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military spouse

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?

Military

Military Spouse Profile: Lindsay from Uplifting Anchor

July 3, 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.

Hello, I’m Lindsay. I am a military spouse and the mother to one rambunctious toddler girl. Our family loves to travel and we’ve taken our suitcases all over the world. I find solace in writing, hearing the hum of my sewing machine, and getting lost in good books. I thrive on random living room dance parties and cooking up something comforting. I believe in supporting and strengthening the community we are in.

What inspired you to start blogging?

My first year of motherhood was incredibly humbling. My husband was deployed for my entire pregnancy, making it home just in time for the birth, and then deployed again when our daughter was only 3 months old.

We had faced deployments before, but never with a child. I felt lost, tired, unhappy, and hopeless. My daughter and I were miles from family, so I spent a great deal of time building a mom/military spouse support system.

That system expanded far and wide. I was impacted by other strong women that raised me up in a time of great need. The internet and the home base support that was built around me showed me how positive leaning into others can be. I want to continue encouraging those that walk a similar journey, and so a year after my daughter turned one, the blog was born!

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

Uplifting Anchor encourages mothers and military spouses. Readers should know that they are ALWAYS ENOUGH.

What is your favorite part of being a military spouse?

I have three favorites: travel, experiences, and community. We’ve seen an incredible amount of the world. My experience as a spouse has shaped me as a person. I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. I am also a person that has a hard time asking for help- but when I have needed it, our community knows how to rally for one another.

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

This could be an entire book! My husband and I have known one another since we were 17. The first plane ride I ever took was to see him graduate from boot camp. I then broke up with him because I did not want to be a military spouse. Even then, I knew only a small fraction of the sacrifices this lifestyle would entail. However, love won out. My heart could love no other. So here we are- almost nine years married and twelve years into his career.

We’ve moved four times, lived overseas three times, faced five deployments, and seen more than ten countries together. My down times have come when the sacrifices we’ve made have tested our marriage and challenged me personally and professionally. I’ve put the term “choose happiness” to the test. I firmly believe that we do have to choose and work for our own happiness, it does not just come.

My downs are also my ups, because each down has catapulted me through a great challenge and change. I can see the good on the other side of a dark time.

Moving overseas is always a roller coaster of emotions, and we have done it a lot! I would consider the times we’ve been overseas my greatest downs and ups as a spouse. I face a big choice during these times: to choose to make the best of it. When I make a positive choice, I can enjoy the adventure despite being far from family, American culture, and normal comforts.

I am grateful that I can make home wherever we are. I’m proud that I’ve found a way to keep a sense of self during this time. I’m also extremely proud of our marriage.

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

Do not shy away from educating yourself, knowing your resources, and getting help. I wasted many years (and so much effort!) in military spouse denial. The support you need is out there- please seek it.

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

  1. My family and friends are very supportive of our journey. We do not get to see extended family very often, but both set of parents, even into their mid-sixties, are so adventurous! I take heart knowing they will get on a plane to get to where we are. They’ve also answered countless defeated deployment phone calls, sent care packages, and just been the booster seats I’ve needed to get through tough times.
  2. I would also like to note that author/speaker/counselor Corie Weathers changed our lives. Her book Sacred Spaces lifted our marriage out of a hard time, and we make a point to listen to her podcast each month. It re-centers us.
  3. My own husband and our communication. Even in the hardest of times, we hang tight and lean in together. We are far from perfect, but he supports me and knows my heart.

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

Seoul, S. Korea- that overseas tour was amazing. We lived there two years and it solidified us as a couple. We only had each other and we saw all that the city had to offer. I was able to start my own dance program there. We made life-long friends, and I will always look back on that time with great fondness. It was an adventure of a lifetime.

Just for fun:

  • Favorite Netflix binge-worthy watch? The Crown!
  • What’s your favorite hobby? I love to embroider and quilt
  • Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate: always and forever. 
  • Tell us a random fact about yourself. I was a dancer on Carnival Cruise Lines

Many thanks to Lindsay for sharing her story! I love Lindsay’s mission to show her readers that they are always enough! I think that’s probably something that we all struggle with, but it may be a bit harder for military spouses, especially when the military comes first so often. You can find Lindsay on her blog, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Military

Why Military Spouses Make Great Friends

June 22, 2017

Dear civilian readers,

Please become friends with a military spouse. I know it may seem like we have a lot of drama in our lives, but that’s all Hollywood nonsense. You may think that we would make cruddy friends because of all the extra stuff going on. But that’s so not true! In fact, we make really good friends thanks to the lessons we’ve learned as military spouses.

We’re flexible.

I’m not sure you could find a more flexible friend than a military spouse. Have to change plans 15 times because of your work/kids/in-laws/hot water heater? No worries, the military just changed where we were moving 16 times so you’re still coming out on top.

We won’t be clingy. 

Our spouses leave for months at a time. We move halfway across the world where we know no one. We’ll be ok if you have a busy week at work and don’t return our text.

