Three things we’ve learned in our six months “aboard” NAS Pensacola
“But, you’re Army!” is a phrase I heard on repeat in the weeks leading up to our move from the desert of Arizona to the beaches of Florida. It’s a phrase that changed slightly to, “Army? What are you doing here?” when we arrived in Pensacola and started meeting people.
Yup, we’re an Army family, living a little bit of the Navy life down here in Pensacola, Florida. Home of the Blue Angels, naval aviation, and a few Army families.
We embraced the change, coming off of almost five years at our last duty station. We knew it would be a short stay in Florida and we were set on making the most of it. We wanted to explore, spend time as a family, and really take the time to catch our breath before the next stop on the roller coaster.
It is a little different living in a Navy town, shopping at the NEX, and hearing jets all the time. There are some things I really miss about Army installations and there are things I don’t. My kids have had the hardest adjustment, as they really only remember our last installation and now they are surrounded by people who “sing a different song” and “like the wrong football team.” Here are some of the things that have really stood out to us the past few months.
There really is a difference in amenities.
I thought that people were pulling my leg when they said the Navy has better amenities. They weren’t. While the housing here is nothing to write home about, the commissary, NEX, and even the bowling alley are really nice. Really nice! They even have a library, with a summer reading program, pools with swimming lessons, and the navy lodge sits right on the beach.
They also have a lot of events for families that are completely free. And only for ID card holders. Our last installation opened up those events to the general public, which was nice for community relations, but it is nice to be around your own people every once in a while.
We’ve learned to speak Navy. A little.
“Welcome aboard, NAS Pensacola.” I giggled. My kids giggled. It’s so funny to hear that when you’re driving onto an installation, but it’s also great to learn about the traditions of other branches. I’ve also learned quite a bit about the training process for naval pilots, as I work out with flight students at the local CrossFit gym. My kids have a harder time with this as they are very devoted Army kids, and they now attend a school with a giant anchor and who call themselves the “Caro Captains.”
During school orientation, a teacher asked my daughter what bus she would ride. She responded with “The Anchor bus,” to which the teacher said, “Oh, just like our song.” My daughter quickly replied, full of seven-year-old sass, “Not OUR song.”
We miss the Army.
I never thought we’d say that out loud! After a long, hard assignment we were ready for a break from the day-to-day. Or so we thought. But we love our Army family, and we miss them! I’m sure the Navy has this community too, but being here for such a short time and living out in town, we really struggle to make those same connections.
Wherever we had moved after being in Arizona for almost five years was going to be hard. I’m truly grateful we have this interim period where we are able to figure out how to not be in AZ without settling down yet.
Why is it so difficult to be nice to ourselves? Military life already comes with enough change and challenge: loving ourselves has to become a daily practice we honor.
My journey of true self love began five years ago. A friend of mine hit me over the head and heart with one line that has stayed with me forever. We were marching in the cold, blustery winter wind of South Korea and I was lamenting to her about how lazy I had been lately.
I had not finished the dreams I had planned, I had snapped at my spouse, my jeans were swelling around my swollen too-many-treats-holiday-thighs. My voice bemoaned the pendulum I was swinging on: loving overseas life yet also mad at myself for feeling down and out about missing my culture. I had all I needed, what in the hells bells was wrong with me?
She let me complain, vent, and air this vulnerable side of self-hatred for a few more minutes and then grabbed my wrist. Turning me toward her, she grabbed both of my mitten-clad hands in hers.
“Please stop talking about my friend this way.”
Her honesty made the tears well up to my eyes, my exhausted chest heaved a strangled sigh, and I buried my face in her shoulder for a good sob.
She was right. Why was it okay for me to talk about myself this way? I was not just airing grievances that day; I was belittling my feelings and grinding myself down into the dirt. In no way was I approaching myself with kindness, generosity or the grace that I freely extended to others.
It has been 5 years since we were stationed in Seoul, and 3 years since I have hugged that friend in person. But her words have always sat at my mind’s table, ever present in an honorary seat; never to be forgotten. It has taken a good deal of growing up and the humbling experience of motherhood to make me a friend to myself. I look at my daughter now and shudder to think she could ever carve herself down to bits like I have before.
