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The Real Deployment Cycle

 Posted by on August 29, 2016 at 07:00
Aug 292016
 
Kristi

Kristi

Welcome to deployment — be it your first or 50th (bless your resilient heart), you are in the company of some extremely strong stock. Deployment isn’t for the faint of heart — serving overseas or at home.

You’ve no doubt heard a lot of encouraging pep talks about how “you’ve got this,” and I have no doubt that you do. But, I remember the whirlwind of that first week of deployment (the highlights anyway). I kept coming back to a feeling that I closely associate to the one I had during childbirth: Why wasn’t I warned?

To be fair, I know I technically was warned, on the big stuff — the gist, childbirth and deployment are not times I want my sources to skimp on the details. I remember one predeployment brief in particular where they sat me down at a table among friends and showed me a PowerPoint slideshow of the phases of deployment — your basic denial-acceptance-grief-coping-excitement cycle (that is likely out of order, don’t quote me on that).

But no one pulled me aside, friend to friend, looked me square in the eyes and translated what those phases would look like in living color. Had they done that, it would have sounded something like this:

  1. You will wear only sweatpants and pajamas for a time. I can say now without shame that I went to a movie with my group of deployment buddies one evening, and I realized when I got home that my fly was down the entire time. That’s when you know you’re out of practice with any pair of pants requiring a zipper.
  2. You will get lax with hygiene. That first deployment, I think I changed my razor blade three, maybe four times — which I’m only just now realizing was incredibly icky. To my defense, that deployment overlapped with winter, so some of that was seasonal.
  3. Your diet is going to get weird. If you and your spouse don’t have kids (which was our situation the first time around), you might find it easy to scrap cooking altogether. I reverted back to the diet of my bachelorette days: chips and dip, popcorn, delivery pizza, drive-thru, etc. My diet got so weird, in fact, that I unintentionally cut out red meat, and eight years later, I still don’t eat it. If you have kids, you’ll probably start eating a lot of mashed or nugget-shaped foods — depending on the age of your kids. That second deployment was a lot of smoothies, mashed sweet potatoes and hummus for me and the kiddo.
  4. You will become furious with people for reasons you can’t understand just because they complained about missing their spouse for the weekend. Oh no, you didn’t.
  5. You will find superhuman ambition. That first deployment changed the course of my life forever — bear with me through the cheesiness of that line. I lost the teaching job I was offered due to budget cuts, so I was bored out of my mind — nothing to do for the first time in my entire life. So, I took a nod from a friend and pitched a column about my military spouse experience to our local paper. They bit. I wrote that column the entire deployment and two and a half years more. It led to the writing job I’ve held more than five years — which includes this blog you’re reading now — it’s the reason I’m going to grad school. And it all started because I was bored. That’s my story, I’m sure yours will be equally unexpected and incredible. Never underestimate the brilliance and strength of military spouses with time on their hands.
  6. You will be the bearer of bad news. It’s the Murphy’s Law of the whole situation: Something will go awry on your watch. You’ll likely have to give bad news over video chat, email, phone call, penned letter, carrier pigeon, etc. It’s not fun. The best advice I can give is grit your teeth, roll up your sleeves and deal with it (whatever it is). When you report the details across the miles, be confident. You handled it — no big deal. I always try to keep things in perspective: Yes, the dog got out and I had to chase her down the street and my son’s diaper leaked all over everything, but at no point was I in danger. Life is stressful — believe me, I get it, but don’t make each conversation with your deployed spouse negative. Find a balance that leaves you both looking forward to your chats.
  7. You will have to do it yourself. This is a good point to pause so you can go do whatever that is — fish your car keys out of the toilet, change a tire, be mom and dad, etc. Then, come on back and start back at number eight.
  8. You will get sappy. Have you ever teared up at a movie and then couldn’t believe you let yourself get so emotional? I cried at a Journey concert over the lyrics “I’m forever yours, faithfully.” My circle of friends hasn’t let me live that down to this day. I’m not a public crier, but sometimes deployment is driving and we are just the passengers.
  9. You will feel guilty for having fun. Eventually you have to liberate yourself from the sweatpants and have a little fun. Maybe it’ll be 24 hours, maybe two months — the length of your phases is your call. But you will find yourself laughing and spending time with friends, but guilt may be your plus one to the fun. Give yourself some slack. Laugh with your friends, do something on your bucket list — even if you’re flying solo. Go out to lunch. Travel back home to see your family. Get a pedicure. You’re doing a lot for your family (whether it’s just you and your spouse or you, your spouse and some adorable kiddos), so you deserve some “me time.”
  10. You will get downright giddy as you round the corner to homecoming. I cleaned, grocery shopped and cleaned some more for 48 hours straight leading up to homecoming day (part one). I envisioned the grandiose reunion, the ticker tape, the jazz band, and I was ready for it all.
  11. Your reunion will feel a little anticlimactic. You have your spouse in your arms, and at the end of the day, that is literally the only thing that matters. That is what you waited and wished for every day for months. As happy as the reunion will be, it’s worth mentioning that it won’t look like that scenario playing out in your head. It can be delayed (prepare yourself in advance for that). It might be dark. It may be cold. You might have a cold. Your spouse may have some readjusting to do. You need to slow down, ditch the vision of the ideal reunion and focus on reintegration. Love each other. Respect each other’s space and routines. Be patient. Be together.

