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Hypothetical Parties, Guppies and You

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

Kristi

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.

5 Ways to Spark Fun in Your Relationship

 Posted by on May 18, 2016 at 11:08
May 182016
 
Dani

Dani

Our lives get really busy, and with frequent separations as military spouses, it can be easy to fall into a rut and stop investing time in your relationship. Here are five easy ways to get those sparks flying!

  1. Recreate your first date. How fun does this sound? Our first date was several states away from where we are now, but I already have some great ideas as to how I can make this happen. Find a similar place, wear similar clothes, plan similar activities. Such a great way to bring back that initial spark! If your first date was less than stellar, there’s no harm in switching things up a bit. Have fun with it!
  2. Make a bucket list together. Sit down and work together to create a list of things you want to do either together or as a family. This gets you talking about things you’ve always wanted to do and puts you both on the same page, while giving you something to work for as a couple. It can be a life-long bucket list, a list of things you want to explore or visit in your current area, or even little things. Going to a bar or bookstore together, cooking dinner together once a week, or finding a new place to watch the sunrise are just as worthy and sometimes more attainable.
  3. Disrupt your routine. Taking a break from the day-to-day monotony always stirs things up a bit. Discuss something you would like to change within your daily regimen, such as waking up early to have a cup of coffee together. Or, get a little crazy and plan a date night with friends instead of just the two of you. Seeing other people also helps to switch things up and it’s fun to spend time out with other couples!
  4. See a counselor. I get that this scares some people, but it’s also a great tool to reignite that spark! Even if you don’t have any major issues, it’s helpful to talk about things and be proactive in creating and maintaining a meaningful and joyful relationship with your spouse. My husband and I see a counselor to discuss how we communicate with each other, and we always leave our sessions feeling empowered and enlightened. Whether you go weekly, monthly or every three to six months (as we tend to do), it helps to have that little checkup to keep your relationship strong.
  5. Laugh together. They say laughter is the best medicine, so make that extra effort to get some laughs in! Plan a date to a comedy club or to see a comedian, rent a funny DVD so you can laugh as loud as you want on your couch at home, or make a list together of your funniest memories or things your kids say. When needed, refer to your list. You could even learn a silly new joke to share. Sometimes the more goofy it is, the more funny it seems!

Whether your relationship needs a little pick-me-up or a serious wakeup call, taking a little time to invest in your marriage is key to maintaining a lasting, loving relationship. By nurturing, encouraging, and investing time and effort into it, you can keep that spark going or reignite it when needed.

Apr 262016
 
The 21-Day Challenge
Kelli

Kelli

Technology is wonderful and fabulous until that moment you realize you’re more disconnected than ever before and yet you live in the same house! Check out the first of three videos as Kelli takes her family back and attempts to ban technology from family time. It’s never easy changing and no-technology family time is no exception.

 

So Long Social Media and Video Games, I’m taking Back Family Time-Kelli Style!

Life Hacks: How to Survive the Holidays Away

 Posted by on December 7, 2015 at 08:00
Dec 072015
 
Julie

Julie

Shhh…(read this in a whispering, nature-show-host Australian accent). Right over there — look between the hobby-store shelves — you’ll see the first Nordic land elves tending to candy cane fields and rows of evergreens. Crikey — I witnessed those elves frolicking in the hobby stores this August! That is just too soon. I can’t deal with it. I savor the holidays with my family, and seeing the decor so early in the year makes it seem like it’s an everyday occurrence. Military families don’t always get to spend holidays with one another or their extended families.

With each new deployment date announcement, my mind raced through the calendar to see which holidays we were losing. I’m not typically such a negative nelly, but spending birthdays, anniversaries, federal and religious holidays alone is a big deal, especially when you are stationed overseas or across the country from your extended family. It’s something you have to prepare for mentally and plan out to make it through without falling into the pit of depression. For those of you who’ve been there, you know I’m not being melodramatic. It really is a big deal and it is best to face it head on.

Unwrap it

From experience, I can tell you that the best place to start is in your own mind. Whether you are the one leaving on deployment or the one left behind, you both need to readjust your thinking and expectations of the holiday. Take a moment to whine and complain to one another and get it out of your system. It isn’t what you want, but you can’t change the situation, so change how you think about it. It will be tough, but you can make the holiday special if you work together and plan ahead.