How can we break the cycle? How can we start treating ourselves with the utmost respect, kindness, and heartfelt curiosity about our feelings/thoughts/actions?
I wish I could give you an easy road to travel or a book to read, a podcast to listen to or a magic 5 step program. But it isn’t about those things. For me, it’s about love. It is about pouring the same love into me that I willingly give to others. It’s easier for me to care about others, and while that is noble, it also means that I’m often leaving myself behind: empty, exhausted, and full of weary sadness and anger.
We don’t have to live this way. Military life is fraught with obstacles most outside our circle cannot fathom how we get through. We find resiliency of spirit, and the amazing experiences offered by this journey can open our hearts and mind to the world and others in beautiful ways.
But there are chapters where we grit our teeth while carrying the load, feet dragging, and armor up. In those chapters is where we must find self-care and self-love. We must acknowledge that we are important and that not only can we get through a tough time and come out stronger- we could also get through it nurturing ourselves along the way.
This is when some of us shrug and say, “But there’s no time.” I was you. I didn’t think I could squeeze one more ounce of anything into those deployment heavy days. But I learned self-care and loving me need not be lengthy. It needs to be a choice.
I choose to speak kindly to myself. I choose to cheer myself on. I choose to call a battle-buddy and let her know when I am flailing, she can help me stand. I choose love above beating myself down. In turn, it helps me love others better. It helps my spouse serve the way he needs to, knowing I am no longer hiding behind the excuses that I’m not worth it/I’m too busy/I can’t.
The only thing excuses do are withhold the love I need from me.
Burn-out, exhaustion, heart sick, anxiety, and depression: these are real emotions and hurdles of military life. We cannot ignore them nor hide them for long. I know we are all doing our best to take the very best care of our families, but we also have to do it for ourselves. Love yourself milspouse- with the same care and kindness you give others.
Sitting Across from You: Making Space in Our Marriage for US
In the crowded restaurant there is a steady hum of conversation. Glasses clink, pots and pans bang behind the swinging kitchen door, the atmosphere beats with a lively pulse. We’re out on a Friday, and it feels pretty great. Even with the swell of noise around us, it seems oddly quiet. There’s no giant toddler voice laden in attention grabbing giggles or heavy hearted sobs to fill the air. It is strangely calming to be in this space where we aren’t needed by anyone else but each other.
Recently we’ve been making this time for each other. It has not been easy. We have discovered as our child’s primary caregivers, she struggles letting us go. There’s a good and bad side to being a stay at home mom, this is the bad side. She is still pretty attached to her small world that is us. Which means these times where we can get out and get the sitter is good for ALL of us. We know it’s for the best, but I still cringe and carry heavy guilt with me until we are out the door.
But once we are out- it’s a good, good thing. On the walk to the restaurant we link arms. I shiver. You give me your coat. It’s almost a decade into our marriage and you still wrap your coat around me. You even pause to zip it up for me. I love this. I love us.
Sometimes I forget us. Not even sometimes- for a whole two years we morphed into sad ships in the night. Barreling past one another on choppy seas, hanging on to our tipping decks and hoping the storm would pass soon.
We are in a marriage chapter where the seas have quieted. I can hear you again. I can see you. We may have more salt water in our veins now, but it just means we are both better captains and mates.
Sitting across from you allows me to see you. I can note the one eye of yours that crinkles slightly more than the other when you smile. I can feel the roughness of your calloused hands beneath mine, how good it is to hold your hand. You look really handsome all dressed up, dressed up for me.
I have known you for so long now. I know you will order something better than me and give me bites. We’ll skip dessert for another drink, and revisit some of our best past meals.
Normally we’d be Netflixing, my head resting on a couch pillow in my comfiest sweats. You would be rocking those man slippers you love so much, and we’d hunker in for an evening of another Marvel comic-movie-make. It would be satisfying and cozy.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong or lacking in our at-home dates. But to get OUT of the house I work in all day, and to take my mom hat off for a few hours feels really, really good.