That’s every last detail — the real breakdown of your deployment phases. They may not happen in that order, and you may come back to the sweatpants (or any other phase) a few times. But, that’s OK — because, one phase or another, you will get through it.

11 Mythbusters for Soon-to-Be Milspouses

 Posted by on June 20, 2016 at 15:38
Jun 202016
 
Kristi

Kristi

Congratulations on your engagement to the military — err, your fiancé. Actually, you know what, it’s best that we lose the sugarcoating sooner rather than later: You really are marrying your fiancé and the military. And while we’re clearing things up, the military wears the pants in this matrimony.

I remember being a military girlfriend before I was a military spouse — there was a whole world I didn’t know about. I didn’t even know the right questions to ask, because there were answers I didn’t even know I needed.

But ever since that saber slap to the rear, I’ve never been the same. I learned quickly that military plans trump my plans and that the best way to figure something out is to ask the real experts, fellow military spouses. So, as my wedding gift to you, here are some military-life myths that are so busted.

Myth 1: Your service member’s salary increases with every new dependent.

Yes and no. You are a salary increase (unless your soon-to-be spouse is already a parent), but any future, adorable kids won’t get your spouse a raise. It’s a one-and-done situation.

Myth 2: Someone, somewhere will tell you everything you need to know.

Oh, if only there was an appointed military spouse fairy godmother — unfortunately, there’s not (told you we weren’t sugarcoating anything). You’ll spend a lot of time tracking down your own answers, and sometimes different people will give you different answers to the same questions. Talk about fun!

Myth 3: Homecomings are the stuff of dreams.                     

Chances are you’ll look forward to a homecoming just as much as your wedding day — and rightfully so. But it’s important to wrap your mind around the idea that it only needs to be perfect for you and your spouse; it will never seem perfect to anyone else. My husband’s first homecoming was delayed two days. All the plans I made to welcome him home were foiled. And he finally came home in the middle of one freezing, cold night. There was no brass band. There was no ceremonial flyover. It wasn’t what I expected, but it is still one of the best days of my life.

Myth 4: Give it time; you’ll get the hang of it. See also: It will all make sense in a few years.

No, some things will never make sense. Other things will start to make sense, then those things will change. Do other spouses a favor: If you make sense of a part of military life, share it with your peers. Write a blog. Write a book. Post it on Facebook.

Myth 5: It’s hard to make new friends after each move.

The military community is a welcoming one! Once you make some friends after your first PCS, you’re golden. After that, you’ll always have a friend of a friend somewhere. And military spouses who came before us would envy the existence of social media groups, our addition to the typical clubs and mandatory fun “opportunities.”

Myth 6: Uniforms are always irresistible.

There’s still nothing like seeing my Marine in his uniform (any one of them). But the enchantment fades ever so slightly when you smell your first overripe flight suit or you have to start budgeting extra time in your morning routine to assist with buttoning, pinning, rolling, creasing and tucking.

Myth 7: Moving is a pain.

Moving has actually become my favorite part of military life. Sure, I’m a little jealous of my friends who’ve settled into their dream houses, but our time is coming. We just have to go see the world first — and that’s pretty awesome.

Myth 8: Everything is free!

There’s no easy way to tell you that you do have to pay for your groceries…and vacations…and your spouse’s uniforms. Military families get a few awesome benefits, like basic medical and dental needs, rentals from Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and…umm…your ID card is free. Commissary groceries are up to 30 percent cheaper than the supermarket down the street, and you can avoid tax by shopping on base. Housing will also cost you your basic housing allowance (sometimes more), so house hunt wisely.

