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military spouse

Military

Military Spouses & First Ladies

September 5, 2017

Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have seen my post about First Women by Kate Andersen Brower. I finished up the book late last month and loved it. It offers a really interesting look at modern first ladies, covering everyone from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama. Readers got to see how each woman handled motherhood, the spotlight and the responsibility of being married to the most powerful man in America.

As I read through each chapter, I couldn’t help but feel a connection to a lot of these ladies, not because I know what it’s like to be the first lady, but rather because I know what it’s like to be a military spouse. The more I read, the more I realized how much military spouses have in common with these well-known, powerful women.

#Militaryspouses have more in common with first ladies thank you would think. Click To Tweet

Both women give up a lot for their spouses’ career. 

As soon as their husband embarks on the campaign trail, the career paths of future first ladies are altered forever. Sometimes they have to give up their own aspirations entirely or face coming to grips with a drastically different version. Oftentimes, they feel that their duties are a bit token and don’t provide the same amount of satisfaction as their career. Military spouses basically face the same challenges. Finding a job (let alone a career) as a military spouse is an uphill battle.

Then when you factor in moving away from home, not seeing their spouse very often and all the other little changes, military spouses and first ladies know all about sacrifice.

Both women recognize their spouse may be in danger because of his job. 

The stories of Jackie Kennedy and Nancy Reagan are real enough to hit close to home for military spouses. Most of the first ladies profiled acknowledged living with a level of fear for their husbands’ safety. They would often kiss their loved one good-bye, not really knowing if they’d see them again. Military spouses do this before every single deployment.

Both women have to go through a significant learning curve when it comes to their husbands’ job. 

First ladies don’t really have any idea of what’s in store for them when they move into the White House and military spouses are oftentimes equally clueless. Both groups have to quickly learn on the job and roll with whatever punches are thrown at them. There isn’t really a manual, but just bits and pieces of advices from those who came before you and your own best judgement.

Both women have to stand up to quite a bit of scrutiny and ideas of what they should be.

A few days ago, there was a quite a bit of media buzz about First Lady Melania Trump’s shoe choice while visiting victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Would anyone give a flying flip if she was just some other person? Probably not. But that’s the cost of being first lady: people suddenly have all sorts of ideas about what you should do and when/how you should do it.

Like it or not, military spouses experience similar attitudes and stereotypes. But gone are the days where both groups embody 1950s housewife ideals. First ladies and military spouses have opinions, dreams and goals and aren’t afraid to share and pursue them.

Both groups of women are some of the most recognized and talked about groups in the country, but unless you’ve been one, most people can’t even begin to understand what their lives are like. After reading this book, I think military spouses should take heart in knowing that the first ladies probably understand them even better than we realize.

Have you ever come across a group of people that you have a lot in common with, even though they seem very different?

Military

Military Spouse Profile: Rebecca From What Rebecca Thinks

September 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.

Hi! I’m Rebecca, a freelance writer, Army wife, and mom of three. My day consists of coffee, reading in various forms, writing, and mother-ing. My wonderful husband and I strive to make life a learning experience for our kids, which currently has led to discussions about US geography, and Navajo code talkers at the dinner table.

When I have some time to myself, I enjoy quilting while listening to a good book, preparing freezer meals so I don’t have to cook each night, and getting back to the world of CrossFit. Did I mention I like coffee?

What inspired you to start blogging?

When I was working in Army transition assistance, it was a very hot topic in the community, and I was encouraged to write about it. Then I moved to military family issues and parenting.

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

I’m not a traditional blogger, as my writing mostly appears elsewhere, but I hope that when I bring military family issues to the eye of the general public, it helps to make the lifestyle a bit more understandable. Overall, my hope is to inspire and help readers.

What is your favorite part of being a military spouse?

The travel. I’m coming off a big move, after being in AZ for almost 5 years, and as hard as it has been to leave that life behind, it’s exciting to look forward. I love exploring a new place, setting up a new house, and spending that interim time with my family.

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

I married my husband about 4 years into his career. He’d already deployed twice to Iraq and I had no idea what was coming. The first year we spent together in a training environment. Then we went overseas. I “grew up” in Germany alongside some of the strongest spouses the military has ever known. From the day we left Germany, I have tried to be to other spouses what they were to me: a rock, a shoulder to cry on, and a resource.