Sitting across from you means we are sharing dreams again. We are talking about what was and what is next. I feel like I know you again. I feel like I know things about me again to share.
I like how you get the check and even though it’s all our money now, you still “take care of it” and open the door for me as we leave. Yes, I can be both an independent woman and delight in your chivalry.
On the walk home, I ask you what some of your greatest joys are right now. You surprise me by talking about us. How this time we are spending together is like laying bricks, and our foundation is growing strong. I can feel the time between us, a million memories spun and not all of them good, some of them plain old painful and exhausting. But all of our times adding to who we are, right now, in this moment, in this place. Where will we go from here?
I hope another restaurant, or back to our cozy couch, stealing seconds to be still together. I’m refreshed and in love all over again, getting to sit across from you.
My mother in law’s arms completely enveloped me, pulling me in tight, and squeezing me with warmth. She already had confidence in me. She told me that he never brought girls home. I was the very first. If he loved me, he was not doing so lightly. She trusted his judgement.
Our relationship grew steadily from there. I always wanted to impress her, she seemed so steady to me. The matriarchal rock of the family who could work all day long and come home to get a beautiful (presentation always counts in delightful serving bowls) dinner on the table.
We spent three hours together in the car, in the rain, waiting for him to get done with his first admission fitness test. I was nervous to spend that much time alone with her- but we never ran out of things to say. He had decided to join the United States Marine Corps. Our lovebird hearts were eighteen years old.
When boot camp graduation rolled around, she spotted him in formation first. I could not see him. My heart fluttered with panic that I did not know which shaven-headed man was mine. I felt a flicker of jealousy that she knew which one he was. It’s only years later that I understand: you know your child anywhere.
That day she stepped back so that he could hug me first.
On the ride home, I rested my head on his foreign shoulder. We were nineteen now, and somehow he no longer felt like mine. That Christmas we tried to reacquaint ourselves. His family’s home felt as cozy as ever. Her hugs were the same: inviting and warm, assured like I was not.
We broke up in the summer. It was hot, lonely, and my heart both broke but knew I had to see if I could love anyone but him.
It was the right thing at the time, but I felt I had lost a whole tribe of people. I had lost her too. Two years passed by and the winds of change swept through our lives. We became twenty-one year olds, dated terrible people, and both had a thoughtful year of being single.
I kept a shoebox of his notes, photos and ticket stubs. A hundred whispered memories. Had I let him go too soon?
Our hearts came back together after a phone call on his first deployment. It was another hot summer but instead of heart break it was filled with phone calls at 2 a.m., and hope for the future.
I called her once we were officially back together. I felt like I owed her an apology. I needed her to know how much I missed her. I needed to know her warm hug would be waiting for me again.
It was, and under her roof we got engaged. She left champagne and chocolate in the guest bedroom for us that night. We poured glasses and toasted- bubbles of well wishes and welcoming me to the family fold.
Seven days later we eloped, with the promise of another wedding when the deployment ended. When we arrived at the courthouse she had sent him a boutonniere to pin on his suit, and a bouquet of roses and lilies for me. She knew I dreamed of a white and red wedding.
During those nine hard months of being newlyweds but never together, she answered every tearful phone call from me.
She and my father-in-law have visited us in two different states and two different countries. I have dumped my bags on the wooden floors of their home more times than I can count. Our friendship has been growing steadily over the past nine years of my marriage. Over those years I’ve still ached to impress them.
My own mother became an easy friend to me after college. A best friend- a light on my darkest days, a hope I now have with my own daughter. My mom already knew all of my ugly bits; she raised me for better or for worse. It’s true that despite my incessant perfectionist nature- gasp! – I am human after all.
My friendship with my mother-in-law became real when I finally allowed her to see me in the raw.
Our bouncing blue-eyed beauty arrived into our lives with a yelp and a full head of raven hair. I loved her with an immediate fierceness you do not understand until you become mother. The first two weeks were dreamy, and then reality sunk in. The sleepless nights were wearing me down. My milk was a failing hardship that brought me deep grief and guilt. I could not feed my daughter. I was a shadow of myself when our reinforcements arrived.