Myth 9: Only the outgoing spouses make it in the military.

Type A, type B — it doesn’t matter as long as you have a healthy amount of love for your service member, a side of flexibility and a fine-tuned sense of humor.

Myth 10: Military kids are “brats.”

I lived in the same town for 22 years, so I had no idea how to help my kids who move every 2-3 years. But they’re great! My son is social. My daughter goes with the flow. They are resilient. They are patriotic. They are respectful. They both love the moving adventure, and I always make a point to tell my kids how lucky they are. They’ll learn about the Grand Canyon, the Golden Gate Bridge, etc. at school, and they’ve been there. They’ve seen them firsthand.

Myth 11: You can kiss your career goodbye.

I’ll be honest, moving and involuntarily catering to your service member’s career makes your own career progression a bigger challenge than it is for some people. But, military spouses — I believe — have some advantages. We have access to educational benefits, like the GI Bill. Programs like the Military Spouse Employment Partnership and Spouse Education and Career Opportunities are making strides to keep spouses military spouses employed. These days, we also have telecommuting in our back pocket. I’ve worked remotely for nearly 7 years. And, if you’re still not convinced, military life actually led me down a career path I never expected. It didn’t break my career; it made it.

12 Tips for the Newbie MilSpouse

 Posted by on December 17, 2015 at 07:42
Dec 172015
 
Melissa

Melissa

I just realized the other day that my husband is well past the magical halfway mark to retirement and we are quickly approaching the home stretch. This happened when I was referred to in conversation as a “seasoned spouse.” The foodie in me instantly thought “Ooh yum! Seasoned with what?” Then I realized it was a polite way of saying I have” been around the block a time or two.” Wait, was I just called old? When did this happen, this seasoning stuff? Some days I can’t believe how fast we got to this point, and other times I think, “Gosh! I have no idea what I am doing.” Who’s with me on that one, seasoned or not?

Neither of us were military “brats” so this life was all new to us. As I thought back on the years (Did I just say “years” plural? Maybe I am more seasoned than I want to admit.), I remembered all the awesome advice and tips I got from spouses who have walked this road before me. So I want to pass their advice along, as well as share some things I have learned over the years.

  1. The military community is small. Be courteous to everyone, because you will see them again one day if your spouse serves more than four years. You do not have to like everyone you meet, but you should be respectful of everyone.
  2. And speaking of being courteous, let’s talk about gossip. Don’t do it. Mark your “It stops here” role on the Gossip Train early and maintain it.
  3. Get involved. Being a part of a family readiness group does not make you a “dependa” or a spouse without her own life. It means you have a giving heart and are involved. No shame in that.
  4. Don’t fight the dress code on an installation. You are a guest on the installation, even if you live in base housing. Now is not the time to be a clothing vigilante. Put away the shower shoes or throw on a cardigan. There are bigger battles to fight.
  5. Do not get involved in the rank game. A good rule of practice I maintain is to never discuss my husband’s rank with anyone. As spouses we can mingle with anyone we want. That means you may find yourself friends with the E-1 spouses all the way up to the spouse of a general. Don’t judge and make friends based on their SPOUSE’s rank, or you will be missing out on some good friendships along the way.
  6. There is always, always, always, something good in every duty station. Some locations might be filled to the brim with positive, and others may require a magnifying glass and digging, but there is something good. I promise. I am looking at you folks stationed in the desert.
  7. The early days of your military marriage may be some of your hardest, but they will soon be fond memories of an era you wish you could go back to. I personally miss when weekend entertainment was having cookouts at our friend’s houses because that is all any of us could afford. Moments like these turn into memories of “the good ole days.”
  8. Life can also happen outside the gates. I know it’s easy to fall into the grind of base living because everything is so convenient, but make it a point to get out into your surrounding community at least once a week. Go exploring, go shopping, visit a park, do something. When I look back on everywhere we lived, the memories that first come to mind are always our time in the community, not how quickly we could get to the commissary.
  9. Ask for help. Especially if you are new at this life. It’s hard to pick up and move away from everything you have ever known and be dropped into the middle of a new life — especially one full of so many rules and where people speak another language (military). Use the support services on your installation. That is what they are there for. Don’t “tough guy” it up.
  10. Attend your branch’s version of “Military Spouse 101” class — then attend it again in 5 years, because you will learn something new.
  11. Find a milspouse mentor. Military spouses are an AWESOME and diverse group of folks. Find a spouse that emulates the qualities important to you and learn from them. There is no need to blaze your own trail when one has already been cut for you. Save your trail cutting skills for other paths that will come your way.
  12. Keep working on you. Follow your dreams even as your follow your spouse. If this involves going back to school, do it. Even if it takes twice as long. Build a career if that is important to you. Roll up your sleeves, dust off your resume and get to applying. Think outside the box and you may find your dream job looks completely different than you thought it did. Just don’t ever stop doing things for you.