We’ve had three kids, endured 4 deployments, numerous TDYs, and one very long and trying assignment. We’ve been married 10 ½ years, moved 5 times, gotten a degree each, and adjusted more times than I can count. There’s no question in my mind that this is where we are supposed to be, together.

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

Ask questions! Even the stupid ones. The more you know, the better prepared you will be.

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

Senior spouses. We owe so much to the ones who have blazed the path before us. They did all of what we do now (and more!) with so much less. The family programs we have now? They fought for.

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

Wiesbaden, Germany will always hold a special place in my heart. For the reasons mentioned above mostly. I loved living in Europe, finding myself, rooting my marriage, and starting my family there.

Just for fun:

  • Favorite Netflix binge-worthy watch? Anything related to the Tudors
  • What’s your favorite hobby? Sewing 
  • Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate!
  • Tell us a random fact about yourself. I love audiobooks, especially WEB Griffin books.

Many thanks to Rebecca for sharing her story! I have followed Rebecca for quite some time and am always blown away by what a great resource she is. If you’re a new military spouse (or even a seasoned one), follow her and learn from her experiences. Plus, her little ones are so stinking cute. You can find Rebecca on her blog, Facebook, TwitterPinterest and Instagram.

Military

Military Spouse Profile: Emileigh from Lead With the Left

August 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.

Hey, I’m Emileigh Rogers. I’m a twenty-something currently living in Missouri, and I love traveling and vintage fashion. My husband is an Air Force chaplain candidate with one year left in his Masters degree. I recently got accepted as an Air Force Public Affairs officer and am waiting for official training dates!

What inspired you to start blogging?

I actually started blogging about vintage fashion about four years ago to coordinate with an Etsy shop. I grew to love blogging itself, and as my husband and I start/continue our military careers we wanted a way to expound on that part of our lives, to connect with others in the military community, and keep our families in the loop. So now we co-author a blog for warriors and families called Lead With the Left.

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

I hope that people feel empowered for military life after reading our blog. I want to be honest about the struggles, but I always want to communicate a sense of hope and strength to handle whatever comes. Whether this comes from sharing my personal experiences, tips from more experienced warriors and family members, or lessons from history, I want people to walk away feeling a bit more understood, stronger, and ready to face the future.

What is your favorite part of being a military spouse?

I love the built-in connections you can have with complete strangers. I can talk to a new military spouse or a retired one with decades of experience and still feel a connection with both. It’s even better when that connection develops into a deep relationship.

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

My grandmother, who had married an Army veteran, always talked up military men and assured me, “There’s nothing so fine as a man in uniform.” Growing up, I was great with the idea of marrying a military guy, and later I began considering joining the military myself. When I met newly-enlisted Jacob, I changed my mind about the “Chair Force” and decided it was okay after all (ha!).   We ended up getting married three years later, and I connected with the military community at the seminary he is attending for his Masters degree. I felt out of place at first, but over time I’ve developed some of the deepest and strongest friendships I’ve ever had.

Before we married, I also brought the idea of joining the Air Force up to Jacob to see if he was supportive. He was very excited about the idea, and when the time was right I began my recruitment process. Happily, after a long process, I was finally accepted!

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

Don’t worry about what a military spouse is “supposed” to be. Just be who you are and allow yourself time to grow into the life. It doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a process. If you don’t seem to look/act/think like the other military spouses or bloggers or whoever you encounter and feel out of place… don’t worry about it. You’ll discover over time how you want to live military life and find places you thrive.

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

I have especially appreciated the help of the chaplain spouses I’ve met. Many of them feel just as called as their loved ones to care for the military community, and it shows in their thoughtfulness. The newer spouses are fun to discover military life with, and the older ones have given me invaluable advice and insight along my way.

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

So far we haven’t had to move for the military as Jacob and I won’t go active duty until his degree is completed or I finish training, whichever comes first. I’m dearly wishing to live overseas, but we’ll just have to wait and see!

Just for fun:

  • Favorite Netflix binge-worthy watch? Call the Midwife
  • What’s your favorite hobby? Sewing vintage clothing.
  • Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate, definitely.
  • Tell us a random fact about yourself. As a high schooler I lived in Egypt and Sudan with my family.

Many thanks to Emileigh for sharing her story! I love her unique style so much and think it’s awesome that she’s joining the military as well. I look forward to following her as she and Jacob become a dual-military couple.  You can find Emileigh on her blog, Facebook, TwitterPinterest and Instagram.

Books Military

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?