2015- A Kinder Year

I grew up with three older brothers. Although we have great relationships now, there was a time when arguing was our normal conversation. When I was angry, I would let them know, sometimes by yelling, other times by trying to inflict any pain I could being half their age and strength! I have had to learn over the years that being angry and screaming are not always the best solutions for issues that arise. There is an art to dealing with mean people and those that make you mad; however, it isn’t always easy.

I bring this up because a couple of weeks ago, I became very angry after reading a post on the Coast Guard spouse Facebook page. One spouse posted a simple question looking for some help. You would think that fellow spouses would simply answer the question and want to help another Coastie dependant. Well, I was shocked to see a snarky and caddy remark underneath the question. I cannot recall the exact answer, but this person explained that they were tired of hearing the same old questions and they now need a shot of booze to deal with it. Obviously this remark was sarcastic and meant to be funny. However, it was extremely rude.

Why on earth, would someone think that is okay or even funny to respond like that to a spouse in need? It enraged me and it apparently did other people as well. The conversation was sparked and people began sharing their opinions on the matter and the rude spouse. I saw one question suddenly have over 100 responses of how annoyed people were. Some said threatening and awful things in return. It got out of control really fast. I was happy that my contribution was not angry, but supportive and positive of keeping things classy. I truly had learned from my younger days that tact can go a long way. But, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t still pissed off!

We support spouses have a lot to deal with every day. We juggle our lives, sanity and happiness too much to have caddy remarks thrown at us by our Coast Guard family. We should always build each other up and encourage those to reach out when needed. It is important to be kind to one another; after all, we are the ones that know what each other needs.

So, in 2015, I think we should make a pledge to be kinder to one another. I am not saying we will end the wars and peace on Earth will commence (although that would be nice). But, I am encouraging us support spouses to be nice to each other. If for nothing else, but that we understand our situations. Our husbands/wives, work side by side for the same mission, the least we can do is make the home front a pleasant place to be.

It isn’t always easy, as we are all human. Some people are just really good at making others mad. But, let’s be an example to one another. No matter how mad people make you, try to be kind; and trust me, I know it’s tough to use that edit button!

 

Celebrate In Style

Tis the season to party! Support Spouses, if you were thinking about having some of the crew over to celebrate the holiday season, I loudly encourage it. Go big or go home and have a large party. It isn’t often that we stop to treat ourselves to fancy foods, full-belly laughs and fully stocked bars! With our year being filled with deployments, skyping dates, hectic schedules and stressful jobs, it is important to hold a gathering that allows your military members to feel the glow and magic of the holidays.

We are only six months into our new Alaskan life and I am happy to say that we have made some wonderful friends. With the boat going in and out quite frequently, I have been lucky to have such a big support group here in the Seward community. I thought it would be a good idea to say thank you to our new family here with a big Christmas party. Well, my husband would say that  “big” was an understatement! But, us support spouses don’t do anything half-ass :)

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We invited about 150 people and are happy to say that about 80 came to celebrate with us at our home. Some might say I was crazy because I hired a caterer, spent God knows how much money and even moved furniture out of my house so that I could make room for our guests. I never even blinked an eye. It is important for us military families to get out there and be a presence in the communities we live in. We come to these places, move in, use resources, make friends and then just leave in two years. We often don’t leave roots and the locals can feel the repercussions of our lifestyles. I wanted to throw a party that people would remember.

In addition to saying thank you, this party was also for our Coasties to enjoy some time together being that the only mission of the night was to relax and have fun. Yes, they spend a good amount of time with each other every day at work, but parties allow for the spouses to come together and see the interaction. We need to understand how they all work together. It allows for better bonds and stronger trust. A unit isn’t just the men and women on the front line, it is the second and third line at home too.

I hope you all had the opportunity to go to a soiree this holiday season, and remember it isn’t too late to throw one if you want. Don’t be shy my support spouses, everyone loves free food and drinks! The only thing that might be tough, is getting them to actually leave!

Happy Holidays!

Finding the Balance

It’s that time of year again! The time of year where holidays are right around the corner, the days seem shorter and the money just seems to leave the bank as soon as you put it in. This time of year is when we really get stressed out and stretched thin. No matter how many coffees we drink during the day, when our head hits the pillow, we are left feeling that there will never be enough hours in the day to get it done. It is a time when many of support spouses find ourselves not quite balanced.

Since moving to Alaska, I told myself that I was going to be as busy as I could be to avoid the depressive moods of the dark winters. My goal was to be too busy to care what the weather did outside. I have accomplished that goal but somehow, I haven’t been feeling accomplished. I got the job I wanted, I joined the clubs I liked, I get to hang out with wonderful friends and volunteer in spare time. At first, I was really adjusting well and settled in nicely. Then, as committee meetings started up more, work needed me extra hours, volunteer sessions increased and every other night there was a function to attend, I found myself running a little ragged. My plan of avoiding too much empty time, left me with no time at all.