Reframe it

Focusing on what you can do to make the holiday special within your current circumstances is the best use of your time and efforts (verses wallowing in the pit of gloom). It will be tough, but with planning, you can make it memorable and fun. Whichever holiday(s) you are planning for, you can use the following life hacks and just tweak them to fit your situation.

Keep traditions

Brainstorm (or make a list, for all you fellow type A’s) with your family about what traditions really make the holiday for each of you. Include food, drinks, games, songs, events, etc. Then look through the list and have everyone pick out at least one thing they can’t live without. That will be the basis for your plans. Find ways to keep or observe and share those key family traditions wherever you are located.

  • Take pictures, voice memos or videos to send to one another (including family and friends).
  • Email pictures, voice memos, videos, letters and eCards to stay connected and involved.
  • Mail picture, voice memo, videos, letters, cards, baked goods or wrapped gifts early.
  • Purchase, wrap or pack gifts with deployed member before they leave.
  • Set up a contact near home and in the service unit to help you surprise your spouse on holidays.
  • Use real-time video call applications to watch each other open gifts or be part of some activities.
Add new

Just like you learn to distract a toddler from an impending tantrum, you have to distract your mind a bit — or at least give it something new to look forward to. One way our family has found to do that is to introduce something new into our holidays each year (kudos to my uncle for the idea). This started out with adding a new dish to our family meal and morphed into trying new activities for the day.

  • Play a white elephant gift exchange (Google it for the rules). The gifts tend to be anything from gag gifts to useful or just fun. Some gag gifts (we call them bombs) continue to turn up year after year. We adopted this during Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it works for any occasion.
  • Invite others without local family to your holiday table and activities. Be the family and support that your friends need. Include them in your activities and involve their favorite traditions too. This is really where the military community is at its best, when we look out for one another.
  • Arrange a progressive dinner with other military families. Brunch and parade watching at one house, then everyone travels to the next house for a late dinner and football or board games, and later, everyone heads to the last house for dessert and enjoys a group game like white elephant.
  • Adopt new traditions from your host country if you are living in a foreign land. Do a little research about the particular holiday, and try out one of the customs. For the American-specific holidays, you can still include customs or recipes specific to the country in general. Change it up!
  • Go to events and volunteer before, during and after the holiday. Make a week of celebrations and helping others instead of focusing only on the one day. Take in a movie, parade, concerts, and serve at the food bank, homeless shelter, animal shelter or other community organization.
  • Create your own activities if there aren’t any around that suit your tastes. An ugly sweater party, board game night and silly games you see on late-night comedy shows that you turn into neighborhood tournaments should help jump start your creative ideas for entertainment.

Embrace the change. You’ll be surprised at what you enjoy and will want to continue to do year after year. We’ve adopted some of the new food and activities into our family traditions. Holidays away from family can be tough, but with planning, you can have memorable and fun-filled celebrations that connect you across the miles.

Finding Family Time

 Posted by on November 24, 2015 at 22:42
Nov 242015
 
Kelli

Kelli

I’m looking at the title of this blog, Finding Family Time. Part of me sighed and thought, “Just one more thing on my list of mom things I’m failing at.” I don’t want this blog to make YOU feel that way. In fact, I’d like to be very clear and state this is not an easy task, no matter your family size or situation. Modern-day life in the 21st century tells us we have to do and be all things to all people at all times, and that is not possible. It’s overwhelming, and it creates a lot of baggage for our families if we don’t set boundaries and, more importantly, expectations.

Making time

You can’t “make” time — really we should say designating time, saving a spot or carving time out of our lives to spend together as a family. This means sacrifices on everyone’s part. I promise you, time spent as a family will have a more positive effect than any club, sport, or organization can have on you and your family. We need time with each other — and not just sitting in front of a TV. Learn to schedule your family time into your calendars and say “no” to other commitments that try to push it aside.

Technology free

I am not anti-technology, in fact, I love my phone. Like, I really love it because when I misplace it I can’t function. Yes, I’m one of those people. However, that tiny screen keeps us from connecting on the deeper levels with people and communicating the way we need to communicate — the old-fashioned, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball, in the same room, doing something together. If your family has tiny super computers in their pockets, just know it will be really weird the first few times you ban technology. Stick to it. Amazing things happen, I promise.

Family counsel vs. family time

If every time you try to do something as a family and it disintegrates into who’s not helping around the house or who spent the most money, it will be a disaster and no one will want to ever get together again. You need time to build happy memories, do hard things together, serve, and tighten the bonds that bind brothers and sisters together and parents to children. Family counsels are a better time to discuss the issues your family may be facing. One-on-one time with each other or your children is the appropriate time to discuss a specific issue, not a group setting.

