Navigating Life: Going From Service Member to Military Spouse

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Quite possibly one of the most challenging things I’ve had to do was make the transition from Soldier to Spouse.  I’m talking straight from deployment to full on stay-at-home wife.  Before I begin this piece of information, let me add this disclaimer:

While I know that there are male military spouses, I’m using my voice for this writing because it is where I’m experienced and I’m chronicling my personal adventure for those who care to read.  I see you men also!  

What Now?

This is probably the first thing I asked myself.  Start school back up right away or take a small break?  Look for a job?  Eat Cheetos & catch up on my programs?  The answer never came to me, so I did a little bit of everything.  I enrolled in some courses and got Cheeto smudges on my textbooks.  It’ll come to you, trust me.

Feeling Left Behind.

Perhaps one of the most common emotions I went through initially was feeling like I was so far disconnected from the Army life I had grown so accustomed to.  Watching my husband put his uniform on everyday made me sad every now and then.  Mostly though, it made me feel nostalgic.  I eventually got over it by realizing I could do more to support my family by being outside of the military.

No One Gets Me.

This is probably one of the most common feelings that I still experience from time to time.   There are so many nice military spouses and I’ve found many I enjoy being around.  Since I understand quite a bit about what the Army is all about, I often get questions from fellow spouses that I’m more than happy to answer.  On the flip side though, sometimes I want to vent about something military-related or have a discussion and I get the deer in headlights look.  This is why I love my fellow veteran spouses; we can BS about it all.

Regret.

This is one that I haven’t full on experienced in quite a while.  For the first few months of separating from the Army, I began to feel almost like I was in mourning.  I didn’t have the connection with people around me like I had with those I served with.  I would think about all of the reasons why I decided to move on and everything made sense again.  Since I’ve exited the Army, I have found amazing friends along the way that I would not have met otherwise.

While I absolutely loved my time in the Army and wouldn’t change it for the world, there are so many perks to being “on the other side.”  In fact, just the other day, I walked through a whole patch of grass with impunity.  I pass higher ranking folks and look them dead in the eyeballs without so much as a “you good, fam?”  I walk and talk on my cell phone.  I answer CSMs with, “Yeah.”  Okay, okay…I don’t think I’ve gotten that crazy yet.  In any case, I am completely at peace with where I’ve been and the decisions I made for my family.

Military Spouses & Social Media: OPSEC

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Social media is probably the single most amazing advancement in communication with the most impact on how we speak to not only each other but also the world.  It has allowed us to share our lives and network.  A person in the United States can easily become friends with a person in another country all through social media.  News is shared through social media.  Some people only receive headlines by looking at their social media news feed.  Social media has also been an incredible challenge for organizations like the military.  While the military receives extensive briefings on material that is appropriate to be published on social media, family members sometimes miss the memo.  It’s important for service members to have the conversation with their family members so that they are aware of the possible ramifications of sharing too much information online.  Here is a small guide for military spouses to read and consider for safe Facebooking and Twitter’ing:

  1. Refrain from posting dates of ANY kind.  Service members train within the United States all the time.  While these types of absences aren’t necessarily deployments, it’s still a good idea to practice OPSEC (Operational Security).  Do not post any dates your spouse may have spoken about on social media for any reason.  This includes, but is not limited to, Facebook groups.
  2. Post in a professional manner.  While family members aren’t subject to any punishments from the military, they are a direct reflection of the service member.  Try to remember that things you say online have the potential to get your service member spouse hemmed up.
  3. Do not discuss movement.  Dates, extensions, and times of flights are absolutely off limits.  Don’t give any type of information away to anyone online.  You never know who is watching.  Not everyone has good intentions.  Revealing pertinent information can also result in delays of service member movements.
  4. Do not discuss missions.  It’s also a good idea to never mention any specific details about missions your spouse has discussed with you.  An example of this would be disclosing details on training your spouse has gone through or capabilities of the unit.  Think of your spouse’s training events as a training opportunity for yourself also to practice OPSEC.
  5. Disable geotags.  Geotagging is the practice of “checking in” to places or allowing your location to be revealed via social media.  This is very important for service members, but it’s a good safety precaution for everyone.
  6. Check pictures that you post.  Don’t post any pictures that show names of service members and unit affiliation.  I know this can be hard to do, but to err on the side of safety, it’s better to get into the habit of keeping all of that off social media.
  7. Do not reveal exact locations of service members.  It’s never a good idea to publicly discuss where your service member is.  Even if it’s within the United States.
  8. DO NOT REPEAT RUMORS!  Do not add to the rumor mill by getting online and spreading the latest on what you “heard.”  Things change all the time in the military and its very counterproductive to keep spreading rumors.

