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Everyone’s a Planner

 Posted by on September 12, 2016 at 07:00
Sep 122016
 
Kristi

Kristi

Being an adult is pretty cool when you consider that no one will stop me from eating cake for breakfast, I can drive myself places and I can stay up as late as I want. This, by the way, is my oldest child’s impression of adulthood. I’ll let him believe it’s all sunshine and lollipops for now. But us adults know that cake for breakfast means a sugar crash and “hangriness” well before lunch, driving means you aren’t allowed to nap in the car anymore and staying up late is never a good idea when the alarm goes off the next morning.

I don’t know the exact moment I first felt like an adult — probably somewhere around having to pay rent the first time and starting my first real job as a teacher. It snowballed from there. That first year of teaching I had to participate in a mandatory staff training that explained what I was expected to do in an active-shooter situation. Adulthood gets pretty real at that point.

I am so incredibly thankful that I never had to prove my understanding of the active-shooter procedure. But never using that training doesn’t mean it was a waste of time. It was terrifying, but after it I was better equipped to protect myself and my class full of eighth graders. Preparation in and of itself is scary because you’re preparing for the worst-case scenario. We hope we’ll never need it, but its best to prepare for anything you can.

Where to start

We are at a slight disadvantage in the military community because with each move we can be vulnerable to an unfamiliar disaster. I grew up watching hurricanes float right toward my stretch of coastline. That no longer freaks me out. Someone new to a coastal area could easily get wrapped up in the hype on TV, buy an overpriced generator and batten down the hatches only to watch that hurricane float right on by. But, some things are universal. We can always have basic supplies on hand (in an easily accessible location) that prove useful in a disaster situation:

  • Flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • Important documents (in a waterproof and fireproof safe)
  • First aid kit
  • Basic tools
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Basic hygiene products
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Emergency contact numbers and numbers of family, friends and neighbors (cell phone batteries might not hold out, and you could be without all your stored numbers)

And, while it might not be convenient to keep the rest of these stashed at home, make sure you’re never completely out of:

  • Diapers, wipes and formula if you have an infant
  • Pet food
  • Gas in your car
  • Disinfecting cleaner
  • Prescription medications

If you have the advantage of fair warning before a disaster, take the time to stock up on water, nonperishable foods and gas in your car before the shelves of the store are bare. Find a complete list of what to include in your disaster kit at Ready.gov.

Plan it, practice it

My 3-year old came home on Friday and told me, “Mommy, I did a fire drill!” She’s been in preschool for three weeks, and they’re preparing her for an emergency. I think it sunk in with her. When my husband and I asked her what she’s supposed to do in a fire, she said: Be quiet, listen to teacher and go outside.

I was happy to learn that her school prepares for emergencies. But, it made my stomach sink a little — like I just remembered something I was supposed to do months ago. We’ve been in our current house, deep in the heart of fire country in California, for more than a year. But, we’ve never once talked to our kids about what to do in case of a fire. They know about the smoke alarms (and they’ve heard them go off many a time while mommy cooks), and they know that we would have to get out fast. But, we owe it to the kids to let them in on the specific plan and walk them through the steps.

Everyone is more confident in a real-life scenario when they have some practice under their belts. And, you never know, in walking through the plan, you may discover a flaw that you can address and avoid it happening when every minute counts.

It’s also possible that a disaster could occur while your family is spread out — at work and school. For this reason, plan ahead with an emergency communication plan. You’ll be able to easily get in touch with your loved ones, check for everyone’s safety and coordinate to get to a safe place together.

Know your threats

The more you know about something that threatens you, the better you can defend yourself. Use the information on Ready.gov for droughts, floods, fires, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, household chemical emergencies, power outages and much more to familiarize yourself when you get to a new area or to jog your memory once in a while.

Stay informed, be ready and carry on

We know from life in the military that we don’t always get ample warning. For those instances where you can see disaster coming, heed the warnings. Listen to weather reports, evacuation orders and instructions from your installation or unit for before, during and after a disaster.

And for the unfortunate times that we must simply react to because they happen without warning, be smart as you rebuild. Get support from emergency services, like the Red Cross if it’s available or reach out to your installation for support. Recognize your vulnerability after a disaster, and be careful of scams looking to take advantage of your distracted state as you rebuild. If you have children, remember that they might not be working with all the facts — parents do, after all, try to protect their kids from scary details as much as possible. Be patient and attentive, and look for signs of stress in those little bodies. Remember that they’ve been through a lot, just as you have. Support each other, listen to each other and hug each other a little tighter knowing you’re safe thanks to your careful preparation. And, when everything is back to normal, you can celebrate your safety with some breakfast cake — you’ve earned it.