When, where and what

When? Whenever you and your family determine is the best time. In my family, we save Saturday morning for house cleaning, Sunday afternoons for family dinners and Monday evenings for family night. We all seem to like each other a little bit better. Our home runs more smoothly, and everything else seems to fall into place.

If there are events already scheduled, you can easily make this family time as well. Supporting each other is part of what bonds a family together. Take advantage of these activities already in your schedule. Throw in ice cream afterward, and there you go!

Where? Everywhere! Depending on what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter. Take advantage of recreation areas, events and entertainment in your area. Get to know where you live, or just stay home and keep it simple. The point is: Be together.

What? Well, this is also wide open and limited only by your family’s interests, abilities and imagination. We have done movie nights in a blanket fort, hikes, ice cream runs, service projects, game night or sat around eating snacks and talking. Those casual nights have been the best. It doesn’t have to cost anything but your time and commitment to making it happen.

Warning #1

Not every family gathering is fun. Sadly, not everyone wants to participate, but I’m the mom, and sometimes you do something just because your mom said so. Those are not always the most fun, but you’d be surprised at the crazy memories you create even when it’s not “fun.” Persevere, push through and don’t take it personal. You’re dealing with humans — your humans — and they are not perfect… yet.

Warning #2

Not every family event has to be planned in detail. In fact, I couldn’t keep up if I had to have elaborate weekly family activities. I have a large family, and the thought of forced family fun is just exhausting for some of my people. Knowing there will be more relaxed times helps them play nice during the more structured activities together.

Warning #3

Most family activities do not turn out the way you think, hope or want them too, and that is OK. Some of us (uh hmm) have control issues. It’s OK for the time together to meander and change from what you thought was going to happen. In fact, the more relaxed you are, the better time everyone has. I speak from experience of NOT being relaxed.

Finally, my last piece of advice is really more of a reality check. You DO have time for whatever you think is most important. Your family is part of who you are, and in the end, the most important part of your life. Families are made up of more than just DNA, especially when you’re in the military, so no matter who you consider family, the important thing is you make it happen, and you make it happen together.

You Can Do Anything 2 Times, Right?

 Posted by on October 6, 2015 at 10:56
Oct 062015
 
Guest Blogger Julie Green

Guest Blogger Julie Green

Blogger Biography: Julie GreenI am mom to one hot mess of a toddler, wife to a Navy sailor, and dedicated mosquito slayer (I am on the marketing team at an outdoor pest control company.) I love writing about life, whether that’s being a working mom, a military spouse or just being a woman — beautiful chaos and hilarity ensues with all of that.

 

The days and nights leading up to a deployment can be the hardest on your heart. There is a clock above your head that ticks louder and faster as the date draws near. Sometimes you aren’t sure you can handle the pressure, but you do. The date comes…and then goes. You watch the plane take off, you watch the ship sail away or you drive away from the base wondering how you’re going to get through this deployment.

The first couple of months actually fly by, and I sit back and think, “Man, I can do this. I’ve got this.” I let myself free float out of protection mode and into automatic pilot. And while I do in fact “have this,” I hit a mental wall a few weeks ago. I find myself feeling very lucky because I have a job I adore and an insane 2.5 year old that keeps me busy — very, very busy. From the time he wakes up in the morning until I lay down at night, my days are full. Of course, I think about my husband all the time, but I’m going 100 miles per hour. I’m distracted. And for the first couple of months I put my son to bed and find anything and everything to do to keep moving. You would think my house would be spotless, right? Ha. I wish. Turns out my after-hour distractions do not include cleaning or laundry. I digress.

One evening I check the mail, and I have a letter from that sweet husband of mine. I’m reading and smiling because he starts telling me all the things he misses about me. He misses earrings not making it to the jewelry box, soda cans all over the house and the string of clothes on the floor that stretches from our bedroom door all the way to the shower. (He must love me if he is misses my annoying habits.) But in the letter he asks me, “What do you miss most about me?” I read this, fold the letter up and immediately go about distracting myself.

This nags at me for a week. I find myself thinking about it driving, in the shower, on my lunch break. What do I miss most? I come home one evening and after getting my child to bed, I pour a glass of wine and revisit the letter. I come to my answer, get out a pen and a paper to write him a letter back — and the floodgates open. Thankfully I have an amazing sister who sits on the phone with me and lets me ugly cry my way through the first “I miss him so much I am physically hurting” night and then has me laughing hysterically by the end of the conversation. It happens, but it passes.

