get the most support from family and friends while he was away. After contacting a doula and a friend to be there with me in the hospital and inviting my mom to stay with our other young children, I felt as prepared as one can possibly be for a deployment baby.

Written by: Lizann

But one thing we didn’t plan for was a natural disaster. One week before my due date, we learned that there was a Category 3 Hurricane heading straight for our coastal North Carolina town. Although evacuations were optional, many local families either evacuated inland or prepared to spend the days home with their service member, sheltering in place. For me, as a pregnant mom with a deployed spouse, neither of those options were possible. I couldn’t evacuate, because driving inland around my due date could mean me going into labor while stuck in hours of traffic. But staying put with young children in a home that might lose power for several days seemed equally dangerous.

Luckily, with support from my family, I was able to find the help and resources that we needed to get through this very high-stress time. I am not the only military spouse who has been in this situation. Natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and forest fires can strike any time, including during deployments. Even when the service member is home, the military base may call them up for emergency response teams, which means they are unable to stay with their families. Every year, many military families are faced with the difficult choice to evacuate themselves or to shelter in place without their service member spouse.

I ended up giving birth to my son in the base hospital just as Hurricane Irene hit North Carolina. It was a terrifying experience, especially since my service member was overseas. But my consolation was in our preparations. I was confident that my other children would be okay, since I had left them with my mom, a generator and lots of additional food and supplies. I was able to communicate with my husband through the American Red Cross. I wasn’t alone in the hospital because I had previously arranged for a doula through Operation Special Delivery. And because I had let the unit Family Readiness group know about my situation, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a teddy bear and small flower bouquet in the hospital recovery room. If you find yourself in that difficult situation, know that you aren’t alone! Here are some steps to get you through a challenging natural disaster.

  1. Make an emergency plan. Some natural disasters, like hurricanes, give you several days of advanced notice so you can prepare. Others, such as earthquakes and forest fires, happen without warning. When you move to a new area, take the time to learn about natural disasters that can happen in your area and how locals prepare for them. Discuss various options with your spouse, so that you can agree on how to react and what to do with your children and pets during different types of disaster scenarios. You should also stock up on basic emergency supplies, like bottled water, flashlights and food (MRE’s work well for this) so that you won’t have to rush to the store when a disaster is announced. Use FEMA.gov or Ready.gov to make your preparation checklists.
  2. Know your evacuation options. Often, military families are stationed far from their families and support systems. An evacuation may mean driving to an unknown town to shelter in a hotel. The other option is to join locals at a public place like a school gymnasium. Military bases often provide temporary emergency shelters with generated electricity, but you should expect to pack your own bedding and food for these locations, and some may not allow pets. Listen to local news and officials about where to go and when to evacuate, and follow the evacuation preparations in this article. In my case, all pregnant women past 38 weeks were encouraged to shelter at the base hospital, in case they went into labor. Although the hospital and base were officially closed, the medical personnel on the delivery floor sheltered at the hospital to assist the handful of women who gave birth during the storm. My children were not allowed to join me at the hospital, so I had to prepare my house and arrange for my mom to take care of them while I went to deliver my baby.
  3. Know your local resources. There are numerous resources available to military families, before and after natural disasters. You can use the American Red Cross to convey an emergency message to your service member. My doctor helped me do this once I was admitted for delivery, so my Marine could go to the Communication tent and get in touch with me during delivery. Military OneSource provides free non-medical counseling which you can use before or after an emergency to work out your options, pursue different resources and find the support you need. Talking to someone else can help relieve your stress and help you think more clearly during an emergency. Finally, stay in touch with your military unit or base to learn about specific support organizations in your area, or research the organizations listed here.
  4. Save money for emergencies. You never know how much you will need for a natural disaster, but you should always keep an emergency fund in a savings account. You may need this for gas, plane tickets, or to pay for a hotel. If you suffer from spoiled food or a mandatory evacuation, insurance may help reimburse the costs, but it can take a while to receive the check. Because I was concerned about my mom being stuck at my house with two toddlers and no electricity for several days, we decided it was important to invest in a generator and fuel. Although it was a big purchase, it was worth it because it gave us both peace of mind when preparing for the storm.
  5. Get support. Call in your local support squad and let them know if you need extra help handling a disaster with your spouse away. Perhaps you can team up with other parents to share childcare and storm prep work. Or you can have a friend pick up emergency supplies at the store for you. Make sure you are in communication with the military chain of command, even if you do not live near the base. During an emergency, the Family Readiness personnel (FRG, FRO, or Ombudsman) may try to reach out and contact families to see who needs additional support. Talk to your service member about getting onto the email list or phone contact list for the unit, so you won’t be left out.

