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Hypothetical Parties, Guppies and You

 Posted by on September 5, 2016 at 07:00
Sep 052016


You’re invited to a get-together Saturday afternoon. It sounds like fun. It’s at the restaurant you’ve been wanting to try. And, as luck would have it, you’re free on Saturday! The only catch is that you don’t know anyone who will be there for reasons I’ll leave open to your imagination. Maybe you just moved to the fictional land in this scenario, maybe you run in different circles, maybe work and shuttling kids around keeps you in your own lane six days a week or maybe you are just seeing the light of day for the first time in months since your baby was born — your hypothetical, your choice.

Even for the socially gifted, this is not an ideal scenario because parties, meetings, work, school, volunteering or pretty much anything else is a little less scary when you know someone else who will be there. It’s that safety-in-numbers thing that’s engrained in our brains from an early age.

If you’re an introvert, or you’re shy, or you just feel awkward in new social situations, you might flake on this thing on Saturday. It’s hard to face something alone; it makes you vulnerable — I wouldn’t fault you for making that call. In fact, I’m the flaker in that scenario. I’m almost always awkward the first time anyone meets me — I can’t say for sure if that’s how it comes off, but I feel that way. I’ve just never been one to float seamlessly into a conversation. No, walking up to a group of strangers makes me feel like I have a flashing neon sign over my head that says, “One of these things is not like the other.” No thanks, I’d rather stay home than stand around checking my phone, trying to look important in between telling the same condensed story of my life to strangers.

Let’s say the exact same get-together is happening on the same Saturday (and, we’ve already established that you’re free), but your neighbor who’s made you feel welcome since the day you moved in is also going. A party full of strangers doesn’t scare me at all if I have a wingman. Awkward pauses don’t happen and judging my what I can tell of my own body language, I probably look more approachable.

Swap this hypothetical party out with almost any other situation, and you get the same result. No matter where we are or what the situation, we are stronger when we band together. When we, as military spouses, or a military community as a whole, choose to be inclusive and support each other instead of nitpicking and judging each other, we are a strong unit, a total force. We are a school of fish that can fend off the toothiest of sharks instead of fragile guppies swimming along solo.

I don’t want to be a guppy. I want to feel empowered swimming along next to equally empowered fish. Empowered fish are strong, confident and they look out for their own. So, to swim in this school of positive, empowered fish, there are a few ground rules:

  1. Squash conversations that only exist to cut people down. It sounds heroic, but anyone can change the subject. You don’t have to publicly shame anyone, just refuse to talk about other people negatively.
  2. Introduce yourself. Greet your new neighbor or the mom at the park who looks like she’s having one of those days.
  3. Have one face. Nothing brings back high school like the term “two-faced,” but it applies here as well. I said it years ago in a blog somewhere here on Blog Brigade, the military community is a small town. So stick to one face, and make it a good one because it will get stuck like that.
  4. Be inclusive. Look, I’m not saying you need to invite everyone to everything. I don’t want to feed the entire neighborhood dinner either. But, be inclusive when it’s necessary. When there’s a new family on the block, extend an invitation. When you know someone doesn’t have any plans or family in town for a holiday, remember: the more, the merrier.
  5. Be civil. Like number four, we know at this point in our lives that we aren’t going to be friends with everyone. For whatever reason, some people don’t mesh — it’s nothing to lose sleep over. Not meshing is one thing, being rude is another. Let’s exchange some mutual respect and continue to coexist like civilized adults.
  6. Encourage where encouragement is due. It doesn’t matter how busy I am; I can pick up on signs of stress in another person. As much as I like to stick to my own schedule, I will always detour for someone who needs to talk. I can be a couple minutes late if someone needs a hand. Humans trump schedule.
  7. Give up grudges. Apologize, accept apologies and move on.
  8. Participate in the network. The military community is full of talent and, in a weird second-cousin-twice-removed kind of way, we are all connected. It’s easy to get wrapped up in competing — wanting to be the best in your field of expertise, wanting to have the last word or the best social scene. It’s far more beneficial to be a team player and support each other on our journeys than it is to keep our heads down and go it alone.