When they walked in the door, my mother-in-law hugged me. Mushy, new-mom body me. Full of hormones and dark circles, she started to repair me. They were our first visitors after baby, and she knew what to do. In her quiet way, she scrubbed dishes and vacuumed rugs. She gently forced me upstairs to shower and sleep.
She got us all into the car to watch the sunrise, and also to be in poop up to her elbows for our daughter’s first major blowout in her car seat.
She sat with me and rubbed my back at the lactation consult, and revealed how she had trouble breastfeeding too. Our foreheads together, she let me cry and let me know whatever choice I made would be okay in her book.
They were there just in time for the work-up for the next deployment. My Mr. was leaving, in the middle of my bruised breasts and broken spirit. They stayed with me.
At 2 a.m., she woke up with me. She sat with me in silence on the couch. A calm warrior carrying the strength of her own three children, and six grandchildren. She did not judge or balk when my hot tears of frustration fell again and again. She simply wrapped me up in one of her hugs and allowed the weight of new motherhood to fall balanced between us.
It was in that first month of motherhood that I stopped trying to impress her. Some days I wish it had not taken me so long. Her hugs have always told me I am worthy of her love.
I am her daughter and always will be. There is a love between us, a friendship built now over blessings and open wounds.
Are you making bright and shiny new goals for the New Year? Dusting off your resolve to try/be/change into something else? Or perhaps just surviving as we swing into 2018? Wherever you are at- I challenge you today to honor it. I challenge you to CELEBRATE it.
I’m working in that very same tough, hard, soul-digging place right now. Honoring where I am and knowing that I have come a long, long way from last year.
That is why I want you to sit down and take just 5 minutes this month to do a journaling exercise. I even included a fancy-schmancy printable if you happen to be near a computer/printer. If not, just write this on a piece of paper:
Good Job Mom: 2017
Got it? Good! Next, I want you to make a list of awesomesauce mom things you accomplished last year. No feat is too small! To inspire you, I went ahead and added my own below. Here’s why you need to do this as we kick of 2018:
You are already mastering the job that is most important in your life: serving your family.
You do this job 365 days a year, and whether you work in/out/around on top/beside/whatever/ of your home- this mom-job is 24/7. It’s our main deal. But with everything else to manage on top of momming, it is really easy to forget what great work we are doing!
Being a parent is not something that comes with a pay raise or a prize. But it does come with tremendous, heart squeezing love, devotion, and hopefully a side of silliness from time to time that helps us get out of bed in the morning.
I frequently feel like I’m failing, multiple times a day. I felt like that too much in 2017. It perhaps came from the stage we were in (toddler town!), but I also think it came from being IN it, full-on-mom-mode all the time. I admit it was/is hard for me to step back and realize all the things I am getting right. It is exhausting to be a roller coaster, and so I’m stepping off.
I will not live in a state where I can never see what good I am doing.
I will not live a life that only celebrates my successes in a career. As much as I love working, my main work is what happens in my home.
We can change how we see ourselves, one shared joy at a time. Today I’m celebrating All the wonderful ways I am rocking motherhood.
Join me! Let’s celebrate All the ways YOU are rocking motherhood. If you feel like sharing your good job mom, just tag it! #goodjobmom2017, I can’t wait to read your celebration of motherhood. Way to go mama~ cheers to US!
Here’s my Good Job Mom 2017:
We actually accomplished potty training.
We kept up the potty training on a family trip to Italy- it is pretty hilarious to think back at us popping out the travel toilet around the ancient walls of Pompeii!
I slowly cut back her pacifier. Hubby wanted us to cut her off cold turkey by my instinct was to gradually trim the tip back. It took us about 6 weeks, but eventually it was trimmed down to the nub, and she threw it away herself!!
We finally decided that homeschooling was for US right now. After a lot of sitting on the fence, it felt good to pick a side.
However, ^ continuing to stay at home with our daughter also helped us get secondary childcare for a few hours a few days a week. I am getting better at not trying to kill every hour away from her with work. There were a few days I actually went out to lunch or *gasp* just read a book alone in my bed! Goodbye mom guilt- I’m so much better when I get just a few moments away.