These are just a few key things that everyone should know and commit to memory.  When in doubt, look for the answer or simply refrain from posting.  Once you’ve become used to keeping military information off social media, it gets easier.  Not only can the spillage of information from your service member to social media have detrimental effects on the mission, it can get your spouse in very hot water with his/her command.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways To Transition From Career Parent To Stay-At-Home Parent

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So you’ve worked most of your life and have all of a sudden found yourself making a decision for your family to stay home.  Along with the many pros of making the choice to be an at-home parent, there are a few cons to combat.  Some may find that the transition can be a lot more difficult than anticipated.  When I had to stop working due to my family’s PCS, I did a small happy dance for the break I would have.  Once that break stretched into almost a year, I began to suffer from cabin fever.  I had to find ways to break up my days and stay productive, even though I wasn’t working outside of the home.  Don’t get me wrong, caring for a child (or children) can be a daunting task.  Still, sometimes it can feel mundane and tedious.  Here are a few ways to find a little balance:

    1. Planning.  I received a very nice planner as a Christmas gift from my mother.  I have always loved planners, notebooks, pens, and anything having to do with writing.  Not only has it increased my productivity, it has given me an extra hobby that I enjoy.  I write down everything from appointments to chores that need to be done.  Breaking up my days into sections and assigning myself even small tasks such as dishes or laundry has helped keep me on track.  There’s something way exciting to me about crossing off accomplishments, no matter how small.
    2. Leaving the house for no reason.  This may sound a little silly, but trust me, it’s needed on occasion.  On the days I’m feeling especially bummy, I’ll force myself to get up and leave the house with my toddler for absolutely no reason whatsoever.  It’s amazing how a walk around the neighborhood, a drive down the road, or even a trip to the store can revitalize you.  Seriously, try it.
    3. Interact with other adults.  It’s important to remember to take some time to have a conversation with a friend or family member.  It may not seem like a big deal, but tapping into your support system doesn’t have to be for emergencies.  There are days where I feel completely isolated and surrounded by a sea of cartoons and crayons.  Sometimes, even sending a quick meme to a friend on messenger helps keep my social skills honed.  There isn’t always time to sit down and have a long conversation and my lovely people understand this.  However, I do try to make time to have a few conversations a day with various friends and family.
    4. Get involved.  This is probably the most preached piece of advice ever and it’s not for nothing.  There is sort of a stigma among the military community towards spouses and the interaction they have with one another.  Rise above the preconceived notions that military spouses are all participating in an audition for a bad reality show.  There are some pretty amazing people to discover within the military community, as well as awesome programs and projects to become involved with.  Test the waters and you will most likely find yourself pleasantly surprised.  I’ve set a few goals in this area such as joining some workout groups and play groups.  It’s a great way to network and make friends.
    5. Give yourself permission to not do a thing.  We all need a “day off.”  For those of us who stay home, this isn’t really possible.  I have my days where I am in pajamas all day and don’t leave the house.  For me, it’s a much needed break from feeling like I should be doing something.  It’s perfectly okay to take a day and just lounge (as much as possible) and catch up on your shows.  Speaking of which, I need to catch up on The Walking Dead.

It can become overwhelming and even frustrating to make the transition from working parent to stay-at-home parent.  Especially if you’re actively job seeking with no luck.  I know this feeling all too well.  It’s important to remember that you’re still serving a much needed purpose for your family.  While making your family a priority, don’t forget to reserve yourself a spot also.

Calling the MPs: No Tea, No Shade 


I think we’ve all had at least one neighbor who plays loud music every now and then..or more often than not. Maybe the issue is a barking dog in their backyard. Maybe they have an ugly scarecrow posted up on their lawn. Whatever the case may be, I’m sure at one point in your thought process a light bulb went off. Call the MPs on them! 

While this might seem like the most effective way to solve your grievance, I would highly advise against jumping straight to notifying law enforcement. Perhaps the neighbor is unaware that their music, TV, or dog is causing you stress.  It would be a better idea to first speak with your neighbor and politely ask if they can turn the volume down. They may be unaware that they’re making too much noise. In any case, it’ll give you an excuse to say hello to your neighbor and possibly become BFFs.

While there are legitimate reasons to call MPs, neighborly disputes should be kept in the ‘hood. Don’t avoid conversation or even concerns with neighbors because it’s too much hassle. Communicating with one another is key to success in this crazy world of on post living. 

ICE Comments: What Aren’t They For?

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So you’re sitting there enjoying your morning bowl of cereal, maybe even a cup of coffee, when your lovely spouse texts you.  It appears that the company commander has ordered that they work through lunch to finish some layouts.  Just like that, your bowl of cereal now looks like a bowl of garbage.  Your coffee tastes like it came from someone’s DFAC.  What is to be done?  Suddenly, a light bulb appears over your head.  “File an ICE COMPLAINT!”  Don’t do it, chile.

The Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) is a system that is implemented within the Department of Defense in order to improve customer service.  Yes, you heard it right, customer service.  In fact, you can go onto their website (ice.disa.mil) and find your installation.  From there, you can stroll down to the service you would like to leave a comment for.  Here’s another little known fact: You can leave positive feedback as well!  In fact, as I scroll and explore the site more, I don’t even see an option to leave some angry hate mail towards a specific company commander.  I did get sidetracked though when I spotted a place to sprinkle my positivity.  Now let’s get to my little list of what ICE Comments are not for:

  1. Giving your spouse’s leadership a piece of your mind.  I know that things can get a little crazy, and so does your spouse, trust me!  However, bear in mind that everyone goes through it together.  You should be supportive in any way that you can.
  2. Making threats.  Please don’t utilize ICE comments to threaten the services provided to us.  What we can do is make suggestions if we feel that a particular service is lacking.
  3. Telling Burger King that they don’t deserve $15 an hour.  I know that sometimes things get a little crazy in the food court.  Believe me, I’ve been there.  Something that we all need to realize is that there are teenagers who are working in the food court.  They are learning and need our guidance.  Please refrain from disparaging remarks that are counterproductive.

I’m sure I could conjure up some more examples, but I would like to keep this on a (mostly) positive note.  We have access to these systems to provide feedback that will benefit our community where the services we are provided are concerned.  In fact, I challenge anyone reading this to please go to the website and make a positive comment if you were recently given good customer service on post.

Fitness Journey & the MLM Hustle.

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We’ve likely all been there. Sipping on our tea, scrolling our Facebook/Twitter/Instagram feeds when BAM; friend request. Ohhhh, and we have mutual friends. So thinking someone is reaching out to you in order to make friends, you accept. No sooner can you get another full bite of your Great Value protein bar, than you’ve received your first message from your new friend.

It goes a little something like this:

“Hi, Consuela! I see we have a few mutual friends and I just thought I would reach out because we are in the same community. I sell ItMightPossiblyWork and Lake Bodies and would love to help you along your journey.”

Wait, what? How exactly would a stranger know we’re on a fitness journey sending the initial request? Are we looking a little plump in our profile picture?  So then we get a little offended because you basically identified us as someone who needs to lose weight.  What adds to the shadiness is that a message wasn’t sent prior to the request. While it’s perfectly okay to have a hustle, there are proper ways to go about your business. Alienating the people in your community isn’t a good way to do business.

Instead of harassing innocent friends of friends:

  • Actually make friends with people. I have given my friends plenty of business. I have no problem supporting a friend, if I feel as though it’s a right fit for me. However, I also don’t agree with long passive aggressive posts about how we should spend our hard earned money on your product since you see us posting pictures of our bags and whatnot. Others’ finances are no one’s business. If I see that, I will not become a customer.
  • Make a page specifically for your products and link it to your personal profile. Even posts made on your personal profile lets your friends know about what you’re selling. If we are interested, we will reach out.
  • DO NOT under any circumstances assume that a particular individual would be interested in your products based on appearance or assumption alone.
  • Do not post inappropriate content in online forums or groups. I understand the freedom of speech thing, but there’s also this freedom not to purchase your stuff thing that will happen if you look unprofessional online.

There are folks who do well selling MLM products, and I know a few because I am a customer. I can say with certainty that they didn’t gain me as a customer by violating the aforementioned tips.

To Feet Or Not To Feet?

 

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There used to be a man who frequented spouse groups and all manner of mommy groups on Facebook.  He would enter, guns blazing, to announce that he was seeking freelance employees.  The conditions of his contract were simple:  You send him photographs of your feet and he would compensate you with $50.  Don’t look at me like that, I’m serious!  In fact, if I remember correctly, he also paid a small fee for videos of your feet and Skype sessions with your piggies.  This ended up turning into an infamous Army Wife Facebook group brawl between those who accepted his offer, and those who couldn’t fathom being “desperate” enough for $50.  I mean, get your coin how you get it, hunty! Right?

However, for those who would rather leave their bare feet off their resume, there is still a huge hurdle.  In order to become gainfully employed, a lot of spouses require child care in some form.  This can get incredibly pricey, depending upon the region.  Many times it means that the spouse would essentially be working only to cover those costs, if their salary even covered them to begin with.  This often leads to discouraged spouses who feel as though they aren’t contributing to their households.

