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Going Overboard Reflection

July 27, 2017

The military spouse lifestyle can be a bit somber: there are a lot of goodbyes, usually more than one person’s fair share of tears and sometimes some very serious moments.  Thanks to a lot of mainstream media, many civilians think things end there, but they don’t. In between the tears, there is laughter. There is levity to balance out the somber moments. There is humor in the military spouse lifestyle and Sarah Smiley shares many of those moments in Going Overboard.

Summary: In 1999, Sarah was a typical bride-to-be, flustered with wedding details. Then the groom called. “I don’t want you to panic, but I might not be able to come to our wedding….”

So began Sarah Smiley’s life as a military wife. As a former Navy brat herself, Sarah knew better than anyone that weddings and funerals—even childbirth!—take a backseat to Uncle Sam. But just as the young, nationally syndicated columnist was getting comfortable with the military wife’s routine, her husband was sent away for an unexpected deployment. What followed was a true test of strength and wit. From getting locked out of the house in cowgirl pajamas to wrestling with the temptation of infidelity, Sarah exposes it all with candor, heart—and knowing humor.

My thoughts: I had mixed reactions to this one. On one hand, I felt like this was the least dramatized version of a military spouse’s life that I’ve read and I really appreciated that. Sarah was honest (sometimes brutally so) about the ups and downs of being married to the military. I think her reactions to deployment were genuine and completely relatable.  So many of us bicker with our spouses right before they leave. So many of us have had complete meltdowns because the dryer is broken again or the dog has gotten sick on the bed or we’re locked out of the house in our cowgirl PJs.

But on the other hand, I was a bit disheartened by this book. Sarah is tempted by infidelity during her husband’s deployment, so much so that her being at his homecoming is in question at one point.  While I can completely understand how difficult it is to be by yourself and can empathize with her feelings, I just cannot get behind the idea of cheating on my husband, or even contemplating it.  It’s beyond comprehension to me and I couldn’t relate to her struggle with it.  I found myself becoming very frustrated with that part of her story.

I was hoping that because this book was written by a military spouse (rather than just about them), it would be truer to the military spouse lifestyle I see everyday. In reality, it still perpetuated a few of the stereotypes I (and so many of us) hate.

But perhaps that’s the good thing about this book: it shows another facet of military spouse life. It may not be the facet that I relate to or the one that I agree with, but it’s there. Sarah’s experience as a military spouse is just as valid as my own, even though they are very different.

If military spouses are going to claim to be a diverse group that can’t be stereotyped or neatly categorized, we need to acknowledge all experiences as valid and worthy of respect, even if they’re ones we don’t agree with.

Have you ever read a book that presents a life of experiences so very different than your own, but that you still recognize as valid? Can there be a continuum of the military spouse lifestyle?

Books Military

Under the Sabers Reflection

July 6, 2017

Earlier this year, I set the goal of reading more books by and for military spouses and finally made it to my third one! I was initially drawn to Under the Sabers partially because of the sensational backstory and because it was set at Ft. Bragg, where we’re stationed. I was prepared for something very similar to Home Fires Burning, and in some ways that is exactly what I got, but in others the two books couldn’t have been more different.

Summary: “In the summer of 2002, Army wives were in the headlines after Biank, a military reporter for the Fayetteville Observer, made international news when she broke the story about four Army wives who were brutally murdered by their husbands in the span of six weeks at Fort Bragg, an Army post that is home to the Green Berets, Airborne paratroopers, and Delta Force commandos. By that autumn, Biank, an Army brat herself, realized the still untold story of Army wives lay in the ashes of that tragic and sensationalized summer. She knew the truth—wives were the backbone of the Army. They were strong—not helpless—and deserved more than the sugarcoating that often accompanied their stories in the media.

Under the Sabers tells the story of four typical Army wives, who, in a flash, find themselves neck-deep in extraordinary circumstances that ultimately force them to redefine who they are as women and Army wives. In this fascinating and meticulously researched account, Biank takes the reader past the Army’s gates, where everyone has a role to play, rules are followed, discipline is expected, perfection praised, and perception often overrides reality. Biank explores what happens when real life collides with Army convention.”