I’ve always had the hope of being a mom-maker. This year I honored that and made her a quilt as well as our Halloween costumes.
She knows about God because I stopped pushing God away and fell back in love with faith.
We went away (just my husband and I) on a six day, five night journey. It was incredibly hard to leave her, but it was amazing for the two of us. Being a “good” mom to me also reminds me to be a great wife.
I make sure to call our family, frequently so she can continue to have a relationship with her grandparents.
We moved around the world. And set up a new home. We keep loving each other through each challenging step.
Looking at this list, perhaps these are my real rewards from last year. As gratifying as it is to move forward with writing and my own goals, above feels like a list of my life. The living, breathing life that surrounds me daily.
My goal for motherhood in 2018 is to embrace my word, “flow”. I will continue to lead by example BUT make sure that I am not taking a break only when I am finally burnt out.
What can I celebrate with YOU today mama? What is your goal as a mom for 2018?
Grab your free reflection sheet below:
This print is my new motivation for 2018. You can get it for free by joining the UA mailing list:
Why Delaying a Honeymoon can be the Best Idea for a Military Couple
When I met and married my husband Chris, I knew our lives would be anything but normal. Before we were even married we had already dealt with deployments, time in the field, long work hours, PCS’s and even living wills. What normal couple does that? And when we got engaged we played the “when can we actually set a date for a wedding?” game. He was going to Europe until April and PCSing in June, so that left May! We scheduled a wedding in Savannah, Georgia in 2015 and it all went off without a hitch.
But there was one thing missing. We didn’t plan a honeymoon. Honestly, we didn’t even think about it. Our wedding was on May 24 and on May 27 we had to start driving from Georgia to Arizona for a PCS. There was no time for a honeymoon! Literally! Right after our wedding, we packed up the cars and drove to Arizona which I called a “road trip honeymoon.” But the stress of moving and getting to a new post didn’t really make it seem like the honeymoon I’d always dreamt of. But I knew we would plan a honeymoon eventually.
It would be almost three years later until we were able to plan real honeymoon. Deployments, more PCS’s, and life just got in the way.
But looking back, I’m so glad we had to wait to plan a honeymoon. Because it turned out wayyyy better than I thought. Here’s why:
We saved money:
By waiting a few years we were able to save up more money and splurge a little more. Right after we were married we probably wouldn’t have been able to afford an overwater bungalow in Tahiti, but with a little savings we were able to splurge.
We had more time:
Sometimes honeymoons can be rushed since most people have to get back to work or only have a limited amount of days off. We were able to save leave days and time off for three years in order to take a three-week honeymoon. It was soooo worth it.
We were well-rested and stress-free:
Leaving right after you say “I Do” can be quite stressful. You are planning a wedding AND a honeymoon at the same time. You have to pack and make travel arrangements at the same time you are ordering a cake and flowers. When we planned our honeymoon we were already married so all we had to do was plan the trip! And we weren’t leaving the Sunday after our wedding, when we were exhausted.
We were able to spend time with family after the wedding:
Since we had a destination wedding, all of our family had traveled to attend our wedding. On the day after our wedding we were able to spend time with our family and reflect on the wedding instead of jet-setting off on the honeymoon. This time with family was really special.
No packing luggage or flying:
Again, we didn’t have to worry about packing for a honeymoon or jumping on a plane. We literally went home the day after our wedding, ordered pizza, opened a few gifts and enjoyed spending some time alone, just the two of us. This was some of the most peaceful, special time we had together.
Reflect on marriage and remember the day:
We definitely reflected on the wedding the day after we said our vows, but then we spent three years reflecting on our wedding day and our marriage when we finally we able to take a honeymoon. It was fun to recall our wedding while lounging on the beach and think about the good times we had shared.
Three years later after our wedding day, we took our dream honeymoon to Tahiti and New Zealand. And you know what? We still felt like newlyweds. If you have to delay your honeymoon due to the military don’t worry, plan one for later on. It will be worth the wait!
Crunch, crunch, crunch: the wheels of my stroller are pushing through the beautiful fall foliage. My daughter is tucked under a blanket, admiring the trees with me. I’m lost in thought, my feet pounding the pavement of my parent’s back roads in Arkansas. Ear muffs are holding my pink earbuds firmly in place.