Giving birth during a natural disaster was a stressful experience I would not wish on anyone. By using your resources and planning ahead, you can reduce your stress and handle the experience, even without your service member.

Taking Readiness into Our Own Hands

 Posted by on September 18, 2018 at 10:57
Sep 182018
 

Even though I did, in fact, cut the cake at L.I.N.K.S. classes and pass it to the youngest Marine Corps spouse because I was the *cough* oldest *cough* spouse in attendance, it really wasn’t that long ago that I was a new Marine spouse. But even after 10 years, I don’t have it all together.

Kristi

The latest shakeup in the Marine Corps universe was sparked by MARADMIN 166/18. This memo basically announced the “reset” of the Unit, Personal and Family Readiness Program, or UPFRP. The civilian family readiness officers (FROs) we all know and love — the ones who would loop us in on all the unit events that our service members would forget to mention on the daily — are essentially being phased out at the unit level. This means that Marine spouses are at a bit of a crossroads — we must reclaim ownership of our readiness and the readiness of the people to our left and right.

Because every unit is different, you may not even realize your FRO is gone until you don’t run into her at the Christmas party, or you might be ferociously checking your email settings to solve the mystery of why you don’t receive weekly unit emails anymore. It’s not your email settings, Semper Gumby Sister, it’s the times.

Since our readiness point of contact is just taking on the role as a side gig on top of their full-time assignment, things are going to change, and more responsibility will fall on Marine spouses once again. So, how can you make sure that your family readiness and the family readiness of the people to your left and right doesn’t suffer during this time when we’re all just shrugging shoulders? You take charge!

  1. Handle your own business. This doesn’t mean you’re totally on your own. Learn all you can from your Marine, the unit, the fellow spouse and base resources. If you need help, get help. There is a whole wide web of resources on base and on an actual website, like Military OneSource, just waiting for you to use them.
  2. Get educated. We all know our ABCs, but do you know your Alpha, Bravo, Charlies? The Marine Corps is a whole new world, much different than the civilian life outside the gates, and it takes some getting used to. Luckily, there are a whole mess of classes you can take for FREE to learn the ropes. Take a L.I.N.K.S. class — if you were paying attention at the beginning of this blog, you know they offer cake! Take the sponsorship class or the OPSEC class. They have baby-focused curriculums, marriage workshops, financial workshops, team building and communication workshops. There’s no limit, you can take them all!
  3. Tune in. It’s not hard to hear people when they talk to you, but it is very much a learned skill to listen with intent. When you talk to another spouse at a playgroup or unit function and you hear clues that she might be depressed, or she is stressed about child care or a deployment, you need to be an active bystander. That means doing something.
  4. Respond. Knowing how to respond to the needs of other spouses starts with making sure you know which resources are in place. Maybe you need to send the spouse to the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society for budgeting help, or to the unit chaplain to talk through feelings of depression. Maybe you just connect the spouse with another unit spouse who hosts weekly playdates. Your job in these situations is to point people to the experts and follow up as a friend to make sure they’ve gotten what they needed.
  5. Lead. It doesn’t matter how busy you think you are, you can do something. Whether you dive into heading up unit activities or a spouses’ group or you just unofficially take a new spouse under your wing, you can take charge somewhere. You have a skill, an interest, a degree or a talent that can be used to better the unit and better the experience of the people in it.
  6. Teach. I had a pastor tell me once that he hated the word “graduation” because no one should ever be done learning. You likely still feel new in some capacity as a military spouse (because things are always changing, remember — even duty stations), but you know enough to help someone who is brand new to this life. Help the next generation of Marine spouses by looping them in when you plan unit events, letting them head up a committee or bringing them along to one of the many educational opportunities. It’s important to make sure the next generation has the knowledge they need to be successful after we’re retired and enjoying the civilian life.