The most important advice I can give is to honestly enjoy the time. The military life is one of the most unique ones around, so embrace it. Say “YES!” to duty stations you never dreamed of going to. Say “YES!” to living outside your comfort zone, and watch what the world has in store for you.

Military Mommy Must-Haves

 Posted by on December 4, 2015 at 08:00
Dec 042015
 
Dani

Dani

Routines. Do yourself a favor and start a morning and bedtime routine for you and your littles. If nothing goes right or as planned throughout your day, at least you’ll have some semblance of normalcy bookending each day. Write it out on a piece of paper and tape it to your bathroom mirror; type it up in a note on your smartphone; laminate it and stick it on your refrigerator. Make it visible so you see it and do it, even if you just get one small item checked off. Everyone’s teeth brushed? Awesome! Lunches prepped? Even better! Bedtime story? Great way to end the day.

Baby/toddler music. One word: lifesaver. I started playing music in the car for my son when he was just a few weeks old. It’s even better as he gets older. When he starts to get fussy in the car and I’m driving alone, I cannot stand for him to cry or be upset when I’m in the front seat. I downloaded a variety of fun nursery rhymes, children’s songs, classical music and more to entertain him (or put him to sleep) for the car. I may or may not sing at the top of my lungs and make goofy faces at him from the mirror to make him laugh, but that is, of course, optional. A backseat mirror is also a must for rear-facing little ones!

A trustworthy babysitter. Interview potential sitters, even if they come recommended by a friend! If your spouse is deployed or away, you’ll definitely want a sitter for mommy time. If he’s home, you’ll want to schedule in some date nights!

Baby book. As military families, we’re often separated from loved ones. Whether it be your spouse, your parents or friends and family from home, there are going to be gaps of time between seeing each other. This is why I try my best to keep my son’s baby book updated. This way I can bring it with me when I visit everyone to share his growth and accomplishments, add keepsakes to it to show his daddy and write stories down that I want to remember.

Camera or video camera. Along the same lines as a baby book— capture those precious moments and memories so you can share them with your spouse and distant family and friends!

Trust. “Mommy instinct” is a real thing, and I never knew I had it until I became a mother. When in doubt, trust your gut. If you think you child may be sick, if you think something may be wrong, if you think you need help… Trust yourself. Make the call. Your spouse may not be available and it’s going to come down to you. You got this, mama!

Patience. In military life, we know this is a necessity. There is lots to learn when navigating both this and parenthood. Have patience with yourself, your children and your spouse. “Hurry up and wait,” as my husband’s branch says. Sometimes, just the reminder that you’ll always need to have patience makes it easier to manage when you have to muster it up.

Reliable cellphone service. So important! For many of us, our cellphones are our lifelines. They’re how we communicate with spouses who are working late or deployed, how we take most of our photos, how we keep up-to-date with family, friends and social media. And we’ve all experienced lack of coverage at one time or another. If your service is constantly on the fritz, make a change and save yourself the frustration!

Healthy snacks. Totally a must for every busy mom, not just us #milspouses. Have grab-and-go, easily-accessible snacks at your disposal for when you are super busy or super drained. Bag them ahead of time and stock them in your pantry, in a basket on your counter, in your purse, in your car… Figure out what works best for you and work it!

Grace. Life is going to happen. How we handle it is everything. Even in the craziest of situations, try to collect your cool and find your center. Step back if you need to and re-approach such events with grace and a level head.

Someone to call. We all need that “person,” the one who is not our spouse. The one to call to talk to, to vent to, seek advice from, to be heard by. It’s best to have a local “someone” in the event of an emergency as well as someone just for talking.

Deep freezer. Okay, maybe not a “must have,” but certainly a “nice to have.” It’s great to stock pile perishable foods (meat, produce, etc.), to keep extra freezer meals, to store homemade baby food if you make ahead in bulk. And who doesn’t have those nights when you don’t want to cook? A freezer meal can be a healthier option than fast food, depending on what you have in stock. Bonus points if it’s homemade!