My playlist is filled with the resonating voices of specialists and the comforting tones of milspouse Corie Weathers as they guide me through brilliant new ideas on relationships and embracing this military spouse path. It’s all part of the Military Spouse Wellness Summit by InDependent.org. Now, in case you’re worried this is going to turn into a long running advert: it’s NOT.
Listening to the Military Spouse Wellness Summit and participating in the online VIP group in October 2016 changed my story. It helped me find the freedom to be present. It changed how I viewed a very tricky chapter, and I believe it could do the same for you.
I have been married to my Marine for nine years now. Nine years of the greatest highs, lowest lows, all mixed in with hugs goodbye for long deployments, moving those heavy boots from in the door and back out. Seeing gear fill the living room floor, and smiling when it’s crammed into a closet, knowing we’re getting a breather. I’ve watched boxes get taped, labels slapped on, and my fingers have crossed hoping things will arrive in-tact.
My airport wings are long, feathered, and my soul tethered to no-where but wherever we currently call home. The resume has been dusted off, adjusted, and volunteer work put in place of “real jobs.”
My experiences are a string of places, faces and skills spinning onto the page like Rumplestiltskin. The string becomes gold depending how you look at it. Gold this mil-life has given me.
I know the good, the bad, and the ugly. But I still have much to learn. I am still learning and evolving.
In 2016, on those crunchy-leaf-laden roads I found myself sitting in a firm place of military spouse denial. Even though we had talked about the fact I wanted to be a stay at home mom, it was not real until a full year passed, and then another that it sunk in. I was (and am) officially dependent on my husband’s salary and our lifestyle. We were also entering our current chapter: overseas, and a hiring freeze with government jobs. I would be moving, and knowingly accepting another three years of no traditional work.
Before this, I had always found a way. I was a master at finding an exit strategy. One that kept me just in touch enough with military life, but not too close that I had to live it fully.
My dependent spouse denial finally caught up with me. It was time to face it or continue to brood in anxiety, depression, and a lack of control over anything. Thankfully I received the right words to guide me, and start making better choices for myself and my family.
During the 2016 Summit I won a coaching call with Dr. Patrice Carter. I had never tried life-coaching, and felt tremendously skeptical of the process. However I was willing to give it a shot, and HEY! I won something, so I might as well try. I was also incredibly moved by each guest speaker during the summit. Each had a new perspective to add to my life. Each voice brought me a new challenge, a reminder to stay open, to embrace self-care, build new relationships, and grow in a loving marriage.
I was reminded military spouses are not ordinary. We are extraordinary. Our acquired badges of courage and roads less traveled are strings that can be spun into gold. But we have to make the choice to see it that way. To take heartache and make it heart-strong.
Patrice called me, and in my parents’ living room I paced and threw every idea I had up on the imaginary wall between us, telling her every doubt I had. Revealing all parts of me that longed to work, longed for roots, but yet the tiny voice that also screamed I knew what the next three years could be: a season of the three of us TOGETHER.
In military life we often are faced with the choice to make the best of it, to squeeze lemons until they become lemonade. This was our next defining moment as a family: move far, far away again, embark on this adventure, but do it all together. During that time, Patrice reminded me I could still do a number of things. I had skills, resilience, and a good attitude at finding ways to make anything work. She also told me the most important message I’ve carried with me on this next chapter of ours:
What if you’re okay right where you are?
She could feel me reaching for answers that could not be resolved until we moved. There was so much freedom in her words. In knowing that every worry, every nervous doubt I had was real but also making my head spin.
Instead of seeing a large insurmountable obstacle: I could see a gift. The freedom in three years of togetherness. Of a family forged in time together.
All military families know what a precious gift time is. It is a non-renewable resource, and I was about to walk into this great adventure, wasting it. From that day forward I have worked to honor our conversation. I have worked to seek purpose and peace in this time together.