I’ll be honest, I was a little thrown by this whole reset. I’ve only ever known the Marine Corps with FROs (see, I’m not that seasoned), but I’ve given it a lot of thought and I think it’s going to be a good thing with the right amount of care. It gives the units within the Marine Corps the chance to get back to that community vibe where everyone is connected, and everybody helps — even if “helping” is just handling your family’s readiness and contributing an occasional potluck dish. Every Marine spouse knows something another spouse doesn’t. It’s time to pitch in and be a mentor. It’s time to be accountable for ourselves and our unit family.

Five Lessons I Learned from My MilKids

 Posted by on September 11, 2018 at 10:59
Sep 112018
 

I was not raised in a military home. I grew up in the same house my entire childhood, went to school with the same classmates from beginning to end, lived close to relatives, knew everything about my city and could blissfully plan and anticipate things happening more than six months into the future. But then I married a soldier, and all of that changed. I also went and had a couple babies to add to the mix, you know, just to keep things extra crazy.

Liz

I realized early on that my children were going to have unique childhood experiences that I would have no idea how to navigate. I looked to the expertise of seasoned military spouses and parents who have raised strong, resilient children and was able to get some excellent insight.

But I have to say, watching my children grow and handle the curveballs MilLife has thrown at them – in their own ways – has provided some amazing pearls of wisdom. It turns out that I am raising some of my favorite teachers. Here are some of the lessons I have picked up from them along the way:

  • Always welcome the new kid. This past year, my children were rezoned after one semester into a brand-new school. Because we lived in a district with a large civilian-based population, many of my children’s classmates were concerned about starting over, because this was something many of them had never had to do before. My children were such good supporters for their classmates, because being the new kid is something they are SUPER familiar with! Not only were they able to console peers who were leaving friends behind for the first time, but they were also able to spot and include the kid who was sitting alone in class or on high alert for the students at recess who looked displaced, so they could invite them to play. As a grownup I won’t need to save anyone at recess, but that doesn’t mean I should ever outgrow the childhood trait of helping the new kid. I know what it feels like to be the person dropped into the middle of somewhere completely foreign and left to figure it all out on my own. I know what it feels like to try to infiltrate friend circles that are already well established. Therefore, I can become more sensitive to spotting the person who looks like they are lost and could use a friend.
  • You are worth getting to know. I am in awe of the way that my son can just go over to any group of kids and ask to join them in play. Sometimes his request to join in gets shot down, but often he is welcomed—completely oblivious to the fact that he has just done something so beautifully brave. I am not always like my son. I tend to wait until I’m invited instead of boldly asking to join the group, but this kind of bravery does not need to be reserved for our children. I may not receive the reciprocation of interest that I was hoping for every time, but that shouldn’t keep me from reaching out the next time.
  • Everywhere is an “adventure assignment.” I have been completely shocked by how my kids are able to embrace the best parts of every single place that we’ve lived — and even more so by how they are able to move to every place with honest excitement. They are looking at the best parts of what their new home has to offer. Each place holds its own charm in my children’s eyes. From them I learned that adventure happens where we make it.
  • Use insight from your old home to make your new one better. My kids can take something great that they’ve learned from their old home and use it to help improve their new one. One thing that my children noted was missing in their new school was a “student ambassador” position. My daughter took the initiative to write to her principal and let her know how the future new students of her school might benefit from a friendly peer to show them the ropes on their first day. One of the best things military families bring into our new communities is our vast array of experiences. Each of us has useful ideas and insights to help the existing organizations and programs in our communities grow. Watching my kids take initiative in this way has helped me remember that we can be both learners and leaders everywhere we go.
  • Being resilient doesn’t mean you always have to be tough. The military lifestyle is so rewarding, but it can also be very hard. We all applaud our military kids for being resilient—for rolling with the punches and moving forward into the unknown with grace and strength, for living with a sense of duty and patriotism that matches a lot of adults—but that doesn’t mean they have to be on their A-game all the time.