Vulnerable isn’t a popular feeling — people tend to dislike it. I’ve been the new kid on the block, so have you. I’ve made abrupt 90-degree turns, like recently deciding to head to grad school to pursue something that seemed ridiculous even a year ago. What encouraged me? It was a supportive network, an empowered group that didn’t say judgmental things, like “How are you going to have time for that,” or even the slyly condescending, “Oh, I sure wouldn’t want to do that, but good for you.” No, success, positivity and ambition are contagious. My recent decision was met with comments, like “I’m so excited for you,” and questions from people who genuinely showed interest.

So, don’t be shy. Spread it around. Be a friend. Be a cheerleader. Let’s have more “You go girl (or boy),” and less eye rolling. And let’s not wait around for someone else to be the bigger person, we can handle that.

Sisterhood* of the Traveling Parents

 Posted by on July 28, 2016 at 08:00
Jul 282016


*Brotherhood of the traveling parents, too. I’m not trying to leave out the dads, just referring to sisterhood from personal experience.

Shrink your world and expand your village. That’s the Alice-from-Wonderland effect that military life can have on your childhood concepts of an enormous world and small network of friends. I grew up in the civilian world where my family stayed in the same house and went to the same schools. I always had family and friends around me for support and never considered that life would be any different than that. And then it was. I’ve got five tips to share that helped me find and form a sisterhood among the other PCSing parents and thrive in military life no matter where we lived.

Tip #1: Participate in events.

When we PCS’d to Sicily, Italy (leaving all the family and friends I’d known), I was nervous that I’d be completely alone when my husband deployed. That’s when I started to notice the magic of the military community. From the day we landed in Catania and met our Navy sponsor we began to form bonds with people in our new community. This trend continued through the indoctrination course that brought us up to speed on local customs, etiquette, conversational Italian with key phrases and hand gestures, as well as earning an Italian driver’s license.

We made a great connection with a group of people in that class when we went on a “get lost trip” to Syracuse, Sicily. The assignment put our group on an adventure where we had to dive into a culture and language we didn’t know, arrive to the city in one mode of transportation, find assigned items along the way and return home by a different form of transportation. We created great memories as we worked our way to and through Syracuse and back home. We must have been a sight with our halting and butchered Italian, wild gestures, animated facial expressions, but we managed to get directions, buy tickets, and tour the ruins in the city —oh and made good friends in the process.

Tip #2: Drop the labels.

The nature of friendships you make while in the military tend to be a bit different than in the civilian world. You make friends quickly in the military community…it’s almost like speed dating for friendship, because you only have two to three years in that one location. Don’t start out by labeling people and prejudging them. Get to know who they are. Continue to make many acquaintances while you get to know people a bit better. It won’t take long before you develop a close circle of support.

My village began to expand even more as we took advantage of opportunities to meet other people.  We attended local festivals, on-base events (airshows, Morale, Welfare and Recreation sponsored family events and holiday celebrations), mom’s groups, and house parties with co-workers and neighbors in order to meet more people. The more people you meet, the more likely you are to find good friends. We all find ourselves labeling people from time to time. But, now’s the time to recognize it and stop labeling people. I would have missed some amazing friends had I put people in a box and moved on before getting to know them.

Tip #3: Nurture your friendships.

In both our duty stations of Sicily and Virginia Beach, the friends I made — a few different groups of moms (and their families) — became my sisters by choice. We stood by one another through pregnancies, adoptions, illnesses, deployments, births and deaths. We helped each other through the day-to-day difficulties of long deployments by helping each other with cleaning chores, yard work and making dinner for one another. Exploring landmarks and community novelties with the kids or planning girls’ night out were some of the ways we got each other out of the house and kept something special on the calendar to look forward to in between deployment mile markers.

These women were wonderful examples to me of the kind of mom I wanted to be and I took lessons from each of them. They also taught me a lot about how to be a good friend. Sometimes, when you’re struggling through a deployment, you don’t know what help you need. But caring friends pay attention to things like that and act when they notice something that needs to be done or when you need to chat.

Tip #4: Respect family time.

Military spouses understand that when the service member comes home from a deployment, the family forms a bit of a cocoon while they reintegrate and get used to being a family again. Always be understanding and respectful of that. Our job as friends is to support one another. Sometimes the best way to be a friend is to step back and give them space.

Not everyone cocoons. Some people prefer to be with friends to welcome home the deployed spouse. Whatever your friends prefer, be ready to support. During deployments I’d be in touch with some friends every day, some every week and others a few times a month. Remember to be flexible. Not everyone needs the same amount of support or attention.

