We Don’t Always Get to go Home

Pepere

This post is written with some heavy feelings today. I unfortunately had to say goodbye to one of the most amazing men in my life. A man who taught me the importance of being above all, a good person. He taught me compassion, humility, generosity, kindness, strength and patriotism. My grandfather (Pepere for our French family) died at 97 years old last week. It was at this time, that we not only said goodbye to a proud Veteran of the U.S. Navy, but one of greatest men from the greatest generation that ever lived.

As a support spouse, we often are confronted with the fact that when things happen to our loved ones, we don’t always get to go home. When my Pepere died, I was instantly selfish with the thoughts that I wouldn’t get to fly and celebrate his life with the rest of my family. I cried because I am going to miss him, but I also cried because I realized I didn’t get to say goodbye. It is times like this that I wish I didn’t live so far away. It is times like this when being in the military can make you feel so alone.

My circumstances are not to be pitied. I cannot have it both ways. I have truly had to learn this the hard way. I cannot be boasting at the fact that one second I get to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, just to turn around and curse the Coast Guard for sending me so far away from my family. We all have choices. Alaska didn’t need to be on our list. I wasn’t forced to marry Matt and he wasn’t forced to join the military. I am fully aware of the fact that this is the life I chose. I am just recognizing that there are two sides to ever coin and the grass can most definitely be greener on the other side.

For all those support spouses that miss a friend’s wedding, fail to make it to the funeral of a loved one or can’t be back to see their God child baptized, I send you a big hug. At times it doesn’t feel fair. It can be lonely serving your country. But, I promise you this, those things that you all miss, the family that doesn’t get to see you because your spouse is protecting our country, they all get to do what they do because of you and your spouse. They are living in a safer place because of the choice you made to join the military family.

I am so blessed to have a family who understands and supports us in our mission. I am also grateful knowing that my Pepere taught me the importance of serving our country and doing things for others. He wouldn’t be sad that I missed his funeral; I am confident he is proud of me for making good choices no matter how tough they are.

I Am Ready For More

10380301_10103028673336241_6418689711561044222_nI have been a support spouse for five years now!  Can you believe it? I can honestly say that I am much more comfortable in my roll as support spouse than I was when we were first married. There was a time when I wondered what I had gotten into- it seems like I was a different person then. It hasn’t been easy, but I am so excited to say that I have finally embraced my purpose and I am happy to share all the best things I have learned.

For one,  I am stronger than I thought I was. I learned, ironically, after getting married to the love of my life, how to be independent again. Being alone in person doesn’t mean I am lonely.  I understand now that I have an awesome job supporting my Coastie while keeping our home front strong.  I am better prepared for the deployments, I am wiser about my expectations from military life and I am even more proud every day of my husband and what we have accomplished.

Military life can make a person depressed if they let it. It is a lifestyle that doesn’t allow time for grieving.  No sooner have you met your new best friend, do you have to say goodbye and move to the next place. I have made some amazing relationships with other support spouses and it is because of their wisdom and love that makes this whole military life fun-not sad.  I am also very lucky to have the support from my family and friends that make my ever-changing life seem constant.

But, most importantly, I have learned what many before me have said: it is an adventure and the sooner I roll with it, the better the ride becomes. What surprises me the most about this adventure is how much I have come to need it. I grew up in a very stable small community in Vermont. I didn’t move out until I was 18 years old and I realize that I was quite dependent on my life not changing too much. It was the root of a lot of my anxiety and discomfort with change. Now? Well now I am the one ready to move to the next place and see what we can do there. The ups and downs of the Coast Guard life have made me a junkie for the change and I feel as though I am a better person for it.

Five years in comparison to the rest of my life isn’t that many. But, these five years have filled my heart with memories that are going to last a lifetime. I hope that to all those support spouses out there (no matter how many years you have in) realize that this adventure is exactly that. Stop waiting for things to change, don’t put your dreams on hold or wait for things to “get better”- make the most of it now. The military isn’t holding your family back, it is just giving you a new place to play out your dreams. I know it is tough to see the positives, but let 2016 be a year to embrace your job as a support spouse and celebrate your military anniversary. I appreciate your service!