Our family is getting ready to move again, and this one is really hitting my kids hard. Sometimes they randomly cry and feel anxious that they won’t fit in. Sometimes they say, “It’s not fair.” This doesn’t mean that they’re not resilient or strong or capable. It just means that they’re human.

Watching my amazing kids let down their guards like this has reminded me that no one requires me to keep a strong front all of the time either. It is okay for me to vocalize my feelings, to express my disappointment, or confess my worries. Having a moment to recognize those feelings in myself doesn’t make me weak. Pushing on in spite of those feelings and coming out stronger on the other side is how true resilience is fostered.

So, what about you? What lessons have your military kids taught you?

Resources for a Struggling Friend

 Posted by on September 4, 2018 at 13:12
Sep 042018
 

Sometimes it comes as a late-night phone call or text message. Other times, it is simply a tired, empty sigh into a coffee mug when you ask a friend how things are going. Occasionally, a friend may not even tell you that anything is troubling them. You just know. Sooner or later, we all encounter challenges in military life. When a friend comes to you asking for help, where can you turn? What can you say to help them through their struggles?

The good news is that you don’t need to have all the answers yourself. You don’t have to be a professional therapist either. Sometimes the best thing you can do is be a listening ear, a supportive smile, or a strong hug. For the times when loving encouragement doesn’t seem to be enough to support your friend, there are many resources available that can help.

  • Military OneSource: Call 1-800-342-9647 any time, 24/7, for free confidential counseling and support. Military families can use a counselor up to 12 times a year for a variety of issues, including stress, anxiety, marriage, deployment, children, etc. You do not need a referral from a doctor or from TRICARE. Military OneSource can help you set up a free, confidential counseling session. You can choose to see a counselor in person in your area or schedule a phone or video interview from anywhere. The long-distance appointment option may be particularly helpful to a friend stationed overseas.

    Written by: Lizann

  • Suicide Hotline: If you have any reason to believe a friend is considering suicide, don’t hesitate to call the suicide hotline, or ask them to make the call. The number is 1-800-273-8255. The helpline changed its name in 2011 to the Veterans Crisis Line so that it could better serve the military community. Use the Veterans Crisis Line website to open an online chat or send a text to 838255.
  • American Red Cross: They can send an emergency message to a service member anywhere in the world, even if you don’t have regular communication. This is a great resource during deployment, especially to communicate the death of a family member or the birth of the service member’s child. To send a Red Cross message, you need to know basic information about your service member—their military unit, rank, and social security number. Visit the Red Cross website or call 877-272-7337 to send an emergency message.
  • Give an Hour: This volunteer organization provides free mental support and counseling to members of the military and their families. It is a national network of professional healthcare providers who donate their services one hour at a time. Use the Give an Hour website to search for a provider, then contact them directly to set up an appointment. While you can use the website at any time, their counselors do not provide emergency assistance or 24/7 services.
  • Veteran Caregiver Support Line: Caring for a wounded veteran can be emotionally or physically exhausting. However, with a national network of veteran caregivers, support is never far away. Family members and loved ones can find the resources and support they need by calling 855-260-3274. The caregiver support website offers support around the clock for veteran caregivers.
  • Casualty Assistance Program: Loved ones who have lost a service member may feel overwhelmed. When you don’t know what to say or how to help, let them know that the DoD offers free support to surviving family members to help them settle affairs and start benefits or entitlements. The DoD Casualty Assistance Program is summarized here.
  • Be There Peer Support: Call 844-357-PEER or text 480-360-6188 to talk to a coach who is either a veteran or a military spouse. This hotline is funded by the DoD and is available 24/7. They serve active duty and family members, including dependent spouses and children. Their confidential conversations can provide resources, encouragement and a reminder that no one should go through military life alone.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: If you have a friend struggling with any type of domestic violence, you can get them help by calling 800-799-SAFE. You or your friend can make this call 24/7 to speak to someone who can help them break the cycle of domestic violence and abuse.
  • Child Abuse Hotline: Call 800-336-4592 if you have any reason to believe a child is being physically or emotionally abused. The DoD runs this hotline, and they can support you with information or help you file an official report.