I recently read about a program I had never heard of before called Child Care Aware Of America.  According to the website, they provide assistance with costs associated with child care by working with off-post providers in your area.  Enter your zip code on the website and it will pull up your local point of contact for the program.  You can check them out at usa.childcareaware.org.  This seems like a much more reasonable solution towards employment than selling pictures of yo feet.

Tuesday Tea: Interview With An Army Wife

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She cracks open a box of wine, pours herself a Dixie cup, and takes a seat.  The leather of her couch makes a weird noise as she settles in.  The bottom of her feet are slightly dirty from standing outside barefoot, talking to her next door neighbor.  For her own protection, she will be known as Agnes.  She takes a sip of her $7 shoppette wine and says she’s ready to proceed with her interview.

Questions:

  1. How long have you been an Army Wife? 5 years.
  2. What do you want to be when you grow up? A nurse
  3. Where is your family currently stationed? Ft. Bliss
  4. What has been your favorite post thus far? Fort Drum.  I enjoyed the snow and small town life.  It reminded me of my hometown.
  5. What is your favorite dish to cook?  I enjoy cooking healthy as much as possible while my husband is in the field because he can’t complain about not liking the food.  When he’s home though, we enjoy comfort food.
  6. Do you participate in Army Wife groups on Facebook? Yes, to get information about the area.  They can be useful for that.
  7. What are your pet peeves when it comes to military life? Bored, dramatic spouses who complain about any and everything.  Also, pessimistic people who tell you that you’re going to hate your next duty station when you ask about it on wives’ pages.

At this point, Agnes is on her 2nd cup and decides to talk about nightmare neighbors.  

“One neighbor would sit outside her house and watch all the other neighbors.  When we went to hangout one time, she would tell us dirty details about each house.  For instance, one lady came out with a bamboo stick beating her husband for cheating on her.  Another household had potential to be racist, according to her.  She was clearly making that up.  I came to find that out for myself.  She also tried to start a rumor about some neighbors having an affair while their spouses were gone.  I was unable to confirm that one.”

Thank you for your participation, Agnes! I’m sure most of us can relate.

 

 

 

Facebook Groups: No Tea, No Shade

So you’ve heard there’s a secret place on the icy tundra that is Ft. Drum where you can acquire unlimited amounts of free salt.  Yes, that’s right, free salt!  So you decide to take to your local army wife Facebook group to pose a simple question: Where can I find this haven?

Within minutes, you realize that you have made a horrible mistake.

Deborah from round the way chastises you for being cheap and reminds you that housing will give you two free bags of salt.  Barbara from the block says not only does she pull up every year to load up two Oscar the Grouch-sized cans with free salt, she does so with others present to witness the occurrence.  Before you know it, the entire group is up in arms.  What do you do?

Here is how you can recover from causing a turf war on an army wife Facebook group:

  • Realize that there are many different personalities within the small community that makes up the military in general.  Since social media has given everyone a voice and platform from which to express that voice, a lot more people feel empowered.  It becomes easier for them to be vocal online.  You’ll almost never see altercations like this in person.
  • Politely thank everyone for their information and unfollow the post, if you’d like no further notifications.  You can also delete the post altogether if you feel uncomfortable.
  • Use the opportunity to converse with new people.  Maybe some ladies joined the conversation with truly helpful information or even came to your defense and have potential to become your new BFFs.
  • Don’t let the experience deter you from future interaction.  Also, don’t fall into a mindset that all military spouses are “full of drama.”  Try to make light of the situation by cracking a joke or two.

While Facebook groups can be an invaluable source of information and a wonderful tool to meet friends, they’re also filled with many different personalities and diversity.  Occasionally, you’ll come across a Debbie Downer or Mean Martha, but they are few and far between in my experience.  Don’t let them keep you from putting your wonderful self out there.

 

Why MLK’s message is still very relevant.

Whether you’re reflecting on humanity, honoring a great life, or resolving to continue Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work, today means something to you.

Why is Dr. King’s legacy still relevant?

  • With the evolving social standards, we’ve seen just the past decade usher in marriage equality, the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and an African-American President.  Without the grown work laid by civil rights activists lead by Dr. King, these advances might not have been possible.
  • Racism continues to be a hot button issue today.  Since social media has made sharing personal accounts, videos, and news articles easy and more accessible to the masses, they often go viral and raise questions.  It’s having the courage to address those concerns that Dr. King strongly advocated for.
  • One message Dr. King drove home was the need to combat hatred with love.  We can’t give hate a chance to prosper.  These are tumultuous times worldwide, and it’s important not to get caught up in hatred from any perspective.

While I feel these barely scratch the surface, they’re what resonate with me today.  While the world a a whole faces darkness and violence, reflection is much needed.  It’s important that we look to great leaders, past and present, to draw from their inspiration.  Who better to follow than MLK?

 

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