Aug 122016
 
Kelli

Kelli

Each and every summer there comes a moment when I feel a cold hand of panic propelling me toward the school supply aisle at the store. Usually it’s when I glance at the date and realize school starts within a few hours! Panic sets in, and my kids and I desperately search for the exact folder described on their supply list. It’s usually NOT the ones filling the shelves for 15 cents a folder. When I had all six children in school you can imagine the stress, the cost and the wails of small children left with the dredges picked over by much more organized moms.

After a few years my children were required to “shop” around our home before we ever even ventured out to a store. Usually the folders for sale the previous year that were NOT on the list, would be the hot commodity the next year, and often found in a dark closet somewhere in my house.

This year however, I remembered about halfway through summer to check to see if there was anything I could do earlier rather than later to make the start of the school year a little less stressful. I have decided to be proactive and not have my children slide into the first day of school with pencil nubs and chewed up pink erasers. I figure the last two deserve something special since the first four have worn me out.

To my amazement and wonder the school supply lists were already online. I gleefully printed them off and told my boys I had the lists. I was so surprised when I was met with horrified looks and shocked gasps.

“What?! It’s the middle of summer, mom! Why are you even thinking of that?!” Both boys were appalled and ran from the room in shock — not the reaction I was expecting.

With technology driving the way we work, go to school, prepare for school and even grocery shop, it should be easier than ever to prepare for the changing of seasons and transitioning back to the rigors of a school schedule.

I’ve been able to fill out forms, update information and digitally sign what used to seem like reams of paper. There are still some things that must be done in person, like the sports physicals, but honestly I’m waiting for a “doc in the box” to scan the boys via the internet and a video connection. Until then, here are a few tips for making this year’s transition back to the school schedule a little less harrowing:

  • Check online to see what paperwork might be available to take care of now, rather than those first few days. You will be saving trees AND your writing hand from cramping.
  • Find out if the school supply list is available and tuck it in your purse or wallet. Sales are going on all the time, and purchasing a bit each pay day instead of all at once can really help your back-to-school budget.
  • Schedule sports physicals sooner rather than later. Those appointments get booked fast and there are never enough of them!
  • Check the district and school-specific calendar of events, and get those important dates locked onto your family calendar. It’s a little painful to see all that white space fill up, but it’s better than missing an important event or scrambling to shift things around and arriving stressed and flustered at the last minute.

I feel like it’s a marathon once that first day of school arrives. If you don’t have on your running shoes and water staged along the way, it can be much harder to make it through to the holiday break finish line. In the spirit of enjoying life with school-age children rather than enduring it with your hair on fire, prepare, take a deep breath and get ready to enjoy the upcoming back to school shenanigans!

Jun 162016
 
Julie

Julie

If your morning shuffle makes you look like a zombie actor’s stunt double and your brain is so foggy you put the milk in the pantry and the cereal in the fridge, you might be a new parent. Parenting takes a lot out of you, and the transition into parenthood is tough physically and mentally. Becoming the stay-at-home parent adds another level of transition into the mix, even more so if your partner is on active duty and deploying.

 

While that may sound, and occasionally look apocalyptic, it is very doable and one of the toughest and most rewarding jobs I’ve ever done. But how do you go through this full-time parenting gig without losing yourself along the way? I’ve got five tips to help you get through the zombie zone and into that sweet spot of family life.

 

 

  1. Nurture yourself first, so you’ll have something to give to your family. Schedule some of what makes you happy into every day or at least once a week. Whatever your passion (music lessons, art, crafting, golf, reading, cooking, pursing an education, etc.), you need to actively pursue it. Schedule it when you can — during naps, after kids are in bed, get a sitter or wait until your partner is home to tag-team kid duties — but find time for you.

 

Kids make life richer; they aren’t an excuse to stop doing the things you love. It took me years to earn my degree, but I continued to attend college as a young parent because it fed my soul. When we were stationed in Sicily, I was able to work part-time for MWR to earn enough money for a babysitter on the nights I had class (when hubby was deployed or on duty). I applied for scholarships and took college classes on base.

 

  1. Live in the moment so you don’t multitask your life away. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day juggling of feeding, changing diapers, slaying the laundry monster, and the rest of your to-do list. Actively engage in what you are doing, and you’ll find yourself completing tasks instead of spinning your wheels on 10 different things. When you are feeding the baby, relax and enjoy the interaction and closeness, because this time won’t last very long. When you are deliberate with your actions you get more done and appreciate life a bit more.

 

Adjust your priorities. It’s OK to let the house go a little and focus on the basics. Rest, food, bathe, oh — and breathe. Breathing is good.