No matter what challenges your friend may be facing, remind them that they’re not alone.

Making Mental Wellness a Priority

 Posted by on August 27, 2018 at 12:43
Aug 272018
 

Oftentimes when we think of health and wellness we immediately focus on our body, particularly weight, appearance and lack of physical ailments. However, an essential and often overlooked aspect of health is your mental wellness. Although it is talked about more these days, there still seems to be a stigma surrounding how important it is to care for oneself in this way. As someone who is diagnosed with clinical depression, it is imperative that I make my mental wellness a priority; that’s a lot easier with the help of resources available through the military.

Kelly

Some days we feel like we are on top of the world and can handle anything that comes our way. Other days, not so much. It could range anywhere from just a case of the blahs to having to fight to get out of bed. In some cases, it can be debilitating. As with anything that is related to “self,” in my opinion, awareness is half the battle. It has been my experience that on days where I feel a bit off it is sometimes hard to realize it, strange as that may sound. Frequently we squash our feelings because we don’t want to deal with them. And, frankly, they can be scary and sometimes cause us pain and discomfort. When we do this, we deny ourselves an opportunity to be our best, healthiest self.

Once we become aware of our mental wellness, it really is up to us to take care of it. Fortunately, if you are in the military, mental wellness is given top priority for soldiers and their families. Non-medical counseling services are available in the form of online service and webinars, call center counseling and counseling in person and by phone via secure chat or video sessions.

Aside from non-medical counseling, there are things you can do on your own to take care of your mental wellness. For instance, I know that I feel better when I exercise. It doesn’t even have to be that vigorous, I just need to move my body in some way that feels good to me and helps me mentally reset. Activities such as journaling, meditating, drawing or coloring, or simply having coffee with a friend on a regular basis can help with my mood. Again, becoming aware of what works for you is important, and then it’s up to you to create and implement a plan.

Wellness encompasses not just our bodies, but also our minds – and we owe it to ourselves to take care of both. Everyone gets down and goes through difficult times, each of us responding uniquely to each experience we have. Remember: it is okay to feel this way and acknowledge you feel this way. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your experiences to others; even if whatever you are experiencing is not as bad as someone else’s, it still affects you and it still matters in your life. Do you have any mental wellness tips to share? Comment below

Going the Distance

 Posted by on August 20, 2018 at 10:00
Aug 202018
 

Long-distance friendships are a reality when you’re traveling all over the world as a military family. But how on earth do you make it work when you and your bestie live far apart? We can utilize technology, send gifts and make the most of our actual time together to enhance our bond despite the distance. The most important thing? Effort. Lots of it.

Lee-Anne

The long and short of it is that relationships take work, and the less convenient it is, the greater the determination required. I have had long-distance friendships over the years, and not all of them are still going strong, but the ones that I truly value are. My best friend and I currently live in different states and we are closer than we have ever been; my family jokes that she is my other husband. Below, I share some of my tips for keeping long-distance friendships going strong over the years.

