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Dear New Military Spouse

May 25, 2017

Dear new military spouse,

First off, welcome to the club! You are now part of a diverse group of men and women from all different walks of life who do amazing things every day. Second, how are you feeling? Maybe a little overwhelmed? Excited? Scared? Flat out confused? All of that is 100% normal and something most of us feel on a regular basis no matter how long we’ve been married to the military.

You’re going to hear a lot of ideas and opinions from seasoned military spouses about how to survive in this crazy world. It’s completely up to you to choose what you advice you take and what advice you leave behind. It may begin to get a little overwhelming so I won’t give you advice today. Instead I’ll share a few of my hopes for you in this new role.

My hope is that you will make the most of this life. There are sure to be some ups and downs, which is just about the only thing that is certain in military life. Because you never know what will be around the next bend (or in the next set of orders), I hope that you embrace each new situation, smile when it’s raining and say “I love you” often.

My hope is that you will support and encourage your fellow military spouses. The unique challenges of being a military spouse should bring us together and we should take every opportunity to build each other up. Be a champion for your neighbor, celebrate each other’s accomplishments and act as an advocate for military spouses’ education and employment opportunities.

My hope is that you will educate civilians about the military lifestyle. We all have a responsibility as military spouses to educate others, dispel myths and be solid ambassadors for our group. You can do that by remaining authentic to who you are and speaking up when you hear misinformation. People can’t understand this lifestyle if we don’t teach them about it.

Being a new military spouse can be scary, overwhelming and nerve wracking, but it can also be wonderful and so much fun if you allow it to be. Head into this new stage of life full of hope and be open to the world of possibilities stretching out in front of you.

What advice would you give a new military spouse?

Care Packages

Cover Your Flaps: How To Cover Your Care Package

May 24, 2017

I’ve shared a lot of care package ideas on this blog, everything from what to put in them to keeping costs down. But no matter what tips or tricks you use, care packages usually start in the same spot: covering the flaps. For many military spouses, it’s a way to say “I love you” when our loved ones are so far away. Luckily there are as many ways to cover your care packages as there are versions of “I love you”.

Ways to cover care package flaps

Maps

Maps are fairly cheap and you can get them just about anywhere. This would be a lot of fun for a travel care package or even one with a hometown theme. I used a map for my North Carolina care package and one full-sized road map covered a medium flat rate box perfectly, including the interior sides. I cut it into 12×12 sheets and then used my Silhouette to cut it to the right size for the flaps.

Pictures

My husband always raves about any photos I send him so why not take this to the next level and cover your care package flaps with pictures? You could enlarge them so they entirely cover each flap or make a collage with multiple photos. Places like Walgreens and Wal-Mart offer relatively inexpensive enlargements and collage printing, plus Walgreens will ship them to you!

Children’s artwork

What do little kids love more than anything else? Well maybe not anything else, but drawing has to be in the top 5 for sure. Have them get creative with crayons (or paint if you’re really adventurous) and get them to decorate the care package flaps. You could also have them use stickers, markers or just about any other craft supply.

Scrapbook paper

Scrapbook paper is probably the go-to care package flap cover because of how versatile it is. You can purchase them in just about every color and pattern for any holiday, theme or occasion you can imagine. Two 12×12 pieces will cover the four flaps and you’ll need another 12×12 piece for the bottom of the box; medium or large flat boxes both take the same number of sheets.

Newspapers

Did something big happen in your hometown recently? Did your loved one’s favorite team win the championship? Grab a newspaper and use the relevant sections to cover your flaps. You could also use the funnies to give your loved one a much needed laugh.

Posters

Do you want to send a music or movie themed box? Use a poster to cover the flaps! You can get posters for just about any popular movie, TV show or musician these days and one poster should cover the entire box. You may need to do a bit of measuring to make sure you make the right cuts, but it will look so cool once you’re done!

Wrapping paper

Similar to scrapbook paper, wrapping paper comes in every patter and style imaginable. You can treat it just like the map: cut it into smaller sections and then trim it to fit your box.

There are almost as many care package flap cover ideas as there are themes to decorate for. What are some of your favorite things to cover care package flaps?

Care Packages Countdowns & Cupcakes Store

4th of July Care Package

May 22, 2017

What says “happy Monday” better than a new care package? A new 4th of July care package, of course! That’s right, I’ve added a super cute patriotic care package set to the shop and it’s ready for you to check out.

I wanted this 4th of July care package to super fun and festive, but simple. I toyed around with using a variety of patterned paper to get the festive look, but opted instead to stick with the good ol’ red, white and blue. Frankly, the finished product makes me exceptionally glad that I did. All of the colors are really vibrant and pop against each other.

To add a little extra pop, I selected shimmery paper for the text and stars.  I used similar paper for the flaps of my St. Patrick’s Day box and loved the look so much that I knew I would use it again.  But I didn’t stop there. I went full on glitter bomb with the paper I selected for the fireworks.

I don’t use glitter paper very often due to my husband’s borderline irrational fear of it. However, when I think fireworks, I think sparkle, so I decided to go for it. And honestly? Those sparkly little fireworks make me so darn happy and I hope they make y’all happy too.

You can shop this 4th of July care package right now in my shop and, as always, it ships for free! Plus 10% of the purchase price is donated to an organization that supports military families.