That has not meant throwing all my goals on a fire and watching them go up in smoke- but it has meant getting out of a “me” mentality, and leaning into “us”. I’m not just a military spouse; I’m part of a military family. That family is being able to fill up our cup right now, so that when the next separation or challenge comes our way, we will not only be ready, but we will be able.
I’ve grown up and become more adaptable. Yes I have frustration, and I have days where I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing, but the fact remains that I have a choice to be okay where I am right now. I have a choice to change my mentality. I have a choice to take care of myself and search out the peace in being present.
Although there were many beautiful gifts given to me by the last Independent Military Spouse Wellness Summit, that one little sentence made the biggest impact on me in my journey as a spouse. What if it took just one small moment to change your future and how you view this life?
2018. Another New Year, another round of social media posts on “goal setting”, “resolutions” and finally becoming your “best self.” Another year of deployments, training schedules and living a life full of uncertainty that all military spouses face.
It’s no wonder that we lose steam a few days into the new year when you find out your service member has to work late unexpectedly or informs you he’s leaving in two weeks and won’t have much time to talk while he’s gone. Let’s not even get started on the rumors. Yea, things that can easily throw a girl off her feet fast.
With all the changes, uncertainty and impact the interruptions have on our lives, dreaming might feel like it belongs to someone else. Maybe you’ve started school or tried to launch a business several times only to stop with a PCS or intense training schedule. Perhaps you don’t even let yourself dream or plan anymore, because what’s the point? Your plans are inevitably going to be stalled by “the military.”
But what if each move, each deployment, each “re-start” is all laying a foundation for an even better dream than you imagined?
As a military spouse of nearly six years who moved across the United States three times within the first three years of our service (two of them solo) I’m no stranger to starting over. If the logistics of moving aren’t hard enough, then you have to navigate housing, your service member’s new schedule and specific mission, how base leadership impacts everyone, the area’s climate, available activities and schools, where to buy groceries, get your hair cut and adjusting to the distance from family and friends. And oh, yea, how are you planning to spend your time while at your new base?
Maybe having a dream seems impossible to you or like a frantic race to find something, because everyone around you seems to have it together. News flash, it’s not and they don’t.
If you are struggling to discover or get started a dream that’s all yours, don’t despair. I’m sharing the ways I’ve seen the foundation for my dreams grow and change all because of military life:
Exposure to a new creative outlet and desire for community.
When we moved to California in 2012 I knew no one and it was hard for a while. My husband was gone all day and his evenings were spent studying so I was on my own a ton. It was during this time my interest in blogging began. My new “online” friends I found were refreshing, inspiring and as dorky as it sounds, comforting to me. I now use blogging as a tool for my business and for connecting and inspiring other military spouses. If we hadn’t moved and I hadn’t been alone so much, I know my interest in communicating and connecting online most likely wouldn’t have happened at all. Our move shaped a love for writing and online community I didn’t previous have, which is what helps my business today.
A shift in career goals building on my skills, talents and experiences.
From the start of our military journey the dream of entrepreneurship was budding, but foggy. I was fortunate enough to work remote for a wonderful company when we left DC and headed to Monterey, but was doing a job that required “non-traditional hours.” Working all hours was both a blessing and curse for a military spouse.
When he was gone, it was certainly nice to be busy, but when he was home, it was rough walking out of dinners to answer my phone, not being able to relax with him or being worried about cell service when we wanted to take a weekend road trip (since I had to be on all the time). I could rarely turn off and it was wearing on both of us.
I did know I enjoyed having my own career, but didn’t want it to demand so many odd hours that I wasn’t always in control of. The wheels started turning as I learned more about myself and the lifestyle our family wanted. We were smart with the income I was bringing in and each year I would keep some of it aside to invest in my personal endeavors. The foundation for becoming a small business owner was being laid from the start.
Learned resourcefulness and strengthening my ability to persevere.
If there are two things military spouses know how to do, it’s being resourceful and persevering. From my own personal journey to watching other military spouses get stuff done, it’s incredible to me how we keep going.
Do we need to talk to 12 people just to get one answer? We do it.
Do we need to keep struggling through a tough deployment? We do it.
Do we need to find out about tax laws for earning income in three states in one year or find out how if we qualify for education benefits? We do it.