 

  1. Schedule your day so you can be spontaneous. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but trust me on this. Once you establish a schedule that works for you and your baby (or children), you will know your windows of active time and naptime and can take advantage of them. You need to get out of the house — sometimes to preserve your own sanity and other times to do the necessary shopping. Schedules help you do that and keep the kids happier.

 

When we were stationed at NAS Sigonella in Sicily, I stayed cooped up in the apartment for a while until I figured out that planning outings around my infant’s schedule made both our days better. Sometimes I planned for her to nap on the bus or in the car. Other days I found a quiet place for her to nap in the stroller, and we still had plenty of days where she napped in her crib. Manipulating the place of the feeding or nap, while sticking to the schedule, gave me newfound freedom to get things done or go to an impromptu lunch with friends.

 

 

  1. Wear your clothes, so you can connect with adults. I know that sounds silly to say, but if you are in the trenches, you know there will be days when you feel like managing to get a shower is an award-winning accomplishment. Pajamas or sweats are easier to roll with, but you still need to put yourself together so you won’t be in hermit mode every day. Once you’re dressed, with shoes on, you’ll find you are more productive and more sociable.

 

You have options in your day if you are dressed at the beginning of it. You can find and build a support network of friends that are in the same situation as you. Our second home in Sicily was farther away from base, so to find other moms I got involved with the local playgroup. We explored our little town of Santa Maria La Stella, went site seeing, hosted lunch play dates and watched each other’s kids when needed. That did my soul good and wore out my toddler so she napped like a champ, which in turn left me with a bit more me time.

 

 

  1. Date your partner. Between parenting, housework, career and the other activities of your life, it is easy to let exhaustion be an excuse to push off date night. Don’t let that happen. It’s important to reconnect with your partner daily and to have a regular date night each week. You don’t always have to go out of the house, but you do need to have regular time together and away from the kids.

 

You can have fabulous date nights on a budget. Check out your local Morale, Welfare and Recreation center for inexpensive and adventurous date ideas. Remember, your base usually has discount movies and you’ll find military discounts on different tickets at your ITT office. Be creative and surprise each other. Caring for one another as partners will make your parenting teamwork easier and more natural.

 

All parents go through this zombie stage. Pull yourself out of it with help from those who have been there. The friends I made while parenting my young children hold a special place in my heart. Those mothers helped me find myself when my zombie days blurred into one another. They reminded me that the best parts of life begin in parenthood. You have unique talents, knowledge, experiences and dreams you need to continue to nurture, because that is the well you draw from when you raise your children, solve problems and care for your family.

 

Kids, Stress and Ham Sandwiches

 Posted by on April 15, 2015 at 15:42
Apr 152015
 

 

When I was around 14 years old my father was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville, Arkansas. One of the best things was we

Kelli

Kelli

were near beautiful lakes and we were fortunate to have a ski boat and a small motorhome that was just perfect for our family of four. Dad and I were headed up to the lake to set up the day before my mom and sister were to arrive. While driving on the narrow winding road headed to the beautiful Heber Springs Lake, I saw sparks flying out from behind us. As my dad and I both looked to see what was going on, a tire bounced over the top of the motorhome and off into a deep ravine. The sparks were coming from where the tire used to be on the boat trailer we were pulling.

Dad calmly pulled over to the side of the road, got out and assessed the damage. I waited, somewhat freaked out, for him to come back with dire news. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but most likely something along the lines that our lives were in danger and we need to evacuate the area immediately. I sat with our family dog, a half-basset, half-blue tick hound, name Beauregard. I waited anxiously ready to spring, Beau sat next me with a rhythmic thump of his long tail anxious to just get out.

Dad came back in and said, “Well, we have a bit of problem. That was our trailer tire and there’s no way I can retrieve it and we’ve slung all the ball bearings out,” and some other stuff I really can’t remember because I was waiting for the tuck and roll order, which never came. What did come was, “OK, Kelli Anne, fix us a couple of ham sandwiches and let’s think about this.” This was before cell phones and dad had some decisions to make.

I made us some sandwiches; he took Beau for a stroll and came up with a plan. We finally made it to the lake about 15 hours later. Through all of it my dad was calm, matter-of-fact and rolled with it. He kept me and our gear safe and somehow I only remember that as a delay to getting on the water and not a fearful, awful thing.

What I realized as I became a mom, was that my dad had effectively taught me how to respond with a simple request for a ham sandwich. Meanwhile he was securing our safety, assessing the situation and getting help. Years later, now grown with four kids (at the time), we were moving from Camp Pendleton to El Paso, Texas. Just outside San Diego and a few hours from Yuma — and anything else really — my van broke down. My husband was in his truck. We pulled over in the mid-morning heat. It was July. My husband was able to get the van working just enough to get to the next town with a mechanic. It was going to be a few hours to repair the van. We found a great restaurant, cooled off inside, had a big lunch and then spent an hour at the park.