Tip #5: Bloom where transplanted.

Going through large life transitions together (PCSing, learning a new culture and language by immersion, living through deployments, becoming parents, etc.), creates a lifelong bond of friendship. One of the great traits of military friends, and good friends in general, is that even after you move away, and even with years between visits, it’s like no time passed and you pick up your conversation right where it left off.

There’s a respect and an understanding between military friends where you know you both must bloom where you are transplanted. This means that with each move the initial focus has to be on expanding your village of support at the new location. You both do this while enjoying the friendships you’ve made over the years.



6 Ways to Win at Speed Friend Dating

 Posted by on October 19, 2015 at 15:10
Oct 192015


Boxes unpacked — check.

New routines — check.

Kids enrolled in school — check.

Found the grocery store and a go-to pizza place — check.

New friends…

My inner elementary school student is rolling her eyes. She was under the impression that making friends was something she only had to do over lunchroom trades or under the monkey bars at recess. Making friends was awkward and — at times — terrifying back then (maybe that’s just this introvert’s opinion), but I got through it thanks to parental promises like, “It won’t always be that hard.”

Oh yeah, Mom? Unless we already know someone at our new duty station, we have to friend date. Scratch that — we have to speed friend date, and it’s every bit as tedious and awkward as it sounds. We have our tried-and-true locales for friend picking:

  • Our service member’s connection
  • Our service member’s unit
  • Our job
  • Our kids’ activities
  • Our neighborhood
  • Our church
  • The gym

And it’s not like our new home is a ghost town. There are people everywhere, but we’re looking for quality, not quantity — this isn’t a Myspace friend-count contest. We have to weed through acquaintances to find “our people.” The people who aren’t going to judge our sweat pants at the early-morning school drop off. We need people who can relate to our venting (story toppers need not apply). We don’t have the time or the energy (or babysitting funding) to show up for things that don’t really interest us. We want to cut to the chase and find instant best buds.

But here’s the catch: We have to speed friend date without seeming too aggressive. Nobody likes a clinger. How do we do it? Well, we can’t very well walk up to a potential BFF and say, “Hi, I’m Kristi. Do you want to be my friend?” That’s a play from my 4-year old’s playbook (except he uses his own name…now). He has a 90 percent success rate with that direct approach, but I doubt very seriously that anyone over the age of 8 could match that feat. Instead:

  • Get busy doing what you love, and make your own routines. There’s no point in delaying your family’s rhythm in a new place only to find a friend who doesn’t mesh with it. This could be anything from clashing nap times to work schedules that never cross paths.
  • Use social media groups (carefully). Check Facebook for closed groups for your new installation, neighborhood or special interest groups (like play groups or exercise clubs). The closed group status is really important here because you don’t want information about your location or your plans for the day to be public information. These groups can be great ways to find a last-minute pet sitter or a life-long friend.
  • Add a friend to make a friend. Nothing helps friend-making cut to the chase like becoming friends or followers on social media. You can skip right over “Where are you from,” “How old are your kids” and “How long have you been here?”
  • Extend invitations without counting on company. Being inclusive is being a good friend. I tell my kids that, and it’s true for adults. You can say something as casual as, “We’re going to the park after lunch. You should stop by if you aren’t busy.” Don’t get bent out of shape if your friend is a no-show. Everyone has a routine, and a meetup isn’t always possible. The important thing is that inclusion is contagious. If you extend an invite, a new acquaintance is likely to return the favor.
  • Use your kids. That sounds awful, but there’s really no way to sweeten it up. If you focus on setting playdates with your kids or hauling them to one practice or the other, you’ll get to know the other parents. Maybe you’ll find a friend, maybe you won’t, but kids absorb the awkwardness. They fill awkward silence with things like, “I GOT NEW SHOES, SEE?!” And when you’re ready to wrap it up, you can usually count on your amazing little child to need to use the potty “real bad.”
  • Be you. Just like we prefer not to waste our time on activities that rank below spending Friday night on the couch, we don’t need to waste our time putting on an act. This doesn’t mean you need to say everything that runs through your head, it just means that if you aren’t meshing with someone, move along. It’s OK not to get along with everyone, and you’ll probably both be happier in acquaintance land.