  1. Technology is your friend. My best friend and I often have conversations going over email, text, video chat and phone calls. If you look at all our communication methods together you would get the complete picture; we just use whatever is closest at hand and keep going. When she gets a new haircut, she will video call me for my opinion, and if I am having a rough day I can call her late at night and she always picks up. We can usually tell what type of conversation we are going to have by the method and timing of it.
  2. Have uncomfortable conversations and set expectations. My best friend and I both have kids and jobs and needy husbands, so we know that if something pops up one of us will say “got to go” and immediately hang up. The first time this happened, my feelings were hurt. I was thinking, “Did she really just hang up on me?!” Later, it happened again, and I decided to talk to her about it. It doesn’t mean that we are not important to each other, it simply means that something more pressing came up and we will get back together later. The key is remembering to get back together later…even if it’s just a text to apologize.
  3. Let them know you are thinking of them. I will routinely tag my friends in online posts or send them funny GIFs that remind me of them. It lets them know that you’re thinking of them and want to share a little moment. We mail packages to each other a few times a year with a cute mug or a funny fridge magnet. It doesn’t have to be grandiose, but the sentiment and extra effort are always appreciated.
  4. Try to spend some actual time together when you can. My best friend is about a nine-hour drive from me, close enough that it is doable but far enough that it is not something we can do frequently. She travels a lot for work and kids sporting events, so usually she will be close enough to me that I can meet her for a quick meal as she drives past. When you do get together, try to come up with a game plan for what it looks like. Will it be an uninterrupted two-day trip, or will it be a 20-minute coffee?

The strength of your friendship is a direct correlation to the amount of effort you put in. With the endless resources we have available to us today, there is no excuse to let a good friendship fizzle out just because of a little distance. What are your tips for keeping important relationships in your life strong, despite the miles between you?

A Real Mom’s Guide for the School Year

 Posted by on August 13, 2018 at 10:18
Aug 132018
 

I work from home with a full kitchen at my fingertips, yet I spend six minutes, at most, on my own lunch. Why do I spend more time than that packing a lunch box for my picky elementary school kid? I could drop some serious coin on fancy lunch boxes and reusable plastic bags. I could follow one of those meal-prep videos that tries to convince me that I can pack a five-star lunch without breaking a sweat (lies). But I don’t, and I won’t because it’s not necessary. This year, I’m wrestling the school year out of the grip that social media-induced comparison has on it. I’m going to stress less and learn more. Here is my real mom guide to the upcoming school year:

Kristi

  • Lunch. If your kid eats a school-provided lunch, let me tip my hat to you. I count on leftovers (either kept warm in my kids’ thermoses or warmed in the school microwave) and stuff rolled up in tortillas. To round out a meal, I throw in some pre-sliced fruits and veggies. On mornings when I feel like it will be the miracle of my life if we can get out the door by 7:55 a.m., I grab baby carrots because they need no slicing and a banana because they come in their own disposable container!
  • Homework. As a kid, I hated homework. As a mom, I still hate homework. This year, I’m doing something a little unconventional – we’re doing homework before school. My kids both insist on waking up with the sun, and — because they’re both so much like me — they are bursting with creativity and purpose in the morning. I have a feeling this will help them focus for the day and remove making a huge mess and watching TV from our morning routine.
  • Volunteering. Between you and me, the military doesn’t function without military spouse volunteers. We are hard-wired to pitch in when asked, and we’re often so good that we just see a need and jump in without being asked. That said, we cannot do everything. If you’re already volunteering with a dozen organizations, this isn’t your year to add PTO or Room Mom to your resume. When you spread yourself too thin, you can’t do much good.
  • Teacher Gifts. Back-to-school, major holidays, Teacher Appreciation Day, Spring Break, end-of-year gifts — stop the madness. I’m all for showing appreciation for getting my kid one step closer to becoming a functioning adult, but Spring Break shouldn’t require a teacher’s gift. Pick one or two of the days above to give your kids’ teacher a gift and put your blinders on to avoid the judgmental stares at morning drop-off on the rest of these occasions.
  • Routines. Let’s be honest: mornings are chaos and often involve digging anything resembling a matching pair of socks out of the dryer on the way out the door. But, here’s the after-school routine that works for us:
    • Use the one-drop rule. We only set things down once. This eliminates the “picking up” before bed that no one likes.
    • Talk! This one is so important and it’s the first thing cut on busy days. Ask your kids about their days but use specifics to avoid getting “fine” or “nothing” as answers. Try, “How did your spelling test go today?” or, “Was so-and-so back at school today?”
    • Do something that isn’t watching TV. Let your kids go play outside. Have them read. Read with them. Let them go be kids. They need this time to decompress after working their little brains all day and having to sit still.
    • Dinner. We rarely do this at the table, and I know some may think it’s wrong, but believe me, my kids are nourished, we talk, and they know my husband and I love them. The dinner structure doesn’t change that.
    • Go to practice or go nowhere. Depending on what night of the week it is, we may have a chill night at home or we may be bouncing between events.
    • Take baths, read stories, go to sleep. Sometimes it’s a late night, and the one or two of these don’t happen. We do the best we can and that is almost never perfection.