As support spouses, I have mentioned before, we run a household and usually we run our social life too. I was dragging my husband to events he didn’t sign up for, and he was asking me to do things I didn’t particularly want to do. At the end of the day, we were both getting grumpy at each other. We were so busy with our independent lives, that we were not spending any time with just each other. I waited for this man every second he was deployed for the last year to only to finally live together but not see each other!

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With the wishy-washy schedules of the military life, the uncertainty of holidays, the long nights filled with phone calls and emergencies, support spouses need to not only schedule their work, volunteering and clubs, but they need to schedule the most important thing, time with their spouse. I know that I won’t always have that complete balance in life, but I will always have the support of my husband and there is nothing tough about that!

 

 

Boy, Was I Wrong!

I mentioned in a previous post that Matt and I were moving to Alaska. I know I mentioned that I was nervous, but I don’t think that I shared how uninterested in Alaska I was when we found out. In fact, I was angry thinking that I was going to some remote, cold and lonely place far away from family. Well, I am here. It is remote, it will get cold…but I couldn’t be happier. I was wrong to think the worse, because Seward, Alaska is the BEST!

Because military families move so much, we get to experience living in so many different places. Some states/countries we cannot wait until we get there only to find out after two years that it wasn’t what we expected. Or, like me, you don’t want to go somewhere and end up falling in love with it. It is why we have to learn not to set any expectations and only worry about what we can control.

What I can control is that I get to go fishing every day. I get to hike up gorgeous mountains and be blinded by thousand-year old glaciers sparkling in the sun. I get to meet the friendliest people while working at an amazing aquarium all day. I have made unforgettable friends in our two months living here and I am more at home in Seward than I have been in some time. Matt and I hit the jackpot being assigned to live here.

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Getting to Seward took us about 17 days from Virginia. I could go into each stop and share wonderful road trip stories and woes, but I will say that we arrived safe and all our stuff got here. What I will share with you is that this small community in rural Alaska has given me a fresh breath. It has brought out my patriotism and encouraged me to blossom as a support spouse.

The citizens of this town are the true kind of Americans I have talked about before. They are not the ones that just hang the flag on July 4th but instead are the ones that go out of their way to help each other. They take care of our crew members on the MUSTANG and welcome us with open arms. They share out loud the appreciation they have for our troops and they mean every word. They cook dinner for the soldiers, donate money to help the new guys settle in and they make sure we have everything we need. It is nice to take a break from the bureaucracy of DC and get to the real patriots of this country. We are on our own out here and we will survive because we are a family.

Okay, okay, it has only been a couple of months and winter hasn’t blessed us yet with 18 feet of snow (as apparently it did a couple of years ago). But, there is no better way to start our life here than to start it full on and head first. We are making this one hell of an adventure eating every bit of salmon we can. This time folks, there is nothing tough about it!

Appreciation for the Support Spouse

Today is Military Spouse Appreciation Day! A day to outwardly recognize the work and dedication that spouses of military members give so that our men and women in the uniformed services can fight and protect our freedom and our lives. On this day, the humble wife or husband that has sacrificed so much for our country is finally thanked for always being second in line.

I always use the term “put on the back-burner” to describe the life of a support spouse. It is very common for military spouses to put many things in their life on hold. Whether it is leaving school early, quitting their job ten different times for each move, opening their home to other spouses for social gatherings, sleeping alone night after night when their spouse is deployed or just tabling dreams of vacations and travel until they can finally afford it off the modest military paycheck. Sure, the support spouse had a choice to marry into the military, but I don’t see everyone making that choice, so it must be a hard one.

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Marrying into the military isn’t for everyone. I have had many of my friends and family say “I don’t know how you do it.” I can only explain to them that I married the man I love and the rest is going to be one big adventure. It isn’t easy. Many support spouses I know balance being a therapist to their friends, a mother to their children, a strong voice to their deployed member and on top of it, they find time to smile and volunteer to help others in need. I am grateful for the support spouses in my life and the examples that I have to learn from.

There is a sense of true pride that comes with being married to someone in the military. I cannot describe the feeling I get when I hear our National Anthem now. The flowing American flag waving in the wind looks different to me now that I am a military spouse. My priorities are different and my life is better. I swear a lot more as my husband is a sailor! I find myself more patient and understanding. I respect hard work and appreciate my freedom. All of these things are hard to explain but when you marry into the military, you find yourself part of something much bigger that just ourselves. I don’t mind being put on the back burner, because back there I can see everything going on to appreciate it. I am in love with my military member and I am grateful that I get to serve my country with him.