10 Tips for Making New Friends

 Posted by on July 22, 2015 at 17:04
Jul 222015

CeceliaBlogger Biography: Cecelia Curtis is a marketing and communications professional and a proud military spouse. Cecelia’s husband of 12 years, Bryan, serves in the U.S. Air Force and is currently stationed in Miami, Fla. In Miami, Cecelia enjoys singing, writing, jogging, water sports and lots of sunshine.


There are countless quotes about friendship. “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves,” “Friends are angels here on earth,” and my personal favorite, “Good friends are like bras — supportive, never leave you hanging, make you look good and are always close to your heart.” The point is that most people recognize that true friendship is one of life’s greatest gifts.

Friendship is especially important for military families since we often live far from family. Our friends become our family. Yet, making friends can be challenging for some. Building true friendship might be a bit tricky at times, but it is definitely worth it. After all, everyone needs a good friend, or two or three, who we can share this crazy, fun military life with from time to time (because, let’s face it — at least one friend will PCS before you do).

If you’re new to an area or you’re just looking to make new friends, consider the tips below:

  1. Open up. Opening up to someone new can be scary and you may feel a bit vulnerable. It is mutual openness and vulnerability that ultimately creates the lasting bond of friendship, though. Should you open yourself to everyone? No. When making new friends, be wise.
  2. Go. It can be really tough to make new friends if you never meet new people or if you don’t interact with the people you already know. So, get out of your comfort zone. Try a new restaurant, join a book club, go to the gym, or check out your church’s Bible study. And, if someone invites you to something, go.
  3. Make the first move. Someone has to. If you meet someone who seems nice, fun or interesting, ask him or her out. Don’t waste time with, “We should get together some time.” Go straight for the invite, and make a solid plan.
  4. Don’t judge. Do you have a long list of things you’re looking for in a friend — married, between the ages of 28 and 32, has 2.5 children, works in your unit or your spouse’s unit, etc.? Oh, live a little. It might be fun to be around someone who’s not exactly like you. Plus, your differences might actually be opportunities to grow and to complement one another.
  5. Don’t move too fast. As tempting as it might be, it’s not always a good idea to share your most intimate thoughts with a brand new friend. Don’t hide who you are. Again, just use wisdom.
  6. Skip comparisons. Do you often find yourself comparing yourself to others? That can make things a bit awkward if you do so out loud. Instead of comparing yourself to others, learn to appreciate the differences in others.
  7. Be thoughtful. Does your new friend have a birthday coming up? Go out and celebrate. Did your new friend just get a new job? Congratulate him or her. We all know how great it feels to be recognized on our special day. So, share the love.
  8. Reciprocate. Don’t just take, give. If someone always calls, emails or texts you, it’s time for you to reciprocate. If your new friend has repeatedly cared for your children so that you can have a date night with your husband, consider repaying her kindness. It’s not about keeping score. It really just goes back to being thoughtful.
  9. Be loyal. The quickest way to lose a friend — new or old — is by gossiping or otherwise failing the loyalty test. As your friendship grows, you will learn what your friend is most sensitive about, what type of humor he or she has, what you can share with others and even which photos you can share on social media. Until then, play it safe. Keep what happens between the two of you between the two of you.
  10. Have fun. If there’s no fun, there’s no friendship. Yes, each friend is different and each friend will likely meet a different friendship need or bring out a different side of your personality. However, you should genuinely enjoy being around your friends. So, relax, laugh, take a few selfies and have some fun.

Friendship is one of life’s greatest gifts. Making new friends might take a bit of work, but once you have found someone who is supportive, never leaves you hanging, makes you look good and is always close to your heart, you’ll know that true friendship is always worth the effort.

Roads Trips in The Winter

 Posted by on December 24, 2014 at 12:23
Dec 242014

Traveling at any time is thrilling, exciting and rejuvenating, except when it’s not. Traveling in the winter is all those things but also treacherous, exhausting and often miserable. Here are my solutions to winter travel blues and how to make it exciting.



Being a military family we often traveled “home” for the holidays. We either lived on one coast or the other and our families are right in the middle in Texas. Either direction we had a 22- to 25-hour drive and, with a large family and presents, flying was not an option.