Military

Patriotic Holidays: When To Say Thank You

May 19, 2017

Memorial Day is just around the corner, ladies and gentlemen. Red, white and blue is around every corner and businesses everywhere are getting their sales ready. But I always wonder how many people having BBQs and buying things 1598390589% off really know the reason for the holiday. There are numerous patriotic holidays and each one is intended to honor a unique group of individuals.

Patriotic Holidays

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is the last Monday of May and honors Americans who have died while serving in the armed forces. It stems from the process of decorating the graves of Civil War soldiers and was formerly called “Decoration Day”. The name wasn’t changed to “Memorial Day” until 1967.

Armed Forces Day

On the third Saturday of May, the nation celebrates all members of the armed services. This holiday was established in 1949 and replaced separate days honoring each branch of the military.

4th of July

The 4th of July honors the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It doesn’t actually have a direct tie to a specific group in the military, although many people associate it with our armed forces.

Veterans Day 

Originally created to celebrate the end of WWI, Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11 each year. In 1954, the holiday was shifted to honor military veterans, thanks to the leadership of WWII veteran Raymond Weeks.

When to say thank you

There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to thanking people on patriotic holidays.  On one hand, we have folks who believe in very strict interpretations of each holiday. For example, Memorial Day should only be reserved for those who made the ultimate sacrifice and Veterans Day should just be for individuals who have left the military.

On the other hand, there are individuals who believe a thank you should be given whenever possible. I will freely admit that I land in this category. I would much rather someone thank my husband for his service on Veterans Day (even though he’s still active duty) than have them not acknowledge it at all.

Each of the patriotic holidays is set to honor a unique group of the military and remembering the meaning behind each day is important. Too often it gets lost in the fun festivities or all lumped together. During this year’s patriotic holidays, take a moment to pause and reflect on the true meaning of the day.

What do you think: is it appropriate to thank a member of the military on any patriotic holiday or should people stick to the intention of each day?

Military

Military Spouse Myths (Plus The Real Story)

May 18, 2017
Military Spouse Myths

People are fascinated with the military lifestyle. And who could blame them? Thanks to Hollywood, it appears very glamorous and dramatic: spouses fighting, tearful reunions and more scandal than a TV show on ABC. But so much of what you see on TV or in movies is dramatized and exaggerated to the point that it’s not even close to accurate.  Unfortunately, the public’s idea of the military spouse lifestyle comes from these dramatizations and military spouse myths become so deeply ingrained, they seem like fact.

As a military spouse, I firmly believe that it’s in our best interest to tell people the truth behind military spouse myths. Only when people know the truth can they begin to support and help military spouses in the way they need it the most.

Military Spouse Myths

Myth: We were all young when we got married.

Real story: Yes, some of us do get married at comparatively young ages (i.e. right after high school), but that is not the case for all of us. For example, I was 25 when I married my husband, certainly not a kid anymore. Some of us don’t become military spouses until much later in life, think 40s or 50s.

Myth: We’re all female.

Real story: No. Just no. There may have been a time when this was true, but it’s not anymore. There are some kick butt military husbands now and they deserve far more credit.  Now more than ever there is greater diversity in the military spouse community and we need to celebrate it!

Myth: We don’t work.

Real story: I will admit that there may be a nugget of truth to this one, but not in the way you likely think. First of all, the work done at home counts as work, especially when you’re doing it all solo. We do not sit around and eat chocolate all day. But military spouses do face some major challenges when it comes to working.

According to the 2016 Blue Star Families Survey, 48% of military spouses are employed. But because of frequent moves, solo parenting and our spouses’ work schedules, we are often underemployed or go through long periods of unemployment.  Think about it: how easy would it be for you to find a good job with benefits that fits your skill level, education, experience and pay requirements when everyone knows you will likely have to quit within 2-3 years? Not too easy.

Myth: We knew what we were getting into.

Real story: Find me a military spouse who tells you that things worked out exactly as he/she originally planned and I will show you a unicorn made of cotton candy. The only thing you can be sure of with the military is that things are going to be unpredictable.

I don’t think any of us (military or civilian) go into anything, let alone a marriage, knowing 100% what will happen every step of the way. Why would a military marriage be any different? Did I have a general idea of what life would be like before I said “I do”? Yes. But did I know that my husband would be gone for more than half of our first two years of marriage and how hard that would be? No, I did not.

Myth: We always agree with our spouse’s boss.

Real story: Do you know who my husband’s boss is technically? The President of the United States. Do you know who I don’t always agree with? The President of the United States. The military community in general gets painted with a very conservative brush, as in that’s the way we all vote. That is decidedly untrue.

And it’s not just our current President. Anytime someone makes a decision that puts my husband’s life at risk, you can bet your bippy that I’m going to have issue with it.

Myth: We get to spend a ton of time with our spouse he/she is home from deployment.

Real story: Ha! My husband came home from his last deployment on a Saturday. I was back in the office on the following Monday and so was he.  Work does not stop when deployment is over. We both put in 40+ hour weeks even before you take into account trainings or travel.

Myth: We are constantly pregnant and have at least four kids.

Real story: Oh for heavens sake. No. So many of us don’t want children or want children, but can’t have children. Of all the military spouse myths, this is the one that bugs me the most.  Personally, raising a child in my husband’s current job climate scares the beejesus out of me.  And remember that whole “gone more than half the time we’ve been married” thing from earlier? Not all of us are constantly pregnant or even want to be pregnant.

We can thank the entertainment industry for a lot of the most common military spouse myths. But each military spouse can do his/her part in making sure folks learn the real story.  What’s the craziest military spouse myth you’ve come across and how did you set the record straight?