All in all we were down about four hours before we got back on the road. If you ask my two older children about that day they remember details of the event, like the park, the barbecue place we ate, their dad pulling the fan out and at one point green coolant going everywhere. What they don’t remember is being scared, worried or stressed that all was hopeless or that we were in dire straits.

Life happens and we cannot avoid stress, stressful situations or stressful people. I’m not always great at managing my own reactions to day-to-day stresses and I need to remember those reactions set the tone and teach my children just as much as the bigger events do.

We often spend a lot of time talking about how we help our children deal with the stress from the big four; deployments, moves, death and illness. What we often miss is the smaller regular life “stuff.” Things like paying bills, buying groceries, juggling schedules and just our human-ness after a long day of whatever our “stuff” is. How we respond to those things also affects our children. They are tapped into us and even if we shield them from the knowledge of what are our stressors, they still feel it.

There will be times when, for you or your children, a ham sandwich is just not going to be enough. It happens and it is OK to seek help, guidance and support. Don’t let fear of failure or being judged as a bad parent stop you from using every resource at your disposal. One of the most liberating comments ever made to me was, “These are normal reactions to abnormal situations or circumstances.”

Here is my secret mom check list:

  • Is everyone safe?
  • Is anything currently or in the immediate few minutes going to be destroyed?
  • What do we have control over?
  • Take action on what you can.
  • Have a ham sandwich and if necessary a heart-to-heart talk.

Sometimes that’s enough, but when it’s not, reach out to your network of friends, family and resources. Military OneSource is a great place to start to just get information. From there if you feel you need more help, then Military OneSource can help you figure that out too.

Just remember our kids are watching us all the time and when we effectively manage our stress, they will benefit and learn how to manage theirs.

Is My Child Stressed or Possessed?

 Posted by on March 27, 2015 at 08:00
Mar 272015
 
Julie

Julie

A spinning head and pea-soup-green projectile vomit were the only two things my sweet four-year-old daughter hadn’t conjured in her latest tantrum…over the fact that her socks had seams. (Curse you, evil sock seams.) It was about a week into my husband’s deployment and I was at wits’ end with all the drama. It took me a time out (for both of us) and a call to my girlfriend before I connected the dots that this was probably the only way my daughter knew how to express the stress she was feeling. I wasn’t sold on my friend’s assessment at first, but in the end it was the only thing that fully explained the insanity that had possessed my house over the last week.

Kids carry stress differently than adults and they express it differently too. What stresses out one child, may not bother another and the same principle applies to what works best to relieve the stress for each child. Your child may be feeling stressed if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Changes in sleep, bedwetting
  • Headaches, stomach aches, fatigue
  • Mood swings, emotional outbursts
  • Trouble concentrating, decreased performance in school
  • Anxiety, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, chewing fingernails
  • Social isolation, withdrawal from usual activities
  • Physical aggression or negative talk about themselves or others

Once I understood that my daughter was feeling stressed, it made sense and I was a bit relieved to know we could work on learning how to handle stress together. I’m sure she could sense how stressed I was and that probably made her even more sensitive to what she was dealing with. We’d had that typical first week of deployment when everything breaks and it threw us off of our schedule on top of missing our sailor. So now, all I had to do was figure out how to teach her more productive ways of dealing with stress. After talking with other parents and reading articles, I found the following strategies worked for us and I hope they will help you too.

Discuss stress with your child. Let your kids know it is normal and that everyone experiences stress. Ask what they think the word stress means and when they have experienced it. Their answer will help guide you on how to talk about stress in terms they can understand.

Remember that stress affects everyone differently. What may stress out your child may not faze you and vice versa. If you have multiple children, remember they will each handle stress differently too.

Share with your kids some healthy ways to deal with stress.

  1. Physical activity – This can be anything from playing an organized sport or working out at a gym to dancing in the living room. (When my son was little we would take a walk or he would ride his bike while I walked and we both felt better afterward.)
  2. Relaxation strategies – There are many strategies, but the two that worked well for us were the progressive muscle relaxation (Start with toes and work your way to your head by tensing each muscle for 5 seconds and relax it for 30 seconds before going to the next muscle) and coloring or drawing together.
  3. Breathing techniques – Get in a comfortable position and concentrate on your breathing. Count to five while you inhale and count to 10 when you exhale. Repeat until you feel more relaxed.
  4. Mindfulness – Pay attention to stress in the moment and make a purposeful choice to respond, not react. Take a deep breath and think about what you are going to do before you do it.