These are times it is important to lean on the support system you have. Sometimes these people aren’t the family you’re born into —they’re the connections you’ve made along this journey. Maybe that connection is another spouse from the command, with whom you have lots in common, or the coworker who has been through umpteen deployments. Maybe, like me, it is your sister who has no idea what you’re going through, but just loves you and lets you vent.

If you’re wondering what I miss most — to answer the big question — it is being his wife. I miss the quiet moments in the evenings spent with my legs draped over him on the couch— me on my tablet and him watching yet another military movie. I miss waking up in the night and hearing his slow, steady breathing, and cooking dinner at the stove when he comes up behind me and wraps his arms around my waist (while sneaking food off the counter).

It isn’t fun to think about (especially when you have six months of the deployment left), and I don’t even make it through the letter that night. But, while sharing a cup of coffee with a veteran spouse and telling her about the letter and my fears, she asks me if I had blogged about it. She reminds me that writing is cathartic for me and says maybe I should consider it. It could help not only me, but others going through the struggles of deployment. So here I am, deleting and re-writing, inserting, and copying and pasting my way through a really hard blog post.

That’s life though, right? Trying to delete, re-write, and copy and paste things so they look really pretty when, in fact, life sometimes just isn’t really pretty. Some days are good and some days are rough. Yesterday marks three months, and my son and I are doing awesome. If we made it through the first three months, we only have to do that two more times, and you can do anything twice. Right? I feel blessed that I found that husband of mine to love and miss — even if he comes with a side of deployment.

 

 

Jul 292015
 

Crabbiness strikes our house about a month before every major deployment. The inconsistent work hours, due to the predeployment sea trials and work-ups, take their toll on our hearts. It’s tough to say good-bye so many times before the big day, and that day looms over us like a cartoon Acme anvil hanging by a shredded rope.

Julie

Julie

That predeployment cycle of tension also comes from the silent concerns each family member has about the deployment. Before my husband’s Med cruise, he mentioned that his biggest fear was our daughter not remembering him when he returned (she was 23 months old at the time). I imagine that many deployed parents share that fear.

My husband and I decided to refocus our crabby energy into finding ways for him to be present with our daughter while he was absent. As we started making plans, we realized it was going to take a team effort to stay connected during deployment. Here are the deployment hacks that worked for us:

Predeployment hacks

(These hacks are mostly for the deploying parent.)

Take time with your kids to create special gifts for each other before the deployment. You’ll build fond memories into each creation that will help your child feel closer to you when they use that item.

Daddy videoYou can tailor any of these ideas to fit your child’s age.

  • Voice vault: Record the deploying parent’s voice saying I love you and place it in a stuffed animal (the child can do the same for the parent). Many malls have stores that will do this.
  • Puffy-hand pillowcase: Trace your hands on a pillowcase with puffy paint so your child can place their hands in your hands when they go to sleep. Write goodnight messages on the pillow too.
  • Family film: Make a video of the deploying parent reading the child’s favorite books, singing songs, directing the goodnight routine or doing whatever has meaning to your family.
  • Moon messages: Think of a special message you and your child want to share (I love you). Speak it to the moon together. Every time you both see the moon, it will remind you of your message.
  • Deployment diary: Create a deployment diary with your child. Place pictures of the two of you on the first page and then your child can add in everything you mail them (letters and drawings).
  • Later letters: Write letters for each other before the deployment to read while deployed. Place instructions on the envelope: “Open this letter when you need…” (a pep talk, a hug, etc.)
  • Traveling tale: Create a story together over the miles. The parent can start the story by writing the first paragraph. Mail or email the story to the child for them to continue the tale. Repeat.

Deployment hacks

(These hacks are mostly for the parent or caretaker at home.)

Even with the real-time video apps available, technology can crash. With kids, you always want to have a backup plan to stay in touch and soften the disappointment of dropped calls, frozen video screens or crashed email service.

The first week of deployment is all about getting the kids back into a routine. Try to work the following into your everyday schedule.