Humility. As much as we all want to be supermom, she doesn’t exist. It’s okay to mess up, it’s okay to accept help and it’s okay to let the house go when life gets too busy. Stay humble, give and take, and be your own brand of supermom!

Guest Blog | Four Benefits of Volunteering

 Posted by on November 12, 2014 at 08:15
Nov 122014
 

Blogger Biography: Cecelia Curtis is a marketing and communications professional with experience in the corporate, nonprofit and government sectors. She is also a proud military spouse. Cecelia’s husband of 11 years, Bryan, serves in the U.S. Air Force. Cecelia and Bryan currently live in South Florida, just outside of Miami.

Cecelia

Cecelia

I’m in a new city…again. My husband and I have been married for 11 years, and we’re on our fourth duty station. I can honestly say, though, that I’ve enjoyed every single place that we’ve called home. When people ask me what the best part about military life is, I say moving. Thanks to my husband’s Air Force career, I’ve gotten to see many parts of the world, and I’ve met some truly wonderful people. When people ask me what the most challenging part of military life is, I also say moving. Each move means that I have to say goodbye to my job, my friends and my home. It’s never easy, but I’ve learned that serving others during periods of transition helps me in four key ways:

1. It takes the focus off me. Making one big life change, such as moving to a new house, can be tricky. Making multiple life changes at once, like moving to a new city, changing jobs and leaving your family and friends, can be downright stressful. With so much going on, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and even get a bit down. Serving others can help, though. I’ve found that when I focus on other people’s needs, I stop thinking so much about myself and any stress or frustration I’m experiencing. Plus, it just feels really good to get out and contribute to my new community in a positive way.

2. It introduces me to new people. Being new in town can be a lonely experience, but it doesn’t have to be. When I touch down in a new city, I always think, “The sooner I meet people, the sooner I’ll make friends, and the sooner this place will feel like home!” Volunteering can be a great, safe way to meet people who share similar interests. Whether you’re building a house for a family in need, ushering at a local playhouse or stuffing envelopes at your kid’s school, you will probably have time to talk with others. These conversations can lay the groundwork for great new friendships.

3. It teaches me new skills. It doesn’t matter where I volunteer or what I say I want to do — I am always asked to do something that I didn’t quite sign up for. And I almost always say yes. I love learning new things, and I never know when a new skill will come in handy. I’ve learned so much on volunteer sites…how to hang drywall, new recipes, social media management and even TV and radio broadcasting! These skills have helped me both personally and professionally, and I learned all of this for free while helping others! I just had to be willing to give a little bit of my time.

4. It boosts my job search. It can be tough to find a job, particularly if you are new in town and don’t know anyone. Again, volunteering can help. As you’re focusing on helping others, meeting new people and learning new skills, you’re also networking. Filling out job applications is one thing, but there’s nothing more powerful than a strong network of people who know your skills and have seen you in action. In fact, I was recently offered a job by one of my fellow church volunteers. Of course, I wasn’t serving at church expecting a job in return, but what a pleasant surprise!

 

In short, moving is a part of military life, and each move has its unique set of rewards and challenges. Serving others as a volunteer can help make life in your new city more rewarding and a bit less challenging as you focus on others, grow your social circle, learn valuable new skills and look for a job. Still, I’ve found that what I love most about volunteering is that it just feels good. It feels great to put my skills and talents to good use helping others no matter where I happen to call home.

 

Jun 122014
 
Jodi

Jodi

Blogger Biography: Jodi is a proud Navy wife and mom, as well as a coffee addict, a slow runner and a passionate volunteer. Racing between her three kids’ activities and her own family readiness group meetings and COMPASS classes on base makes life interesting, but finding time to give back and quiet moments to write about it all keeps her sane in a world that is really anything but!

My family was stationed in the Pacific Northwest 3 ½ years ago. On day eight of our stay, in the midst of a widespread power outage and moments after our SUV slid through an icy intersection and stopped just inches from a brick wall, I screamed at my husband, “I hate it here! I want to go HOME!”

I’d like to say this was just an emotional response to a scary situation. I wish I could tell you that things got much better after that, but they didn’t. I decided right then and there that Washington was the worst, and I spent the next three years working hard to prove it. It wasn’t until earlier this year when a good friend said, “Oh, Jodi, we ALL know how much YOU hate it here!” that I realized just how much time and energy I’d wasted hating this duty station. In that moment I realized I’d been so focused on the negatives that I’d been missing out on so much that Washington has to offer.