Model healthy ways of dealing with stress. Actions speak louder than words and kids are little sponges that soak up everything they see and hear. Be a healthy example for your kids and practice ways to deal with stress together. It’s good for them to know that parents struggle too, but even better for them to know that you keep working at it.

Replace some screen time with quality time together. Sometimes the quickest way to relieve stress is simply to spend time with those you love. Take your child on a hike, cuddle up and read a favorite or new book, play a board game or with play clay together, get out of the house and have an adventure.

My kids and I are still learning together to deal with stress in healthy ways, because life still happens. I’m so thankful for my milspouse friends that have helped guide me from their experiences and I hope that our family’s experience can help yours.

4 Ways to Show Mom Stress Who’s Boss

 Posted by on March 25, 2015 at 10:27
Mar 252015
 

Motherhood, especially in the military, is stressful, but not for the obvious reasons. Sure, deployments throw us for a loop, running perpetually

Kristi

Kristi

15 minutes late erases any benefit of that relaxing lavender in our shampoo, and the dinnertime battle that ensues any time we dare serve something other than pizza are equally stressful and exhausting, but they aren’t the root of mommy stress.

Where is all that stress coming from?

At the risk of pushing you to the breaking point of your “why” quota for the day: Why is motherhood in the military stressful? My theory:

  • It demands patience when your patience is nowhere to be found (but stand by, you haven’t checked for valuables bobbing in the toilet yet today).
  • It demands organization even in the moments when the print cartridge runs out of ink and you received a PCS date two months earlier than expected…in the middle of the school year.
  • It requires you to always think one step ahead, even when the military hasn’t yet looped you into your next move.
  • We feel pressure to keep cleaning the house even though we know it’ll be a disaster before tomorrow’s breakfast gets cold.
  • We keep flexing when we’re pretty sure we just felt something snap.

Mom is the first person most people call out for when they need something or when they’re proud of something they’ve done — “Hey, mom. Watch this.” Moms are the last hope — think of the moments you’ve been sicker, sadder or more confused than you’ve ever been. In those moments, you just want your mommy.

That’s a lot of pressure, even for people as incredible as moms.

How’s a mom to handle it all?

Have you recently clicked on a blog with a gimmicky title, like “Eliminate Stress From Your Life?” Yeah, me too. But miraculously, the blog ends and the stress lives on. I don’t think we can eliminate stress, and after all, I don’t think that I’d want to. A little stress can be motivating — no one ever revs up for the third quarter, the pressure is in the fourth quarter. Miraculous things happen at the buzzer. If the sports analogies don’t work for you, just remember the last time you scrambled to pick up the house when company was 15 minutes out.

For the stress we can’t shake, we have to get creative about how to keep it at bay:

  1. Write it down. On any given day, we juggle thoughts about appointments, work — whether in the home or out, grocery lists, traffic, whether our kids took their vitamins at breakfast and getting organized for the next move. It helps me tremendously to write everything down. I use a calendar (the old-fashioned kind on the fridge), sticky notes on my computer desktop (not the old-fashioned kind — that would be a mess) and to-do lists for specific tasks. Being able to stare down the things that are stressing me out makes them a little less intimidating, and I feel accomplished anytime I can cross something off of the list.
  2. Prioritize tasks. If it’s work stress, rank your tasks by due date or importance. If you’re stressing about household chores, what needs the most attention? If there is a puddle of milk on the floor, you might want to start there, and vacuuming the couch cushions can wait. If one child breaks out into one of those huffing-and-puffing, snotty cries while you’re in the middle of unlading the dishwasher, handle the tears first — just spitballing. If you’re stressed about things out of your control, like looming orders or an upcoming deployment, pick out one thing you can control. Organize important documents for a moving binder, clean out a cluttered closet — tackling even a small piece of the puzzle makes me feel more in control, it might work for you too.
  3. Share the wealth. I struggle with this because I like to be in control, but it only makes sense to let people help. If anyone offers, accept it…quickly.
  4. Give up competing. You don’t need “bigger and better.” You need just right for you. Your family is just that: yours. Just like mom told you that you are special — no one else is just like you — the same goes for your family. Don’t compare yourself to the Jones family. Don’t strive for the perfection in the magazine feature. Don’t feel guilty because your parenting style doesn’t align with your friend’s or your own mom’s. Take a deep breath, let go of the competition and just focus on the people in your world. Feel that? That was a weight lifting off of your shoulders.