So, thank you to all those military support spouses out there. Our men and women fighting could not do what they do without you supporting them. It isn’t always easy, but it is worth it.

It All Works Out in the End

They say that the three most stressful things in a person’s life are: moving, children and money. I can attest to the moving. You would think that things get easier over time considering that military members move almost every two years. You would think that by now, I would have a system down. But, I think many support spouses would agree, every move is different.

The time between now and my last post is not due to laziness. I swear. It is because I have been performing my support spouse duties of getting ready for our big move to Seward, Alaska! In my opinion, the military system to move members and their families is a mess. In the civilian world, you can call the company you want to use, schedule a pick up and delivery and get your goods on time. In the military world, you have train yourself using an online system that is supposed to handle all the logistics of your move. Your information is put into this system and from there four or five different companies get involved only to book a company that probably won’t get your household goods to your destination on time. You see, Matt and I have three separate moves going to Alaska, so I have to call every single step of this process and demand that my dates are respected. I have had to weed through the bullshit excuse of it is “peak season” and they might be a month and half late!!!!!! I even had one lady say to me: “Oh don’t worry, you can go to Wal-Mart and pick up a couple of things to get by.” To which my response was “The moving company is paying for me to travel to the nearest Wal-Mart that is 2.5 hours away to buy pots, pans, towels and clothes that I already have in my house hold goods?” There was a brief silence on the other end of the phone not to my surprise because I think she had just put her foot in her mouth. Idiot. Needless to say that I have micro-managed the crap out of the move.mil system and I feel like after this ordeal, I could be hired to work for the damn system.

I am not going to use this whole post to complain about the endless hours spent on finding a house to rent in a 2600 person town with no options. I am not going to complain about getting a health screening done for a move to a place that is in the United States and I am not going to complain about the stress that it puts on me while my husband is away- I won’t do it. I am not going to complain not because it doesn’t stink to do this, but because I know that in the end, everything will work out. My husband is going to return home after being gone for a year. We are going to drive 16 days cross-country and end up in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. We are going to pull into our new driveway, we are going to breathe the fresh mountain air and we are going to be together. Even if we have to eat canned tuna and apples every day until our stuff comes- at least we have each other. My advice to any support spouses going through the same thing is to just remember what is important. Yes, we want our belongings, but all our things do not mean anything if you don’t have your spouse to share it with. Embrace what we can control and pray that what we cannot will work out. Good luck this transfer season to all my hard-working support spouses- I know it’s tough.

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Home Is Where The Coast Guard Sends Us

This post is long overdue. I guess I was trying to be in the right mood to share the news that my husband and I are going to be moving to a small town called Seward, Alaska. I use the phrase “right mood” because the news of moving to a town that has a population of 2600 that is thousands of miles from the East Coast took me through a whirlwind of emotions and I needed to process everything before I could share.

As support spouses, we all know the feeling of transfer season. The feeling of waiting, anticipating, yearning and hoping that the detailer will call and tell you that you have gotten your first pick and you will live happily ever after. Hah! No, the real transfer season is filled with gut wrenching anxiety of where you will be shipped off to next and how you will get everything done in the two months that you have. It is a time when you can feel like you literally have no control over the next big decision in your life. I learned this very quickly over the last month but I also learned that in times like these there are things we can do to make it easier.

First of all, I learned that moving to Alaska is not the end of the world. It is a two year stint in a gorgeous place where I will be closer to my childhood roots of growing up in Vermont. I will get to fish, hunt, ski, travel and meet new people who all live there too! Secondly, where was my sense of adventure? Had I become such a control freak that I left no room to try new things? In the military life, we don’t have much control over where we go and when our spouses will be coming home. But, we do have control over how we handle things and I need to remember that I have the ability to make this move a great and wonderful thing in my life. I have control over my happiness and our success in Alaska. And finally, I forgot to think about the fact that this assignment was a true testament to my husband’s ability as an officer. He was given a billet that allowed him to have his first Command as a Lieutenant. I am a proud wife and I need to show my support. I said yes at that alter to a man I knew served his country first and foremost. Now, at a time when he needed my understanding, I was being selfish. Support spouses aren’t allowed to be selfish and certainly not about things like this.

So, I remind myself today and will everyday, that I have to learn to be more flexible. I have to learn to appreciate what I do have in my life and count my blessings. I need to learn to control the things I can and then accept the things I can’t. I am excited for Alaska and I look forward to the day when I don’t want to leave. So, for all of you that received unwanted news this transfer season, I know it’s tough; but, try to keep positive.
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