Sadly, it never really had to be that way. There are ways to learn to love the duty station you hate, but it’s up to you to try!

1. Create a home base that you love. In hating everything about Washington, I subconsciously decided that our house was just temporary and never really spent a lot of energy creating a real home. These days, as I hang family photos and dust our favorite bric-a-brac, I realize that creating a home base is the foundation for loving any place because even when everything outside is new and weird and scary, home is like a security blanket of familiarity and good memories.

2. Form a support network. You need people. You need friends and family members that you can go to for support. I found it early on in a playgroup and in our command’s family readiness group, but I also rely heavily on daily conversations with my sister. She lives over a thousand miles away, but through the magic of the Internet, she’s been “with me” the whole time. It could never be said better than that old ditty, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other gold.”

3. Keep up with your favorite hobbies or maybe even try something new! I tried to keep up with dance classes for a while, but even though I found a great studio, it just wasn’t the same as my old clogging group. Instead I took up running. Running is so popular here that there’s always a new themed 5K race to enjoy. Running had never been on my bucket list at any of our other duty stations, so I never might have jogged those first few steps if we hadn’t moved here. Now I can’t imagine not having a race on my calendar to look forward to!

4. It’s hard not to compare, but give your new home a fair shake. I’ve been known to complain, “I’m so surrounded by these stupid mountains I feel claustrophobic! I miss my ocean views!” I do have a special love of the ocean, but those “stupid” mountains just happen to include no less than Mount Rainier, still considered an active volcano and visited by nearly 2 million people every year! When I finally allowed myself to admit it, the mountain views in Washington are spectacular! I still love and miss the ocean, but when I stopped comparing the two, I realized I could be amazed by and love them both!

5. Search for the good stuff. There are hidden gems everywhere! I spent far too much time missing the great pizza and fun activities of New England in my first few years here. Nowadays I’m adventuring my way around the Kitsap Peninsula and finding a treasure trove of mom and pop eateries, beautiful parks and quirky shops that I can’t believe I’ve missed out on for so long!

Believe it or not, in a year when new orders are imminent and the uncertainty of a new duty station is setting in, I am learning to love this crazy, rainy state! No, it still isn’t my favorite duty station, and yes, I still miss my ocean views, but instead of dwelling on homesickness, I am fully focused on experiencing the beauty and quirkiness that defines Washington, this place that, at least temporarily, I now call home.

May 092014
 
Kristi

Kristi

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.

Keeping It Classy as a Milspouse

 Posted by on April 21, 2014 at 10:20
Apr 212014
 
Kelli

Kelli

There are a few stars that are the iconic essence of classy in my mind: Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and more currently, Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep. I love how Jennifer Lawrence responded with grace when she fell at the Oscars. Twice. There are also some women — other military spouses, friends and family members — that I’ve gathered up along my journey that to me ooze class. Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way based on their example. However, a warning: this isn’t about which fork to use or how to properly apply lip liner. While both of these things have their place (especially lip liner), those are not the dos and don’ts that I’m talking about. I’m talking about classiness that goes beyond appearances and right down into the core of who we are.

Educate yourself

While formal education is important, I mean educate yourself on where you are going, who is going to be there, what you are going to be doing and what the requested appropriate dress should be. When in doubt, I’d rather be a little overdressed than underdressed. You can always carry more casual clothes and dress down, but it’s a little more awkward if you have to pull a phone booth change from shorts to a cocktail dress. This isn’t so much about showing off name brands as it is about showing respect for the event you are attending. If you haven’t noticed by now, events in the military are typically filled with symbolism and meaning, from promotions to retirement events and everything in between.

Wise words are often never heard

Ask yourself: is my contribution to this conversation needed, requested and going to make a difference in a positive way? No matter how well meaning our chatter can be, there are times when silence is truly golden. While we don’t have control over what others say, we do have absolute power over what we contribute to a conversation. It may be better to remain silent than to contribute to the running amuck of a rumor regardless if it is based in fact or fiction. Return and reunion dates, other couple’s fidelity or extramarital activities, a friend’s finances and — for certain — baby name choices! If it’s weird to you, it doesn’t matter. Don’t say it! You will never regret holding your opinion when it has to do with something outside your lane. Obviously if a close friend asks if that striped bathing suit looks good on her and it absolutely does not, definitely answer that one honestly. But be gentle.