Enter the military-infused bloodline I come from. My personal mission was Operation “get home for the holidays” and I was in charge.

The winter weather brought on new challenges that our summer trips did not. I would start with a plan, or some might call it an ORM (operation risk management) only I did it Kelli style, usually yelling out orders from a chair or couch while trying to shove as many clothes into a space bag as possible. Think of what could go wrong and have things in place to address any potential problems along the way. That is ORM.

Plan out your route with alternatives

Make sure you are planning the safest route possible. Sadly, it’s not always the shortest. Take into consideration the conditions you’ll be traveling in and which roads will be maintained sooner than others in the event of a winter storm. Be aware of alternate routes you can take in the event a road is closed.

Weather reports

My dad was our weather guy. He would track our road trips, call us along the way and report what we were heading into. Enter the cell phones of today and all the fabulous weather apps. Now we have a weather guy on the road with us. Someone tracks the storms and reports what’s ahead. It’s usually boring stuff in July on I10, but during December you might see some action.

Car preparations

Depending on where you are going, make sure the car is prepared for the conditions you will be traveling through. Lucky for us we never needed to purchase snow tires or chains, but if you’re heading far north, budget that in. Oil changes and routine maintenance should be scheduled out in advance to catch any bigger unexpected mechanical concerns. I was really great about this, except when I might have forgotten to do it. Last minute oil changes and a quick review of the tires, belts and fluids at the very minimum should definitely be done before you hit the highway.

Blankets, food and water

These are typical needs on any long trip, but the colder weather makes the food and blankets a little more important than a spring break drive home. The thought of breaking down on Interstate 20 in December somewhere in Tennessee made me a little nervous so I made sure we could survive for three days in our SUV. OK, so maybe I have issues, but we would stay warm and eat like kings!


With the electronics of today, this is almost too easy. Might I suggest a throwback to before media was so portable? I read books out loud on the drive. If you are prone to motion sickness try the book on CD version. There’s just something about the whole family listening to a story together. However, don’t think I don’t see the value in everyone having their own headset and going into their own world for an hour or two.

The bottom line is if you are prepared, do your part in making sure you know what you are headed into and keep a cool head when the unexpected pops up, you are going to have a fabulous winter trip. Oh and when the unexpected does happen, add it to your after action report for consideration in planning Operation “get home for the holidays” next year.

If you have any unique tips or adventures share in the comments below. We’d love to hear how you make those long trips home an exciting adventure!

More Than DNA

 Posted by on December 18, 2014 at 08:00
Dec 182014


When you hear the word “family,” what do you envision? If you were born 100 years ago, you would automatically assume it was the traditional mom, dad and 11 siblings. In today’s 21st century world, it’s not that clearly defined. When I hear the word “family” in my mind’s eye, I do picture the traditional mom (me) and dad (my husband) and our six offspring. I also see my sister, her family, my parents, grandparents and assorted cousins. However, I also have a flood of faces that are not necessarily connected to me through DNA strands. We are connected by duty stations, life events, deployments and the day-to-day living military families often do far away from those families we were born into.

I have added many “sisters” along the way and a few grandparents. The ties that bind us are the long days in the middle of a deployment when it looks like no end in sight to the deployment, the dirty dishes and the laundry.

In the labor and delivery room, I forged a bond with a sister who held my hand when my husband wasn’t there to hold it.

In those stolen moments away from children, over “pie night” or some other treat, women became part of my village as we discussed our families, our lives and, of course, the next deployment that always seemed to come.

There were middle of the night phone calls that caused, without hesitation, one of us to get up and go to the aid of the other simply because we knew we were most likely all the other had in challenging times.

No one ever said, “How do you do it with your husband gone all the time?” Theirs was gone too and when one of our husbands was home, he had more than just his own home to help repair. He had several. That’s what family does.

I love the family I was born into. They are some of the best people you will ever meet. I also love the family I’ve built along the way. I have been honored to have them as brothers and sisters and consider my life richer because of them.

So when you think you are alone and you’re far away from family, just remember family is so much more than those sharing your DNA. Look around, you might be surprised at the family you have right under your nose.



Keeping in Touch With Friends

 Posted by on July 25, 2014 at 15:09
Jul 252014


We are moving.

When you hear these words, do you shout for joy, begin researching your new duty station or run straight to a tub of ice cream, call your friends and bemoan your fate? Well, I have done all of these things, often at the same time.