  • Set up a count down. Place one chocolate kiss per person for every day of the deployment in a large jar. Eat the daily kiss and talk about what the deployed parent might be doing right then.
  • Walk to the moon. When the kids are really missing their deployed parent, take a night walk to see the moon and help them remember the special message the moon holds for them.
  • Share random favorites. Find ways to mention the deployed parent in everyday conversation. Mention it when you see something they would think is funny, or their favorite meal or color.
  • Create a memory box. Wrap or decorate an empty box. Have the kids place art projects, report cards or anything they are proud of or want to remember to show or tell their deployed parent.
  • Erin and Brian and track the ikeExchange pictures. The deployed parent and kids will treasure all the pictures they can get. Take and send each other pictures of everyday life moments, not posed, for an authentic connection.
  • Track the deployment. Place a map on a foam-core board. Use pushpins to track where your service member travels. Discuss the locations so the kids can ask the deployed parent about it.
  • Send mail and email. Care packages are nice, but sending frequent mail and email is even more important. The everyday conversations strengthen the family bond in spite of the distance.

Homecoming hacks

Merging back into the family after deployment takes time. Talk about the deployment and catch up on what went on for all family members, but also start to make new memories as a family.

  • Create a family-only zone. Go into lockdown mode where only your immediate family is together for a few days so you have time to reconnect. There will be time for welcome-home parties after the family has time to begin to settle in and get used to one another again.
  • Reconnect through the memory box. While in self-imposed lockdown, snuggle up on the couch with each child (separately) and use the items in the memory box as conversation starters. Ask open-ended questions to help your kids open up and make sure to share your adventures too.
  • Complete the deployment diary. Your family deployment story is in each child’s deployment diary. Tell your kids what you did while deployed around the time of each letter in the book. Help them record the events of homecoming from their perspective and yours.

 

The most important homecoming hack: remember to be present while you’re present (put away the smart phones). Be patient with one another as you catch up and settle back into life together.

 

 

Deploying After a PCS

 Posted by on June 3, 2015 at 12:53
Jun 032015
 

 

So you found out you have PCS orders. Maybe your husband brought home flowers when he broke the news. Maybe that got your spidey senses up. Hmm, flowers? We have been doing this for a hot minute, you don’t need to soften

Melissa

Melissa

PCS orders with flowers, dude. Maybe it’s because your spouse also wanted to tell you that in addition to moving, his new unit will be deploying within six months of arriving and the dreaded “work-ups” start immediately. Has this happened to you? You are not alone. In fact, I often think that PCS classes and deployment readiness workshops should be given in conjunction.

While I will admit moving to an unfamiliar area and not having an in-place support system can be stressful, it’s also a chance to find out what you are made of. Here are a few ways to build up your military spouse tool box and help you prepare for the double whammy — the PCS followed by the deployment.

Before your move

Visit MilitaryInstallations — and I’m totally not just saying that because this is a Military OneSource blog. It really is full of lots of useful, great and accurate information. Once you have a baseline feel for your new duty station, hit up Google, hard and often. Scope out the neighborhoods you might want to live in, check out base housing and decide on a safe location to live. Also take this as a chance to scope out your new city and start a list of things to see, activities for your kiddos, possible job opportunities and recon the daycare or school options. Search social media for groups pertaining to your new duty station. Then lurk. That’s what I do. I look at current conversations, check out previous conversations and really get a feel for our new home. If we are going to be “doing the deployment thing” immediately I want to hit the ground running without trial and error, such as picking the wrong dance center for ballet classes… oh, the horror.

And seriously, start mentally preparing. Life is going to be a little chaotic. Know that in advance and embrace it. I know that I personally handle stressful situations when I know in advance that it’s going to be stressful and remind myself that “Hey, I can deal with chaos for a few months. I can do this. Totes. Seriously. I’ve got this.”

 

After your move, before deployment

Go to the briefs and spouse workshops. Yes, even if you have been a million times before. Use it as a chance to network with other spouses. Not only will you be holding down the home front with these spouses, but chances are there are a few that have been in the area a while and can help you get connected. You might even be surprised and learn something new since the last time your spouse deployed, such as access to local services to help families of deployed service members.

Also, don’t forget to get your kids settled as quickly as possible after the move. Military life is a roller coaster but you can help by doing the normal things you do after a PCS such as unpacking their rooms first, enrolling them in clubs or sports and helping them build up their own support network to help deal while their parent is deployed.

While being left to establish your family in a new place while your spouse is deployed isn’t ideal, it isn’t the end of the world. With a positive attitude and preparation you can add another gold star to your “awesome things I accomplished while my spouse deployed” list.

More Than DNA

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

Kelli

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.

 

 

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.

 

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