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Military Spouse Gratitude List

November 22, 2017

The holiday season can be difficult for military spouses. Maybe you’re spending it away from your extended family in a new town. Maybe your spouse is deployed and you’re struggling with working up the energy to feel festive. Maybe you’re in the middle of a military suck fest and are in a cruddy mood. I get that, but have found that when you look for things to be thankful for, more and more appear.

Once I began thinking of things to be grateful for as a military spouse, the list grew quickly. As hard as this lifestyle can be, it does give us many wonderful moments.

Military Spouse Gratitude List

Deployments

I know that deployment doesn’t seem like something that should immediately be on a military spouse gratitude list, but it should be! Deployments can seem like all bad, but in the midst of the suck, there are moments to be thankful for. Maybe it’s accomplishing something you never thought you could do solo or fixing the leaky faucet like a rockstar or getting to control the remote and have the whole bed to yourself.  Deployments are opportunities for growth and when we approach them with that mentality, we’re far more likely to get the most of out them.

Each other

The military spouse community is one of my favorites part of the military lifestyle. By marrying into the military, you are immediately part of a worldwide network of men and women who are so welcoming and willing to support you. This group of people who “get you” can be the biggest source of strength during the hard times and cheering during the good times.

Flat rate boxes

Anyone who’s ever sent a care package (or shipped anything overseas) knows that flat rate boxes can save you a significant amount of money. My poor husband would definitely not receive as much love from home during deployment if I had to pay by weight!

Time spent with family

Many of us will spend the next day or two with family, whether they be immediate, extended or friends who feel like family. These moments are not always possible when you move frequently or are stationed far away.  The military steals a lot of family time so any time you do have together is precious.

Homecoming

Of course, homecomings are on the military spouse gratitude list! That moment when you’ve survived (and thrived during) a deployment and are reunited with your loved one can feel like the best moment in a long time. We all look forward to that first hug after a long separation and are so thankful when it happens.

A strong internet connection

Is there anything you crave more during a deployment than a good solid Skype date? Phone calls are good, but there’s something about seeing your loved one’s face that really lifts your spirits. This past deployment, my husband had awful internet and we never got to Skype. It made an already difficult situation just a tiny bit harder because I didn’t have the benefit of seeing A. So anytime there’s a good quality internet signal, it’s time to be thankful!

A fulfilling career and understanding bosses 

So many military spouses have a hard time finding quality and fulfilling employment that I am always very thankful for my career, even during frustrating days. When A is gone, it’s one of the things that keeps me sane and I honestly don’t know what I would do without my day job. A second part is definitely understanding coworkers, including your boss. No one is their best self during deployment and having people give you a little extra leeway during the hard days is so appreciated!

An extra mess

More often than not, an extra person in the house means a little extra messiness. So when your spouse is home, odds are there may be more socks on the floor or dishes in the sink or boots to trip over in the dark. While you may silently (or not so silently) rant and rave about having to tidy up more stuff, deep down you know that the extra mess is actually a good thing because it means he or she is home. And how could you not be thankful for that?

As a military spouse, what are you thankful for this year?

Military

More Than A Thank You: Take Action On Veterans Day

November 10, 2017

Veterans Day has long been set aside as the time to recognize our military veterans. For almost 100 years, Americans have paused on November 11 to say “thank you” to the men and women in uniform. This year, I’m just not sure that’s good enough. Don’t get me wrong, saying “thank you” is never a bad thing, but sometimes you need more than a few grateful words; sometimes, a group deserves more than a parade and a discount at the local chain restaurant. This Veterans Day, go beyond the thank you and take action to truly improve the lives of the men and women who’ve sacrificed so much.

But Rachel, why can’t I just say thank you? I mean what could veterans possibly need?

That’s a good question! It’s one that many Americans probably have because they are so far removed from the military lifestyle. It’s easy to forget that service members are still deploying, still fighting and still returning home very different people, many of them broken physically, mentally or emotionally.

It’s easy to block out the fact that today approximately 20 military veterans will commit suicide. And then 20 more will do it the next day. And the day after that. And 20 more will continue to do so every.single.day for the rest of the year.

It’s easy to ignore that while you’re scooping up great deals at major retail stores, more than 39,000 veterans are preparing to spend the night on the streets because they are homeless.

It’s easy to remain ignorant about long VA wait times, about important programs losing funding or about the hardships that military veterans and their families face when the uniforms are put away and Americans stop celebrating their work.

I worry that despite all the talk, tweets and posts over the next few days about respecting our military, so few will mention any of that. And that despite all these statistics and fervor for honoring those who fought for us, so few people will continue to talk about fighting for them at home.