No matter how we feel about a move, one thing is constant – the goodbyes. I always want to throw myself down and kick and scream, and I think one time I did, but I still packed up, cleaned out and hit the road. It has not always been easy or pain-free.

Over the last couple of decades, I’ve left friends all over the country and they have left me. Social media has bridged a gap that used to be deep and wide. Now, regardless of time zone and distance, my friends can still be part of my life. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you pack up and move out:

Social media isn’t always the best form of communication.

Sometimes technology makes us lazy. A slew of happy birthdays over social media is great, but for those friends we consider close, it’s not always the best way to make them feel like they are special. Make sure you take a moment to send a card or make a call. The mail carrier needs to deliver more than just ads and bills!

Don’t share super special news via social media before you tell those special friends first.

There’s nothing worse than hearing big news about a close friend via a news feed instead of a private email, phone call or even text. Consider keeping a list of those you need to share with before you share with the world.

Conference calls and video teleconferencing isn’t just for business.

Phone dates either via a conference call or group videoing can keep friends and families close. Seeing each other’s kids grow and keeping in touch with the little events in their lives is a great way to continue to grow and strengthen the bond of friendship. I love “seeing” my friends as much as hearing them.

It is not as easy as you think.

You have to work at nurturing friendships that are no longer conveniently next door or down the street. Our lives get busy, and it takes work to settle into a new area. There’s an old song that says, “Make new friends, but keep the old; some are silver and the others gold.” I never understood that as a young girl, but after saying goodbye over and over…and over again, I have seen the truth of those words. Anything of value takes work. You have to find the time to stay close because time is a slippery thing and is gone before you know it.

I have found the hardest part isn’t’ keeping in touch but not being there to share in my dear friends’ triumphs and sorrows in person. Sometimes the only option is a thoughtful note dropped in the mail or a personal text (and then DON’T expect a response). We are not able to know everything that is going on in their lives once our zip codes change. We have to exercise extra patience and understanding when we reach out to offer support or when we want to share and there is not an immediate response or reply.

I have dearly missed the presence of some of my friends. They have enriched my life, loved my family and loved me even in the middle of crazy deployments when I wasn’t at my best. They have become more than just “friends.” They are family created by choice and shared experiences, and I am grateful for them.



May 092014


Let’s address an especially awkward social situation: the inside joke. I’ve been wrapped up in many a great conversation only to have person A say some perfectly random word to person B which causes them both to erupt with laughter. As person C in this scenario, I respond by:

  1. Giggling along in hopes that they won’t notice that I’m not part of their memory
  2. Acting like I didn’t hear what they were talking about
  3. Checking my phone
  4. Pretending to swat at an imaginary bug (bonus points if there is an assist from an actual insect)

None of these responses is particularly effective, but sometimes the best thing you can do is tread water to stay afloat and tie yourself back into the conversation on the next topic.

I doubt I’ve heard the last of the infamous inside joke. Bouncing around the country, or even the world – I can only imagine the confusion of an inside joke in a foreign language – makes for missing out on a lot of inside joke-worthy moments. So, when the opportunity presents itself that we, military spouses, can all share in an inside joke that we all “get,” we should embrace it and laugh together. And when non-military spouses stare and wonder what in the world was so funny, let’s just sputter out between our phrases of laughter, “You…just…had…to…be…there.”