 

 

Dec 222014
 
Evy

Evy

Holidays are notoriously stressful, we all know that. Along with all the financial stressors there’s also the shopping, wrapping, mailing, etc. that goes along with it. How can you avoid being stressed? It’s all a matter of recognizing the signs so you can find ways to calm down and take care of yourself. As the wife of a former soldier, I know a little something about stress. For instance, as a brand new military spouse, I had one pretty stressful holiday. Maybe my situation — and response to it — will help you in your quest to de-stress over the holidays.

Back in 1990, we were new to the military and had two little girls — one was 3 ½ years old and the other was 18 months old — and assigned to our first duty station in Nuremburg, Germany. It was at a time, before the post-Gulf War drawdown, when housing was scarce. It took my husband more than six months to find housing for us, so the girls and I remained in the United States while he lived in the barracks. When my husband finally found a place, it was a cramped attic apartment about 26 kilometers from the military post. And it was three weeks before Christmas. And my husband was leaving for the Gulf War in two weeks. Yes, it was stressful. Not only did I have to pass my driver’s test so I could drive in a foreign country, but I also had to figure out how to find my way around, including maneuvering the Autobahn. I was despondent over the situation so I told my husband, “I don’t think I’ll even celebrate Christmas this year.” My husband said something that has resonated with me throughout my life. He said, “You’ve got to do it for the girls. You’ve got to make the best of any situation you’re in.” That advice has served me well over the years. I have made it a point to look on the positive side and be happy wherever I am. I’ve taught this same concept to my children and I believe they’re happier because of it. I recommend everyone try to do this, especially during the holidays when stress can sometimes get the best of you.

Beating the mayhem associated with the holidays lies with recognizing the signs that you’re under stress. By identifying the triggers of your holiday blues, you may find new ways to cope. Here are some signs of stress that should be easy to identify in yourself:

  • Tiredness that cannot be fixed with sleep
  • Low energy
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to normal actions or criticisms
  • Can’t remember things like you used to
  • Negative feelings
  • Feeling down or depressed

Now that you can identify when you’re becoming stressed, let’s look at some ways to cope. I found these tips in a Military OneSource article and wanted to share them with you:

  • Focus on what’s really important — cherishing family, creating memories and having fun.
  • Simplify your commitments and traditions. Have a family discussion about what’s important and realize that you may have to re-evaluate past traditions — where you spend the holiday, gift giving or how you manage your blended family.
  • If possible, try something new for the holidays, like planning a vacation with your family or friends.
  • Spend time with people who care about you.
  • Volunteer your time to help others.
  • Reflect on the spiritual significance of the holiday.
  • Understand that your feelings of sadness or loneliness may not go away just because it’s the time to be jolly. Try to live in the moment and find joy in the good things in your life.
  • Exercise and eat healthy, balanced meals.

Start planning now for a revamped, stress-free holiday season. You’ll save yourself a lot of grief and learn to revel in this joyous time.

A Retired Moment

 Posted by on November 6, 2014 at 11:14
Nov 062014
 
Kelli

Kelli

So I had a moment yesterday. My first since retirement. It wasn’t one of weepy regret or sadness. It was pure anger that sparked suddenly,making me want to punch a little man in the face, but it left me just as quickly as it appeared. I recovered, but not before I got an eyebrow from under Charles’s USMC ball cap brim. To Charles’s credit, not only did he not say anything to me for my snap, but he very calmly and kindly backed me up. I LOVE HIM even if he looks like a dirty old man right now.

We were at the gym. The gym I didn’t know we were going to. I thought we were going on a secret ice cream, donut or cupcake date away from all the kids. Nope. Just like he did 10 years ago in More Head City, he kidnapped me and lured me out of the house with the promise of something yummy and then walked my fat butt into the gym again last night in Cedar Park.

We were met by a very happy fellow named Aaron. Aaron gave me some paperwork to fill out and then tried to get to know us by playing 20 questions while I tried to remember how to spell my name. He was a little distracting. So then a short fellow named Luke took us to “the sales area.” Alright shorty, I mean Luke, hit me with it. Up to this point, I have been pleasant and even though I was disappointed I was not getting a delicious cupcake, I was tickled that Charles was excited to help me with my headaches and fibro issues. AND he’s fat too. So there you go. Luke starts going through his spiel, telling us about the military/veteran’s discount, when I asked if it applied to family members too.

“No, only those who served can get that discount.”

I stiffened up, leaned forward toward Luke, spread my hands across the table and said, “Um, Luke, I think there is a better way to say that.”

I caught myself as I was preparing to leap upon the poor boy. I relaxed and sat back. My internal voice was like, “Whoa there sister, he has no idea what he just said, and WHY are you so mad?”

My other internal voice said, “Shut the ­­___ up,” as I felt every moment alone raising six kids come rushing back at me in a millisecond.