Language choice and volume

I was in a clinic waiting for my appointment and the mom sitting two rows behind me was so loud, harsh and disruptive in her interaction with her tiny children that by the time I got into triage for my blood pressure to be taken, it was the highest it’s ever been. She could have spoken softer and quieter, if not more gently. We all would have appreciated it. I was in the commissary when a family came around the corner. The small child was obviously a handful. I felt compassion for the mother until she began yelling profanities. I get the stress of motherhood; trust me. Words are powerful and affect all who hear them. Wield that power with the thought in mind that words are either a sword that will cut down those around you or a fairy princess wand that will build up those around you.

Control the beast within

There are times when I feel my beast trying to get out. Someone hurts my kids, has an unfair characterization of me or someone I care about, or is just full of unkindness, lying and deceit. That really gets me going. I’m not always successful. I’ve lived long enough to be able to see a pattern. When I keep cool, stay calm and make the effort to control my temper and speak intelligently, the outcomes are much better than when I go 10 shades of crazy. This one takes practice. Practice using appropriate language, understanding conflict resolution and just being overall confident in who you are in your life. When you stand on solid ground, it’s much harder for someone to knock you down.

Control your alcohol consumption

No judgment here; if you are over 21, you are more than entitled to that glass of wine or margarita. However, be aware of your limit, where you are and who you are with. It’s just common sense to not lose control of yourself or a situation. In fact, it’s a safety issue as much as it is a classiness issue. Those videos from spring break from 1987? Oh wait, WE DIDN’T HAVE THEM. You do now…Your awkward moment can now be relived in high resolution.

Cell phones

We do not all need to hear your conversation. Period.

Lastly, class isn’t about an economic bracket, a black dress with long white gloves and a fabulous up-do. While those things certainly project the image of a class act, the reality is true classiness comes from within, from the very core of who we are and how we handle those moments in life when our character is tested.

Imagine yourself wearing pearls when the beast begins to rise within and just smile and nod. I won’t tell if a little growl escapes.

Five Things I Learned From My First Job

 Posted by on September 6, 2013 at 16:44
Sep 062013
 
Melissa

Melissa

For my first job, I worked at a major department store in the children’s department. This was a children’s department that had everything a kid might need from birth to middle school. From cribs, car seats and strollers to semi-trendy clothing and even toys, I sold it all. Here are the five “not so usual” things I learned from my first job:

1.)   Most people do not return the clothes they try on back to the hangers, let alone back to the racks they came on. Back to school time was the worst. Literally for two straight weeks, it looked like a clothes bomb had gone off in the dressing rooms no matter how many times I went in to clear it all out. I am talking piles of clothes haphazardly strewn in piles waist deep, which is why to this day, I always return my clothes to the rack along with items left behind by others.

2.)   I learned the power of sales, and that I am really good at it! I can sell pretty much anyone anything. Case in point: If you had just found out that you were expecting a baby and you came into my department, you would leave with a stroller, crib or car seat…even if you just came in to browse.  I still chuckle at my 16-year-old, non-mom self preaching the benefits of all of these products. What did I know? Apparently I could talk a good game though!

3.)   I learned that I am competitive and like to win contests (seriously, I didn’t know I was competitive until I started this job). On a regular basis, employees were rewarded with $2 bills for each store credit card application we “sold.” I still to this day do not understand the significance of using a $2 bill, but I am sure there was a reason. Doesn’t matter though because I would regularly walk out the door with $30 or more in my pocket! Score! That’s a lot of money to a teenager back in the *cough* 1990’s *cough.* Like three tanks of gas a lot!

4.)   Being early is better than being on time and not for the reason you think. I wanted the prime parking space! Everywhere I have worked since then, I have always been early to get the best spot. I have no idea how this started or why I even feel that it is important. Maybe it is that competitive spirit again?

5.)   I learned how important interpersonal skills are. Not only was it important to know how to successfully communicate with customers, but it was equally important to get along with co-workers. I learned conflict management, teamwork, how to diffuse an escalating situation with an upset customer and how to effectively communicate with all levels of management. That right there was invaluable experience to add to a resume.

Of course with all of this, I learned “real” skills such as being detail-oriented, on time, accountable and trustworthy, and that starting at the bottom rung of the ladder truly is a rite of passage. I wouldn’t trade my experience at my first job for the world!