Overall, it’s important to know your limits – and know your kids’ limits. Talk to your kids’ teachers. Reign in the activities and the goals; you can’t do everything in one year and neither can your kids. Instead, pick a couple goals and master them. This year, I want my daughter to learn to read and tie her shoes. I want my son to learn his multiplication tables and grasp situational awareness. I want my husband to learn that “next to the dishwasher” is not the same as “in the dishwasher.” Personally, I want to turn work off by the time my kids get home and dig socks out of the dryer no more than two days a week. Good luck this school year, parents!

PCS-Proofing Your Marriage

 Posted by on August 6, 2018 at 09:21
Aug 062018
 

If you ask a military couple how they survived a PCS move, you will probably get answers like, “Lots of wine, an emergency chocolate stash and a great sense of humor.” Or they may just look at each other and shrug because they are still barely on speaking terms.

In all seriousness, a PCS move is no laughing matter. Moving your family and belongings to another state or country can be hard on everyone and may be particularly demanding on your marriage. Couples may find themselves disagreeing about how to move, what to move and the logistics of moving to the new location. Stress, lack of sleep and disrupted routines can lead to arguments. Once they arrive at the new assignment, couples may struggle to support each other without any local friends to lean on. Sound familiar? If you and your spouse are facing a PCS, here are some ways to get through the move with your relationship intact.

  • Remember that you are on the same team. A move can put you and your spouse at odds on a variety of decisions. Even couples who typically agree completely may find themselves in disagreements when moving to a new location. The good news is that a few PCS arguments do not mean your marriage is falling apart or that your spouse no longer loves you. Instead of approaching PCS decisions like a battle you are trying to “win,” approach it as a team project.
  • Divide and conquer. Try not to compare who is doing more or whose job is more stressful. Instead, discuss which tasks are still on the to-do list and who can accomplish them most efficiently.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. When you are sorting through and moving everything you own, there are bound to be discussions about how you ended up with so many things. Try not to hold on too tightly to items that can be easily replaced. The same is true for those dusty items in the garage that haven’t been touched in over a year. Ultimately, it’s all just stuff, and most things can be sold, donated or replaced.
  • Discuss your priorities. Couples with a strong relationship will almost always cite “communication” as the key to a happy marriage. But communication can be challenging during a short-notice PCS or when the service member is away. Try to be honest with your partner about your priorities and concerns during the move, but don’t be surprised to discover that their main focus is different from yours. Instead of bottling up all your emotions, find non-confrontational ways to vent your frustration. This may mean reaching out to friends, family or a counselor for support. Military OneSource provides free, confidential counseling to service members and/or spouses.
  • Try to keep it fun! Sure, moving can be frustrating and stressful, but it can also be an adventure. Whether you are sleeping on the floor, squeezing the dogs into a hotel room, or camping out under the stars, focus on the unique memories you are making with your spouse. The more you can laugh together, the better you will be able to face the craziness of a PCS move.
  • Plan date nights before the move. A PCS move can easily distract you and your spouse for months. Try to plan a few simple date nights where you can agree not to discuss moving details and focus on reconnecting with each other. These experiences don’t have to be expensive—just a few hours together enjoying a movie, a picnic or a walk on the beach can do wonders to refresh your marriage.

When PCS stress starts to put distance between you and your spouse, remember that your marriage will outlast the move. After all, you vowed to be together “in good times and bad” and the good times will always outweigh the hard times.