My real live external voice said, and I lied, “I’m not offended, but some folks might be.”

He actually looked worried, probably because he thought he just lost a juicy sale with two fatties, but then with sincerity, he said, “Oh wow, how should I have said that?”

Luke would live.

I relaxed and realized I was a dork. I explained that military life is such that spouses and children serve right alongside their service member, so it would be better to say that the discount is only available to the service member or veteran, unfortunately not the family members. He said, “Well, I guess I served too, my dad and granddad were in the Air Force.”

I said, “You sure did short stuff.” No, not really, but I wanted to. Instead I just said, “Why, yes you did!”

Charles jumped in and said, “The climate Kelli works in makes her more sensitive to things like that.” He was so sweet, backing me up, but letting me know, tone it down cowgirl — poor boy is going to wet himself!

The two takeaways from this moment? Those living outside a heavily concentrated military population really do not understand a lot about our lives, and it’s not their fault. We are surrounded by it and it’s our norm, not theirs. And even military kids don’t always realize their contribution.

So we signed up, I’m going to jump around like an oompa loompa once again. Maybe shift some body parts around…

Keeping Control During Trying Times

 Posted by on March 7, 2014 at 17:06
Mar 072014
 
Kelli

Kelli

If life were easy, the Internet, book stores and TV shows would not be inundated with self-help, self-improvement advice, wooing us with sure fire approaches to be better and live better. Whatever your personal explanation or belief system says is the reason for the difficulties in life, no one is immune to trials and challenges. In fact, it is not IF life is difficult, but how we handle things WHEN life is difficult. Here are some words of wisdom (or warning) our family often reminds each other.

There is no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone –

This is a quote that was shared with me several years ago. There is no one to attribute it to, but it certainly has provided perspective over the years when we have faced exceptionally difficult times. Recognizing that some of the greatest lessons in our lives come through the most uncomfortable of situations has always provided insight and has helped us find the silver lining, or helped us hang on until we came out the other side of that trial.

Breathe –

Breathe, relax, repeat. Sometimes I have to tune out what is happening around me and tune in to what is happening INSIDE me. Learning to relax, taking time to consciously focus on relaxing, has not been an easy lesson. Whatever centers you, do it. If you don’t know what will bring you to a place of peace, go find out and practice it BEFORE things get hairy. There is nothing worse than being all worked up and having someone turn to you and say “Relax.” In fact I find that it has the opposite effect on me. If you want to make sure I come completely unglued, look me in the eye, and tell me to relax.

There is dignity in silence –

I have my sister to thank for this one. She went through an “honesty” phase. And while we all appreciate knowing where we stand with someone, sometimes we just don’t need to express exactly how we feel or what we think. I’m really glad she progressed past being quite so honest. Sometimes it’s harder and takes more strength to remain silent rather than to try to make our point. But keep breathing. If you are not talking, it gives you a chance to do that all important breathing thing. You can do some really great deep breathing exercises. Just don’t hyperventilate. That’s embarrassing, and funny, but mostly embarrassing. Somehow the dignity disappears if you have to bend over with your head between your knees.

Timeout for <insert name here> –

It’s not just toddlers that need a timeout. Sometimes emotions run too high and tempers flare. Take a step back and for just a hot minute give yourself time to clear your head. This can quickly diffuse a situation that may be escalating. Derailing angry words before they are said is much easier than apologizing for things said out of anger or grief, possibly irreparably damaging relationships. It also can keep things from becoming physical. While you step away, you guessed it, BREATHE.

Regroup, reflect and grow –

Now, what I am about to tell you I’d rather my husband not know I wrote, much less had as a thought! I would then have to endure merciless and innumerable “I-told-you-so’s.”

Once things are more under control, take time to evaluate WHY you might have lost control of yourself, the situation, finances, etc. Recognize where you may have set yourself up for the storm and was there a way you could have avoided it all together?

Sometimes we just have to push through and hang tight to the knot at the end of our rope because the only way is to go through a trial. If that’s the case, just remember, it’s easy to have faith, be of good cheer and stand up for what we believe when times are easy and the sun shines. When we are rested, our hormones are balanced and when we have enough money to go to the grocery store, we are rarely snippy or rude.

It’s those darker moments in our lives when we are tried, tears are shed and hearts are broken that we are given a wonderful gift. We are given the chance to KNOW for ourselves what our character is really made of. It’s easy to lose control, scream in anger and rant and rave. We give in to the very baseness of human nature and I’m not going to lie, sometimes it feels good. Just get it out. The problem is that good feeling is false. It’s not real and it has no place if you are looking to have joy and happiness. And more importantly, the damage we can cause when we choose that path will last longer and have far more devastating effects on our lives than the momentary loss of control.