Stuff Milspouses (Never) Say

 Posted by on August 30, 2013 at 16:02
Aug 302013
 
Kristi

Kristi

I asked one innocent little question: “Honey, what’s something I would never say?” And then it was like the floodgates opened.

  • “You’re right.”
  • “I’ll make you anything you want for dinner.”
  • “Golf all day, sure!”
  • “No, really, you sleep in. I’ll get up with the kids.”
  • “Your dirty clothes are just fine on the floor!”
  • “I don’t really feel like shopping.”

This went on for a while – like a LONG while – I don’t even think my husband paused to breathe. I finally cut him off before he said something that I was going to make him regret by sarcastically saying, “OK you’re on the right track, but maybe just do some more brainstorming and you’ll think of something.”

I needed to be more specific. After all, saying, “I need you to help out more around the house,” gets me nowhere, but saying, “Empty the dishwasher and take out the trash,” usually gets the job done. What I really needed help brainstorming was stuff military spouses never say. So, without any help from DH – as military spouses often say – here’s a list I came up with.

  • My social security number is…Yeah, no one cares about our nine little digits. It took me 18 years to learn my own, but roughly six months of marriage and one good public cry thanks to a cranky lady working at the lab in the base hospital to learn my husband’s.
  • Problem solved, and it only took one phone call! If you ever – I repeat, EVER – “fix” anything in a short phone call, be suspicious. You might think the problem is gone from your life forever, but you’ll arrive for your son’s first dentist appointment to discover that he was never registered as a dependent eligible for dental coverage. Or take your newborn daughter for her first well exam only to find she’s in the system as a male (both true stories). It’s an unwritten rule that to accomplish anything you must be transferred to at least three extensions, leave the same voice mail twice and wait a minimum of 48 business hours (keep in mind that anything after noon on a Friday is considered a weekend…and don’t forget Monday is a holiday) before receiving a call telling you that you have to come in person to sign something anyway.
  • We’ll both be there. RSVPs send me into a cold sweat. I’d like to say that we’ll be at your wedding, but my husband might be deployed, training or standing duty. That little check yes or no box isn’t sufficient; I need a short answer section to explain that I might be there solo, toting one toddler (mid-tantrum, of course) and/or a teething baby, or I might have to flake at the last second because one of the aforementioned woke up with a some strange medical condition that only surfaces when my husband leaves the city limits.
  • We’re from…I’m a Texan, my husband was a military brat so he’s a long story, my son was born in North Carolina and my daughter in Texas. I am already anticipating the inevitable confusion the first time someone asks my kids where they’re from.
  • I understood all of that. Is it just me, or do our service members explain nothing clearly? I’m becoming increasingly suspicious that the military is making up acronyms and words with entirely too many syllables because they eventually want me to become cross-eyed.
  • The uniform is all right. Do we love a man or woman in uniform? Yep! Do we have any idea what each uniform is called? Nope, ignorance is bliss.
  • We bought our dream home! I’ve loved things about each of our homes, but I’ve never been “in love” with them. Who knows where we’ll retire. I don’t even know where we’ll celebrate my son’s fifth birthday. Silver lining: I have my husband’s entire military career to house hunt, so when we finally buy our dream home, it’s going to be spectacular. Housewarming party invitation to follow (in a decade or so).
  • The connection during our last weekly video chat was perfect! Granted, we’re lucky to have the technology that we do, but how frustrating is it when we’re in the middle of a conversation that we’ve anticipated for days and the call freezes – never during a flattering facial expression? Inevitably the call goes from frozen to dropped, which leads to 10 minutes of trying to call each other back at the exact same time, thus canceling the calls out (much like trying to pull the handle on the car door at the exact same time the person inside is trying to lift the lock). Frustration at its finest!
  • What am I going to do without my service member all weekend? Only missing our service members for 48 hours is barely a challenge after we’ve done it once or twice. Is it ideal? No, but trust me we can handle it.
  • I’m bored. I’ll give you a minute to recompose yourself after that involuntary laughter. Ready? We probably average 15 minutes of “me time” per day, so we’re in no need of busy work. Even those lonely deployments don’t afford much downtime since the deployment curse breaks something the second we get complacent.

Military life is all about flexibility; anything can change – I know. But I can confidently promise that I’ll never say any of these as long as my husband is still donning his uniform. And the earlier suggestions from my husband? You’ll never catch me saying those either, uniform or no uniform!

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