Tips for Hosting an Epic Summer Bash

 Posted by on July 30, 2018 at 10:18
Jul 302018
 

Who doesn’t love a good party? One of my favorite things about summer is being able to entertain large groups of people in my outdoor space – no excuses necessary to gather my military family! Here are some of my favorite tips for hosting an epic summer bash:

Lee-Anne

  • Plan ahead. If you are going to have a party during a major holiday, you will need to give people plenty of advance notice. I host an annual “Fourth of July Extravaganza!” at our place. Most people know I will be doing it, but I still send out the invites at least a month ahead of time.
  • Be thrifty. I use free online invitations or create an event on Facebook to invite my guests. I will usually supply the food and drinks, but this can get expensive, so I let people know that if they want to (and it’s not mandatory) they can bring their favorite side dish or cocktail to share. Usually about 75% of the guests do this, so I plan accordingly. If they ask for a specific need, I assign things like soda, ice, chips and salads.
  • Cook what you love. I love to grill. It’s my favorite method of cooking and I place it near the action. This allows me to interact with people but still get stuff done. If you aren’t confident in your grill skills, then assign this task to someone who likes to do it. Easy foods like hotdogs, hamburgers and brats are the most manageable. I also love to throw something on the smoker and let it cook all day. Bonus: if your guests are bringing side dishes, there is even less for you to do.
  • Plan accordingly. If you’re hosting an all-day event, you’ll want to have food ready at different times throughout the day. If it’s a party for a specific time of day, have an idea of when the apex of your party is going to be, which usually coincides with the time you want to serve the food. If my meat takes 12 hours to smoke and we want to eat at 6 pm, it will be an early start to my day. If I am just whipping up some hotdogs and burgers, I can start cooking 30 minutes before guests start arriving. I also love to match my summer parties with the sunset, so we can set off fireworks after we eat!
  • Arrange activities. The key to any successful party is having a variety of activities for different types of personalities. Some people might want to sit and talk, so make sure you have plenty of chairs. Others may be up for a game of horseshoes or a corn hole tournament. I usually have a few yard games set up (ladder ball is my absolute favorite). Kid-friendly activities like water guns or a slip-and-slide are also usually a big win. Because I live on a ranch, I have 4-wheelers, go carts and pony rides too, but go with what you’ve got to make it fun.
  • Play hostess. Make sure that at intervals throughout the party you are talking with your guests, offering drinks or introducing people. Nothing is more awkward than going to a party and not knowing anyone. Introduce people with commonalities and let them get to know each other through mutual interests.

Now that you are armed with a battle plan, go out there and host one amazing summer party. One last thing, please don’t let your friends drink and drive. There’s always a ride-share, cab or a spot on your couch if needed. Have a great and safe summer!

MilSpouse Down!

 Posted by on July 24, 2018 at 09:58
Jul 242018
 

Ahh, the unpredictability of life! Things can change in an instant, for better or for worse. Most of the time we can roll with it and just keep on keeping on. Sometimes, however, we need help.

Kelly

Recently, I was handed some lemons of my own. I was draining pasta and burned myself – a severe second degree burn on my abdomen. As soon as it happened I knew I needed help, but I didn’t panic. In times like this when I’m unable to maintain the status quo, I call in my pinch hitters – my fellow MilSpouses – and together, we figure it out.

The beauty of military life is that we have an entire community surrounding and supporting us when we need help. We don’t live on base, but we live in a neighborhood full of military families and I am fortunate enough to work with some military wives. This community of people helped me get my classes covered, change my bandages…and most importantly, keep my chin up and move forward.

When one of us is going through something, our fellow military spouses always seem to be there and are willing to lend a helping hand. What I think is particularly beautiful about this camaraderie, from my experience, is that it doesn’t know any limits.  It doesn’t matter the branch or assignment – MilSpouses and MilFamilies respond to the call – even for people we don’t necessarily know. We’re a tribe, a community. One I am very grateful for.

I’ve been working really hard on practicing gratitude, and this situation gave me a lot of material to work with. Who are the people in your tribe that you can always go to when you need them? Can you recall an event when they came running, maybe without you even asking? I encourage you to take some time to reflect on this – it’s so special and worth appreciating. The next time you have the capacity to help a fellow MilSpouse, do it with an open heart. Someday, it will be their turn to be there for you.

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