 

A Military Career is a Career for the Whole Family

The other day, one of my (non-military related) friends asked me “You are always talking about your husband’s work and promoting his ship’s accomplishments, are all wives like that?”

I was so proud to say that yes, here in Seward, the other wives from our boat support and share the great successes of their husbands and the crew of the USCGC MUSTANG. It is truly remarkable to see the pride and excitement that the other spouses and their children have for the Coast Guard and the amazing job they do for our country.

It isn’t like that everywhere though. So this post is just a small reminder to those support spouses out there, that although we might not be the ones putting on the uniform, we have a job to do for the military too. We are the advocates and the journalists, the cheerleaders and the voices for those men and women who don’t have the ability or time to pat themselves on the back for the hard work they do.

It used to be that your marks or OERs reflected not only your work, but often mentioned your spouse as well. It was expected that not only did the military member do a good job, but that their spouse was responsible for making a good impression. So many support spouses volunteer their time and money to help those in the community in which they live because they of all people know first hand that we all need some help sometimes.

I recommend to all my support spouses, that you encourage each other to get together and volunteer throughout your community. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, but the more you show your face, the more people appreciate your spouses job. Write an article in the local paper, help out in the kid’s classroom, get involved in the YMCA or city recreational center. I have made a lot of friends by volunteering here in Seward, and I am proud to say that they all have a greater understanding of the Coast Guard because of it. The other wives of the MUSTANG are always helping others out and posting pictures of the great work their husbands do. They babysit for others, they lend a hand for pet sitting, they integrate themselves and kids into the community and they have made it so that the gap between military and civilian doesn’t have to be so big.

We may not be mentioned in the evaluations anymore, but we still have an important job to do. These communities see military families come and go all the time. We bust in on their lives, become friends and then sadly have to leave again. Wouldn’t it be great, if while our military spouses were out saving lives, to be back on the home front changing them? There are a lot of us and we can accomplish a great deal if we work together.

We may not have been the ones that chose to serve in the military, but chose to marry the ones that did. It may not be your career, but I guarantee that your spouses job is easier when you support them. We are stretched thin as it is so I know giving the extra time is tough. But, I promise you, there is always someone out there that needs your help. My husband, and his crew are always ready, but I am so proud to say that me and the wives are Semper Supportantes (always supporting)!

 

I Can Handle It All

 

Why is it that when an important appliance stops working in the house, it is usually while your spouse is deployed? Your handy, electrician-minded, plumber-going amazing spouse is gone and the wallet cannot afford the professional fix. This is when support spouses have to put on the super hero cape and save the day. I bet you didn’t know this, but we actually can handle it all.

We have all had days like this. It starts off with cranky kids, dog poop right in front of the door, a chore list a mile long and then…the dryer just stops working and flashes some weird code on the front. Once I get the image of me lighting a match to the whole house out of my head, I realize that I needed the dryer for the 10 loads of laundry staring at me from the floor. My procrastination of clean clothes has now ggod and handleotten me into a pickle and I don’t have the ability to get a hold of my husband to figure it all out. Half the battle with fixing appliances, is taking the time to find out what went wrong to begin with.

The title of this entry should have been “I Can Handle It All, as long as I have You Tube Videos”! Thanks to brilliant people posting troubleshooting videos online, I was actually able to figure out what happened with my dryer. After 30 minutes of being elbow deep, balancing on the edge of a step ladder, I took out the blown motherboard and ordered a new one.

Some of you reading this might be more mechanically inclined than I am. You might be thinking that this isn’t a big deal. But to me, it is. I got the replacement part, installed it and my dryer is as good as new. I didn’t have to have my husband here. As much as it would have been nice to have him handle it, it just once again shows that I need to have more faith in myself.

Support spouses amaze me with the amount that they handle in their every day lives. The kids, the chores, the bills, the house and the worst part, the loneliness are handled without complaint by some of the most unsuspecting people. They are handled like champs because support spouses are the strongest in the world. Doing it by yourself is tough, but knowing you can do it is the best feeling in the world.

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!