  1. PCS, TDY, MOS, CO, XO, TAD, PT, PFT, PRT, OPSEC, etc. Maybe you laugh along watching people try to decode these acronyms, or maybe you laugh along nervously in hopes that no one asks you what these really mean.
  2. The loaded question, “Where are you from?” We can’t help but laugh, and it’s a great way to kill some time while we wait for you to pull up a chair.
  3. Lingering inventory stickers are not only something to laugh at, but they can also become a source of family fun in a pinch. Who can find the oldest sticker, or which move was this from? Sounds fun, right?
  4. Flight suits require the sniff test before wearing. I can’t think of another situation where that is not only acceptable, but the norm.
  5. Shopping sprees at the uniform shop are big deals. My husband gently broke the news to me that he needs to spend some serious cash on new socks. I know dear; I do your laundry. Why don’t you do me a favor and buy a whole new batch that all match!
  6. Our service members wear the same thing nearly every day, but produce the most dirty laundry. Insert irritated laughter here.
  7. Order envy must be real. Why am I getting stir crazy and borderline jealous of people moving the year before us? In this case, laughing at myself is required.
  8. The mystery box that moves with us each tour, but is never unpacked is not only a funny family quirk, but it may just qualify as an heirloom at this point.
  9. Phone numbers and addresses change so frequently that I often take a moment’s pause before reciting them. To a civilian, I probably seem a little spacy, but it takes a while to sift through all those numbers.
  10. Dress up for military kids involves a sharp uniform, a cover and a backpack bigger than they are.
  11. Customs forms are probably the biggest inside joke of all time. I fill mine out according to the snowflake policy – no two ever look the same. But, it’s all fun and games until you get stuck in line behind someone at the post office who’s never heard of them.
  12. First names, I’m sure my husband’s colleagues have them, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what they are.
  13. The Internet went berserk the day the Marine Corps brought back rolled sleeves. That wouldn’t be cause for celebration anywhere else.
  14. The commissary is closed on Mondays, but we’ve all shown up with grocery list in hand at least once. It’s never funny at the time, but we always laugh about it later.
  15. Dinner is cold, again because our service members are unexpectedly late, again. We only laugh because it wasn’t unexpected to us. We knew it; we always know.
  16. A familiar face around town is usually an exciting chance meeting, until we realize the person we “recognize” is from a different city, in a different state.
  17. Kids can say some hilarious things. My son has started responding to my instructions with: “Aye, aye, captain.” How can you do anything but laugh when a 3-year-old says that?

Nervous laughter, belly laughs, lols, LOLs or a contagious case of the giggles — it doesn’t matter how we laugh or why as long as we remember never to take military life (or ourselves) too seriously.

Guest Blog: Taking the First New Step

 Posted by on October 11, 2013 at 10:43
Oct 112013

Blogger Biography: Krystel and her husband have been married four years and have three small children together. They are living in England and enjoying their new community. Krystel is a student and she volunteers at the airman and family readiness center on base in addition to teaching Sunday school.

Being married to the military means having to negotiate and renegotiate relationships on a regular basis. When you move, your time zone may change, and finding a good time to call old friends and family becomes more of a challenge. It may be that you and your spouse have different responsibilities and work hours and now need to find a different way to relate. Certainly, you will meet people in your local community and will begin to build completely new relationships.

It can be frustrating for so much to change at once and it is normal to want more control. We tend to slip into thinking that somebody “should know better” or “could try a little harder.” We understand our own perspective so well, it is easy to lose sight of the other person’s point of view. Whether or not we understand them, we feel like the people who are annoying us are doing something wrong — either in failing to reach out, pestering us incessantly, being completely incompetent or even in being a bully.

We might be right. Bullies do exist. People don’t always do their jobs as they should. Sometimes people (even the people who love us) try to control us. Sometimes people leave us feeling very alone. We can’t make other people change. We can’t change the way they think, or the way they feel, or the way they approach us or anybody else.

The only person I can control is myself. If I have developed an unhealthy pattern of relating to people, when I change how I react to them, they find themselves having to change how they react to me.

Think for a moment about a person you are in a relationship with. Imagine that your relationship with this person can be represented by a dance. You cannot move the other person’s feet for him or her. If you move your feet in a different direction, however, this person will need to adjust the way he or she moves. You may both feel out of step for a beat or two, but when you recover, you will find that you have changed your dance.

The next time a person treats you with disrespect, disarm this person with your composure. Take control of the only variable you can control — yourself — and set a different tone for your relationship. Take the first new step.

Throw the Perfect Summer Party

 Posted by on July 16, 2013 at 12:07
Jul 162013


We enthusiastically agree – weeks in advance – to make an appearance at a party, only to wake up on the day of the party and spend hours brainstorming believable excuses to flake. But in a world where some fun is – in fact – mandatory, why would we ever run full speed and arms flailing away from optional fun?

Some reasons I’ve entertained for flaking include: I won’t know anyone aside from the hostess, and she’ll be busy; I couldn’t find a babysitter; I had nothing to wear; I was trying to lose weight and knew the chips and queso would be too tempting; and – the best nine month excuse – pregnancy. But how annoying is it when people flake? As a hostess, I hate it, which is why I try not to bail on a party unless something does truly come up – unfortunately motherhood comes with a world of legitimate excuses, so sorry to anyone I’ve stood up in the last 2 ½ years.