We have a pretty good sense of humor.

You don’t survive life as a military spouse without a sense of humor. When Murphy’s Law comes knocking during deployment, you have to laugh or you’ll straight up cry. We can find humor in every day situations, even when it seems like everything stinks.

We have random skills that could come in handy. 

Need something fixed around the house? Call us! Odds are we’ve had to fix it ourselves or know exactly who to call.  We’re resourceful, independent and most of us are fairly familiar with the contents of a toolbox.

If you don’t like us, no worries. We’ll move in a few years. 

Sometimes friendships run their course, but the person is still in your life every single day. You don’t have to worry about this with military spouses. Every few years, we pack up and move to a new spot, giving both of us chances to let the friendship fizzle out.

We’re good at maintaining relationships, even long distance.

But on the flip side of that, take comfort in knowing that we are very good at maintaining relationships, even when they are long distance. We’ve had plenty of practice staying in touch with people far and wide and will stick by you no matter how far apart we are.

So to all of my civilian readers: find that military spouse in your life and become friends! We may just be the best friend you’ve ever had.

What makes the military spouses in your life such good people to have as friends?

Military

Military Spouse Profile: Amanda From Airman To Mom

June 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.

I’m Amanda, former Air Force member and now military spouse and stay at home mom. I have two boys, ages 3 and 1. We currently live in Southern California, enjoying the beautiful weather and frequent trips to Disneyland. I blog about thriving in the transition from military to motherhood. I love finding way to inspire others through the transition.

What inspired you to start blogging?

The transition from military to motherhood was rough. My husband had to go to 8 weeks of training about 8 weeks after my first son was born. Those eight weeks were so hard and I was so lonely and pretty sure I was failing at motherhood. Through it I found blogs, the most influential being Lisa Jo Baker’s blog. I ended up joining her launch team for her first book, Surprised by Motherhood and by the time her book was released I joined the blogging world and started sharing my story. I wanted to encourage other moms.

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

You can do it. It doesn’t matter what you have done or what you are going through now. You can do it and you can thrive in the transition. It is going to be hard and you may fail a few times, but when you come out the other end you will be stronger from what you have gone through.

What is your favorite part of being a military spouse?

Getting to live in so many different places. Moving is a good and bad thing because you don’t really get to put down roots and when you do you have to move again. But I have made some amazing friends and I have loved learning and traveling this great nation of ours. I am dreading the next move, since we will be leaving my home state, but excited about what new friends and experience we will have for the rest of our military life adventure.

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

I started out as military spouse who was also serving in the military. I had a hard time finding my way between being a spouse and being in the service. Luckily my first base had a great spouse club and they loved me just the way I was. My second assignment I transitioned from military to motherhood and it was a really hard experience. I was so lonely. I knew people, but most of them knew me as military Amanda and not mom Amanda. And apparently the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. When we moved to LA, I was determined to make friends and fill the void I had felt. I got lucky and found friends quickly and have had so many amazing experiences at this assignment. It will be hard to leave and go on to the next adventure, but that’s the military way.

It has been hard to be on the other side of the military, when you are in your job is easy and you know a lot of the why and so you just do what you have to do. But I have realized how much harder it is to be a spouse to support your spouse when you don’t know the why and often have a harder job being left behind to take care of little humans who sometimes can suck the life right out of you. There isn’t a lot of hoopla for the spouses and they deserve so much gratitude and respect.

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

Be ready for the adventure and try to enjoy it. My husband keeps asking me where he should try to get the military to send us next, but I have realized it doesn’t matter where we go, but that we are together, which is one of the main reasons I didn’t stay in. Each base, small or big, in the middle of nowhere or in a big city all have things you can learn and see. I have made friends and seen so much at each assignment.

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

One of my friends who served with me in Afghanistan got out a few years before me. Her husband was also in the military so she was similar to me. I feel like she paved the way and gave me the confidence to actually get out. I have enjoyed talking to her now that we are both moms and have gone through so many similar experiences.

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

When I was deployed to Afghanistan I got a mid-tour break and my husband decided to meet me in New Zealand instead of having me go back stateside. It was an amazing vacation and one I hope we can do again with the boys when they are older.

Just for fun:

  • Favorite Netflix binge-worthy watch? I don’t watch a lot of tv, but I do currently like Scorpion and I used to watch Agents of Shield until it got a little weird.
  • What’s your favorite hobby? I love to run. I have run a handful of half marathons the past few years. I’m planning on doing three in 2017. I completed the first one in January at Disneyland.
  • Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate for sure!!
  • Tell us a random fact about yourself. Man, I used up all my go to facts in the interview. I normally say I was in the military. But I guess I will go with the fact I have been converted to a crazy Disney person since we moved to LA. Last month we went every weekend so we could get special buttons. Only crazy people do that and I am one of them.

Many thanks to Amanda for sharing her story! People often forget that you can be a military spouse and a member of the military at the same time.  I’m glad folks like Amanda are sharing their stories. You can find Amanda on her blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.