It’s hard to profile individuals and accurately portray the wide variety of human nature, but Biank did a fairly decent job of selecting diverse women to follow. Rita is the newest Army wife and while at first she struggles to find her place in the both the community and her marriage, I think her story is possibly the most compelling because of how she contradicts so many stereotypes.  Delores and Andrea Cory’s husbands are high ranking and they are so ingrained in the military lifestyle that it’s hard to imagine them existing outside the Ft. Bragg bubble. But then they both go through unspeakable tragedy and have to reexamine everything they though they were.  And last, but certainly not least, is Andrea Floyd, one of the four Army wives murdered by their husbands in just six weeks. But her story is even more complex than a simple newspaper headline would lead you to believe.

Each wife presents an interesting look at a slice of Army life, and more broadly military life in general. But what frustrates me the most is that taken individually, each story doesn’t do the entire military spouse community justice. The sensational stories are the ones that make for entertaining reading: the affairs, the abuse, the death. I understand that’s compelling entertainment for the average person, but it’s still so stereotypical! For every military spouse living a Lifetime movie, there is another military spouse living a completely normal and boring life (or as boring as you can get in the military) without any of the dramatic bits. Frankly, I wish those stories were told more often.

Overall the book was a compelling read and for someone outside the military, it’s probably pretty educational, or at least seems that way. But for those of us living it every single day, I thought it was a bit dramatic and didn’t really touch on the coping skills or mechanisms necessary to get through this life.  If a new military spouse picks up this book looking for tips, I think he/she will walk away disappointed and perhaps a bit overwhelmed with worry.

Have you read Under the Sabers? What were your thoughts? Do you feel that portrayals of military spouses lean towards the overly dramatic or stereotypical?

Books

What I Read This Month: June 2017

June 23, 2017

You know what the best part of a beach vacation is? All the time to read! Seriously, while I’m all for exploring cities and having new experiences, I also love curling up with a book and spending my vacation traveling via the written word. Even though our trip to Isle of Palms was very busy, I still found some time to turn a few pages.

Startup by Doree Shafrir

“Mack McAllister has a $600 million dollar idea. His mindfulness app, TakeOff, is already the hottest thing in tech and he’s about to launch a new and improved version that promises to bring investors running and may turn his brainchild into a $1 billion dollar business–in startup parlance, an elusive unicorn. Katya Pasternack is hungry for a scoop that will drive traffic. An ambitious young journalist at a gossipy tech blog, Katya knows that she needs more than another PR friendly puff piece to make her the go-to byline for industry news.”

I had high hopes for this one, but was left a little disappointed. I wasn’t a huge fan of any of the characters or their motivations. The plot felt a little thin, especially the open ended ending that left me wanting more of a resolution. I do think that the book was really well-timed, as it deals with a lot of the same issues plaguing the Ubers of the world.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.”

This was by far my favorite book of the month. Once I started, I could not put it down and read the entire thing in my four-hour car trip to the beach. Evelyn’s life story was captivating and I so wish she was a real person so I could read more about her. This was entertaining with a few unexpected twists that really kept you guessing. I so highly recommend this one as a fun summer read.

White Fur by Jardine Libaire

“When Elise Perez meets Jamey Hyde on a desolate winter afternoon, fate implodes, and neither of their lives will ever be the same. Although they are next-door neighbors in New Haven, they come from different worlds. Elise grew up in a housing project without a father and didn’t graduate from high school; Jamey is a junior at Yale, heir to a private investment bank fortune and beholden to high family expectations. Nevertheless, the attraction is instant, and what starts out as sexual obsession turns into something greater, stranger, and impossible to ignore.”

Hm. I’m very torn on this one. Part of me flat out hated this book. I didn’t enjoy the writing style and thought the whole thing was very choppy and a bit hard to follow. But the other part of me devoured the story in under a day so it was clearly captivating. I did find it interesting that Elise turned out to be the more pulled together of the two while Jamey was the one with so much inner turmoil. It reinforces that upbringing isn’t necessarily indicative of your future.