After all is said and done, my best and favorite piece of advice is to know you are NOT alone. If you feel things slipping, call someone. The resources available today are more abundant and more readily available than at any other time in our nation’s history.

It’s OK to take the superhero cape off every now and then and get some outside perspective. Family, a trusted friend, chaplains, counselors, Military OneSource specialty consultants, a diary… Sometimes you might just need a nice sunset… and a deep breath.

Surviving a Crisis Alone

 Posted by on December 13, 2013 at 16:08
Dec 132013
 
Kristi

Kristi

Is there really any other way to face a crisis as a military spouse? We all know – whether from experience or urban legend – that things do not break or get lost while our service members are home, creepy crawlies never invade the house if we have reinforcements and natural disasters never pose a threat until we are “Sitting duck, party of one.”

The legend of the deployment curse basically guarantees that some sort of crisis will rear its ugly head while you are all by your lonesome – whether it’s during a 48-hour training exercise or a 12-month deployment. So, by the time my husband’s second deployment rolled around, I was prepared…or so I thought. This time I wasn’t just dealing with a dead car battery or a kitchen full of sugar ants; instead, I got the wrath of Hurricane Irene.

Should I stay or should I go?

My deployed husband begged me to pack up and head inland. Having grown up on the Gulf Coast, I assured him that he was too far removed from the situation and that the news was making it a bigger deal than it really was. I knew how to prepare for hurricanes, and riding out the storm in the comfort of our home sounded much more appealing than battling evacuation traffic and a cramped hotel with an infant. I was watching weather and evacuation updates around the clock and talking over plans with neighbors and friends, and just a couple days before Irene made landfall, I made the call; my son and I and our two dogs were staying put.

Going it “alone”

The next 48 hours I spent preparing for the storm. I did what I knew to be important from my experience; I hauled anything that could become airborne, including a huge doghouse, storage bench, lawn furniture, trashcans, garden hoses and a grill into the garage…alone. Most of these objects were bigger than me, but never underestimate the strength of a determined woman.

The night before Irene made landfall, this stubborn woman was reminded that no one in the military community truly faces anything “alone.” As I was preparing the inside of my house for the storm by lowering the temperatures of the refrigerator and freezer, doing a few loads of laundry, pulling out some candles, flashlights, and puzzles, and making doubly sure my son had enough baby food in case we lost power, my neighbors knocked on my door. Knowing that my husband was deployed, they offered to help me do everything I’d already done before they evacuated. Even though their offer was a moot point, I finally relaxed for the first time in a week. I realized that even though I felt like I was facing Irene alone, I wasn’t. I felt so much pressure to protect our son, our dogs and our home that I was overlooking all of the support right in front of me.

Kristi_SurvivingACrisisAlone-2

The aftermath

When the storm eventually passed, the damage was obvious. I suddenly wasn’t as brave without the safety of boarded windows – that I was accustomed to during storms like this – and I remember staring out our dining room window just watching the pine trees bend to the point of breaking only to stand up straight again at the last possible second. I felt so vulnerable in our home that I abandoned my cozy bed to sleep – or, more accurately, lie awake all night – on the floor of my son’s room.

The morning after the storm, I walked the neighborhood to check on my friend since phones were dead and power was out. I saw things that took my breath away. Trees were snapped in half, uprooted and siding and shingles were missing from almost every house except for ours. We probably shouldn’t have been in one piece, but miraculously we were perfectly fine.

And the days that followed were almost worse than the mere hours of the storm. We spent days without power. It was hot, the food was spoiling, we cleaned up debris (with help, of course) and business was slowly returning to normal, but nearly the entire area was still facing a blackout. Once again, I was floored by the support of fellow military spouses. My good friend and I took turns driving around to charge our phones and enjoy brief moments of air conditioning. All around town, other military families who already had electricity restored opened their doors – and their hot showers – to other families who needed some relief from “camping” in their homes. It wasn’t until I was holding my cranky son – who was donning only a diaper at this point on account of the balmy 90-degree temperature inside our house – eating food on the brink of spoiling from the fridge for the sole purpose of not wasting it and sweating so badly my son nearly slipped off of my lap that I realized how ridiculous this situation was. If I had it to do all over again, I would’ve evacuated; I think most other families who remember that week would agree with me.

We were all alone during Irene, and because of that, strangely, we were all in it together. And that may be my favorite thing about this military life. It doesn’t matter whether we face natural disasters, dead car batteries, bats trapped in patio umbrellas, rodents in the garage, illness or even childbirth while our spouses are away; we have support ready and waiting. We are a resourceful and strong family that I am so proud to be a part of.

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