But y’all, we must continue fighting for them. Whether it’s donating your time to the VA or giving to an organization the supports veterans (I highly recommend Give an Hour, which focuses on mental health care for veterans and their families) or contacting your senators and representatives to urge them to vote in favor of bills benefiting veterans, I urge you to DO something in honor of Veterans Day. Go beyond the thank you and take action.

Care Packages

Halloween Care Package

November 6, 2017

Happy Monday! Boy, am I glad to finally be able to share this Halloween care package with you all. I wouldn’t necessarily call the past few weeks a Halloween movie, but it sure was suspenseful. Mail service has been spotty where my husband is and with his homecoming date quickly approaching, I cut it very close on this one. But just a day before Halloween, his care package arrived!

I sent this in his emoji care package so I needed to keep it small, but I didn’t want to give up any of the festive look. I made the most of the box itself by wrapping it in fun caution tape from Target and then chose a bold print for the inside.

I loved the spider web paper for the inside of the box, especially because of how well the decorations popped against it. I actually repurposed pieces the Halloween care package from my shop and kept it very simple. The ghost and pumpkin were just the right size for this mini (but spooky) box!

I think the biggest challenge with using a small flat rate box for a care package is finding items that fit in it! I managed to find a few Halloween-themed items that fit just perfectly: fall flavored Kind bar, mini Halloween candy and Halloween-themed tissues. Of course the chocolate was completely melted by the time it arrived almost 3 weeks after I sent it, but he can use the tissues to clean it up!

It felt nice to temporarily retire my tape gun (woo hoo for the end of deployment!) with something as cute as this Halloween box.  But don’t worry, there are plenty of cute care packages coming your way even while my husband is home!

Military

Military Spouse Profile: Kara From Foxtrot & Pennies

November 1, 2017

There are so many amazing military spouses out there kicking butt on a daily basis that deserve to be recognized and I’m excited to feature one of them each month with my Military Spouse Profile series. If you’re interested in sharing your story (or know someone who might), please send me an email!

Introduce yourself to my readers! Tell us a little bit about who you are.

My name is Kara and I am a military spouse and a mom of two! My son is two and my daughter is 3 months old. I’m a fairly new military spouse, my husband has only been serving for 3 years but we are excited about our future. I am the creator of Foxtrot & Pennies where I write about ways for military spouses to use their resources to save money, make money, and conquer the challenges of military life while living on a budget. 

What inspired you to start your blog or business?

The plan was to always be a nurse. I went to nursing school (and accrued tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt) and got a job as a nurse. Then my son was born and everything changed. I wanted to be home with him SO badly, plus my husband had just joined up with the military and I didn’t know where that was going to take us. I wanted a way to create a second income for our family while staying home with my son and helping the military spouse community that I fell in love with. I quickly learned how difficult it was to live on one salary and discovered that so many other military families were struggling financially as well.

What’s the main message you hope your blog shares with your readers?

That there is hope! Debt and struggling to make it from paycheck to paycheck is so overwhelming. It almost feels like you are drowning. I want my readers to know that I know how they feel, I’ve been where they are and I want to help them. I want them to know that there are resources available to help military families save money and there are actual legitimate ways for military spouses to create extra income from home (or wherever they happen to be living at the moment).

What is your favorite part of being a military spouse?

My favorite part of being a military spouse is the experiences. 

Tell us a little bit about your journey as a military spouse-the ups and downs, lessons learned, etc.

In the short time I’ve been a spouse I’ve travelled to places I probably would have never gone to, I’ve given birth without my husband (which I never thought I’d be strong enough to do), I’ve flown on an airplane by myself with an infant (and survived) and countless other things I never thought I’d have to do. I’ve felt excited, lonely, and anxious. I know what it’s like to go weeks without talking to my spouse. I know what it’s like to have to live on a new, low-ranking military salary (spoiler alert- it’s hard). I’ve learned a lot about myself, my marriage, and my parenting abilities but I’m still excited about what lies ahead and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

What’s the number one piece of advice you would give a new military spouse?

No matter what you are facing, know that you are stronger than you think. You can get through it. Maybe you are facing your first deployment, or your spouse just left for boot camp. Maybe you are struggling to find a job after your last PCS and don’t know how to live on one salary. There have been at least 4 different situations in the last 3 years that I was faced with where I seriously doubted whether I was strong enough to get through it. But I did, and you can too.


What or who has been the biggest help or source of support to you in your role as a military spouse?

My husband. He’s my best friend. He always reminds me that I’m strong, he let’s me know how proud he is of my accomplishments. When I have moments of “I-hate-military-life” I think about how it’s his dream, how proud I am of everything he’s done, how hard he works for our family and how we need to support each other. 

Do you have a favorite place the military has taken you? What is it and why?

My favorite so far is Texas when he graduated. It was so unreasonably hot and miserable and I probably would have never travelled there if it weren’t for my husband graduating basic training. But this was my favorite because it was the moment he got to meet his son for the first time. I’ll never forget that moment.