What did you read this month?

Books

Books I Love Re-Reading

June 6, 2017

Happy Tuesday, all! I am officially counting down the days until A and I take off for the beach for a little R&R. I plan to sleep late, eat more than I probably should and do a whole lot of reading.  I’ve got a pile of new books waiting to be read, but may take an old favorite or two with me as well.

I think we all have a few go-to reads on our bookshelf. No matter how many new books we buy or take home from the library, there’s nothing like the tried and true favorites. They make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, plus you get the joy of discovering new details. I rounded up a few of my favorite re-reads for you to add to your list.

The Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey

Fun fact: I’m a big hockey fan. In fact, the Disney movie Miracle is one of my favorite movies of all time. So it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve read The Boys of Winter at least ten times. There’s just something about Coffey’s writing style that gets me, plus it’s the ultimate underdog story.  My favorite quote?

“Mostly he thanked Herb Brooks for a night in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York when snow fell and the Olympic Field House throbbed and whether you were in goal or on the ice or in the seats or at home, you came away feeling that greatness wasn’t a realm strictly for the superhuman, remote and unattainable, but rather something much closer, real, and reachable, something within every one of us.”

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

If you’re an animal lover in any way, you need to read these books. Herriot’s tales from his time as a rural veterinarian are heartwarming and hilarious. This is the first book in a very good series, but it’s definitely my favorite and one I’ve read multiple times.

 

The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks

Forget The Notebook or Walk to Remember, The Wedding is definitely the best Nicholas Sparks book. It’s sort of a sequel to The Notebook in that it focuses on Allie and Noah’s daughter, although the narrator is actually her husband. It reminds me to never take my husband for granted and continue to work on ways to show him how much he means to me.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I know this one is technically a children’s book, but it’s one of my absolute favorites. The entire series is a must-read and one that got a lot of love when I was younger. I can’t wait to re-read them with my future children.

What are some books you’ve read over and over again?

Books

What I Read This Month: May 2017

May 26, 2017

I cannot be the only one who is shocked to see the end of May staring me down, right? We have a huge event next weekend for my day job and I pretty sure I need approximately 18 more days this month to get everything done! Because of the craziness at work and with the shop, reading took a bit of a backseat this month. So much so that I barely finished two books! Luckily, they were both really good ones.

Girls in the Moon by Janet McNally

“Everyone in Phoebe Ferris’s life tells a different version of the truth. Her mother, Meg, ex-rock star and professional question evader, shares only the end of the story—the post-fame calm that Phoebe’s always known. Her sister Luna, indie rock darling of Brooklyn, preaches a stormy truth of her own making, selectively ignoring the facts she doesn’t like. And her father, Kieran, the co-founder of Meg’s beloved band, hasn’t said anything at all since he stopped calling three years ago. But Phoebe, a budding poet in search of an identity to call her own, is tired of half-truths and vague explanations. When she visits Luna in New York, she’s determined to find out how she fits in to this family of storytellers, and maybe even to continue her own tale—the one with the musician boy she’s been secretly writing for months.”

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Girls in the Moon, but I ended up really liking it! Phoebe had enough teenage angst to provide some drama, but not so much so that she became annoying (which is a fine line, in my opinion). I’m not sure I really related to many of the characters, but found their stories engaging and would read a sequel if there ever is one. That was my one critique: I felt like there was too much left hanging and I didn’t get closure.

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

n the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.”

Oh my heavens, y’all, this book was so good. I really like nonfiction that reads like fiction and this is exactly what David Grann did. The writing is compelling, it’s thoroughly researched and the story moves really quickly. And that’s before you even get to the story itself, which is mind-blowing. Grann outlines a series of coverups and systematic corruption that you don’t want to believe ever existed in our country. It certainly puts you in the shoes of another group of people and I very much recommend this one.

With one vacation and one cross-country work trip ahead in June, I’m hoping that I will have more read by the end of next month. What did you read this month? Any recommendations?