For all of you hosting a party in these dog days of summer, boost the “curb appeal” of your party to discourage flakers, and pay attention to the party trifecta: atmosphere, sustenance and company to keep your guests hanging around as long as you’d like.

Curb appeal

Yes, I know that curb appeal refers to the appearance of your home from the street, but I’m going green and recycling it. Very simply, if your party sounds exciting, guests will want to come. If there are too few details, or the available details make your party sound like a snooze-fest, it’s likely that you’ll receive a flood of text messages the day of the party with excuses ranging from, “My kid is puking,” to “My husband might be calling from Afghanistan sometime in the next 48 hours, and I don’t want to miss it.”

Whether through a formal invitation or word of mouth, keep guests in the loop. Let them know where you’ll be – indoors or out, what you’ll be eating and drinking, who will be there – including kids or no kids and what you’ll be celebrating – even if that reason is just because it’s Saturday (again). Be enthusiastic when inviting your guests; it’s contagious.

The perfect party trifecta

Atmosphere. The atmosphere of your party doesn’t have to scream, “I wasted a month’s salary on cheesy decor.” If you enjoy it, decorate to your heart’s content; just consider using what you have on hand or purchasing decorations you’ll reuse. But all the decorations in the world can’t make a successful party. Building the right atmosphere can be – gasp – free!

  • Create a playlist with music you already own, or tune into a free, customizable Internet radio station. Keep the songs upbeat and recognizable. If you have kiddos in attendance, watch out for those sneaky cuss words.
  • Arrange seating to encourage conversation between guests and between you and your guests. If you’re cooking and your kitchen is closed off from the rest of your house, prep ahead of time to limit your time away from the fun.
  • Have activities available, but avoid the child’s birthday party-like scheduling of games – “Gather ‘round! It’s time for pin the tail on the donkey!” Games should be optional and readily available in case guests get bored.
  • Make guests feel comfortable! If you tell your guests to make themselves at home, you better mean it! But constantly checking on everyone is exhausting, so if you’re a lazy hostess like I am, make sure everyone knows where to find food, drinks, games and, yes, the bathroom on their own, so that everyone feels comfortable.

Sustenance. If you want a room full of people to turn on you, just deprive them of food and drinks. Even party guests who aren’t especially hungry or thirsty tend to reach for hors d’oeuvres – more commonly called “chips and dip” at my house – and a drink just to occupy their hands and give them something to do if a conversation starts circling the drain. Food and drinks are like a security blanket at a party, and if you’ve ever tried to take an actual security blanket away from a child, you know you’re in for an apocalyptic tantrum.

So what do you give this hungry mass of people? It’s hot during the summer; do everyone a favor and don’t touch the oven. Instead, reach for seasonal fruits, veggie trays, cold dips or other finger foods. If you plan on serving a meal, fire up the grill. It’s already hot outside, so what harm could a little extra heat do?

Be sensitive to special diets – a meat buffet does not a happy vegetarian make. And remember if you’ve included kids on your guest list, they are notoriously picky and messy eaters – barbeque sauce at your own risk. And, if you think you have enough food and beverages, buy more because if you’re planning on your guests hanging around beyond mealtime, they will get hungry again before they leave.

Company. This is simple; invite those people you truly want to be there. Avoid drama by excluding people that bring it with them. People always feel more comfortable when they arrive with someone – it’s weird, but true. If you can, allow guests to bring a date or a friend if they ask; it’s just the nice thing to do.

Kids dramatically change the vibe of a party. As a mom, I can vouch that this isn’t necessarily a good thing or bad thing – it’s just a fact. Accommodate kids by having kid-friendly games, toys, food and drinks on hand. If you are throwing an adults only soiree, say so, and be blunt – don’t expect guests to pick up on subtlety.

Make your parties the ones that people look forward to versus look forward to leaving. Make sure your guests enjoy themselves, and that you have time to kick up your heels and relax, too. Isn’t that what the lazy days of summer are all about?

All materials copyright Military OneSource, 2012. Blog content held jointly by writer and Military OneSource, with shared rights to republish with appropriate attribution.