Just for fun:

  • Favorite Netflix binge-worthy watch? The Office
  • What’s your favorite hobby? Arts & Crafts
  • Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla! 
  • Tell us a random fact about yourself. I am literally obsessed with cheese sticks but my daughter is dairy intolerant so I can’t eat them while she’s breastfeeding (she’s definitely gonna hear about this later in life!)

Many thanks to Kara for sharing her story this month! I am really happy to have her join me because she’s come such a long way as a military spouse in such a short amount of time. Each of us had a learning curve when we first started and I think Kara has really rocked hers! You can find Kara on her website, Facebook, Facebook group, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Deployment

Day of the Deployed: They’re Still Out There

October 26, 2017

I am essentially Hannah Montana.

No, I don’t sing. Or dance. Or have a country singer as a father. But I do live a bit of a dual life.

You see, by day, I am an average person: working a 9-5 job at a non-profit, living in a smallish town, spending as much time as I can on my passions and with family and friends. But by night, I’m a military spouse whose husband is gone frequently. Not “away for a week in Chicago at a business expo” gone, but “away for 4-6 months at a time in a war zone” gone.

And that blows people’s minds.

“Wait, he’s deployed? I thought we were getting out of Iraq/Afghanistan/any other country.”

“He’s gone again? Didn’t he just get back not that long ago?”

“Well, will there ever be a point in time when he doesn’t have to deploy?”

As I straddle the line between the civilian and military worlds every single day, I’ve heard all of the above on a pretty regular basis. When I see the shock in my civilian coworkers’ eyes, I realize that there is a huge divide between my two worlds. That divide saddens me as a military spouse, but as someone with a 100% civilian life prior to meeting my husband, I totally get it!

People who aren’t military don’t understand the military and are oftentimes very confused when confronted with that lifestyle, especially the nature, frequency and continued intensity of military deployments. So it’s the job of those of us connected to the military to try and narrow that knowledge gap whenever possible. It does us good, it does them good and it does the entire country good when these two groups have a greater understanding of the realities of each other’s lives.

Let’s narrow that gap. Let’s educate our neighbors, our coworkers and our families on just what life in the military is like, for service members and their families. Look for ways to start that conversation: civilians, talk to military families around you and military families, talk to the civilians in your life. In honor of National Day of the Deployed, I’m starting that conversation here today.

Every day, there are thousands of military personnel deployed around the world, whether or not people realize it. And trust me when I say that a lot of civilians don’t realize it.

We live in a world that, despite all the ways there are to connect, seems to favor being as disconnected from others as possible. There is no concerted effort supporting the military the way there was when our grandparents and great-grandparents were young. Deploying troops aren’t given a big sendoff or a heroes’ homecoming in the general community the way they were 70 or 80 years ago. People aren’t sacrificing meat and stockings to ensure that the “boys” overseas have food and parachutes.

From the comfort of our sofas and behind our iPhone screens, we can easily pretend that men and women in uniform are all at home. We pretend because it’s easier than confronting the truth and dealing with the uncomfortable reality that men and women are dying for our freedom every single day.

They are still out there: in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Niger, in Syria, the list goes on and on. Even if you have unliked it on Facebook, the war is still going on, 16 years after 9/11. And frankly, I’m not sure any of us really see a realistic end in sight. And as disheartening as that is, I think every person connected to the military recognizes that even if terrorism disappeared as we know it tomorrow, the deployments would not stop. It’s so important to remember that deployments aren’t just to the deserts of the Middle East: Japan, Germany and South Korea (just to name a few) all have large numbers of deployed troops housed within their borders. Deployments are still happening; they won’t stop happening.

So on the National Day of the Deployed, I have two messages for people reading this blog:

To my military-affiliated readers, especially the military spouses: I am with you. I see your struggles and your exhaustion. I FEEL those same struggles. I understand your tears. I’ve cried them too. Know that I have your back every single day, no matter which hat I’m wearing. We are going to get through this by relying on each other, by tapping into the kick-ass team we are. Please, reach out to me if you need help or resources or just a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. You are not alone.

To my civilian readers: please, don’t forget about us. Military families are all around you, even if you don’t live on or near a military installation. Our children go to the same schools yours do. We work and shop at the same places you do. We live in your neighborhoods. Even though your local news may not talk about us every day, we are still fighting, abroad and at home. We all have stories, skills and struggles that aren’t that far off from your own. Begin that conversation with us; we welcome it!

For everyone reading this blog: today, and always, remember all who are deployed. Say a prayer, pause to reflect on how lucky you are they exist or just flat out thank them.

You can learn more about the National Day of the Deployed here.

Learn how you can better support military spouses in your community.