Military spouses get stuff done even if they have to pave a new road. When I launched my business in 2016, I did it with another military spouse and we had no real idea of what we were doing. Neither of us had ever sold a “product” before, but we saw a need in the community and went for it. After years of learned resourcefulness and persevering in hard times as a military spouse we’re able to work together to solve problems and keep going with our chins up.
Lay a foundation for the future.
Our time in the military is coming to an end and with that big changes for my entire family. We’ve been able to glean much from our military journey that I know use in business, parenting, relationships, my health and fitness and so much more. I would go so far to say my entire outlook on life has changed all because of this crazy military journey we’ve been privileged to have. And oh yea, the logistics of moving 3,000 miles? Piece of cake now.
After six years, I’ve come to view each move or deployment as a chapter in our book. It’s not starting the book over, it’s building a richer, deeper narrative in my life. Some chapters are harder than others, some easier, but all are part of shaping my dreams and goals. Of course there are logistics to getting started at each new location (many of which becoming easier as more awareness is being brought to military spouse life), but that’s all just part of the process.
I challenge you, wherever you are at, to take a fresh look at military life. This journey is not a re-start, it’s a continuation. A foundation is being laid for a new dream or a better one than you even started with. Our community is rich with military spouses who’ve learned this as well and I know I speak for all of us when I say, keep going and pay attention to the foundation for your dreams you didn’t know you’ve been building all along.
“This contradiction, and this tension . . . it never goes away. And if you think that achieving something, if you think that solving something, if you think a career or a relationship will quiet that voice, it will not. If you think that happiness means total peace, you will never be happy. Peace comes from the acceptance of the part of you that can never be at peace. It will always be in conflict. If you accept that, everything gets a lot better.” —Joss Whedon, 2013 Wesleyan University Commencement Address
Hello 2018. Yes I know I’m opening it up with a heavy, thought-provoking quote, but that is exactly where I sit at the start of this year. It is a reminder for all that I’ve been absorbing into my heart and soul over the past 365 days that were 2017.
2017 was a year that challenged and changed me. I spent a lot of time fighting contradictions and tensions within myself.
I found out that through it all, I have to embrace it. All of me and this crazy ride we’re on. Embrace the messy me that I am and note that happiness does not come from stability, but from creating pockets of gratitude in the chaos. Living has felt easier this way. It’s felt a lot like living, instead of waiting or wanting to live.
I realized this is the first time in 3 years that my little family of 3 has been together for an entire year.
Essentially, my husband and I have just completed our first year of team-parenting. 2017 we’ve been having an in-person, all the time marriage. It has not been easy to dig down into the work of it. There has been a part of me that wants to make up for 3 years of separation with 1 year of togetherness. See how that math does not equal out right?
No- it has been about taking small steps forward together and in my own heart. It has been about patience and a hard look within to break down the large walls I had built for protection around myself. It’s been quieting the need to do, do, DO and roll instead with where we are.
It’s far easier to work in the present than to continue to be fraught with worry over the future.
We are where we are- in a foreign country, together, living and loving and sorting ourselves out. What felt like a tremendous hardship is now a chapter in which we’ve been forced to unite.
I’m discovering I have been a check-in-the-box person for too long. Trying x,y, z and hoping for a final result. Life is not a final test that I can pass- the hard part, the joyous part, is showing up day in and out and trying out new equations. Testing out new ways to do things and working with the one that feels right at the time. Letting it go when it no longer serves, releasing it so that I can move on.
This is where I find myself in 2018. I’m leaving a time of weariness and work to enjoy the fruits of that labor. That doesn’t mean the work is over- but it does mean my soul has found a new way to quiet itself. I’m growing responsible for myself. It’s a whole lot like I’m finally finding emotional maturity at the ripe age of 31. I know I don’t have control of much, but I can nurture my spirit. It’s now about choosing to live, or waiting to live. I can work to get better, or I can keep blaming our circumstances.
Each year I choose a word to theme the year, a summation of the hopes and dreams I have for myself. The past three years I had a little ABC theme working, and I didn’t focus on one- I chose three for three years!
2015: Attempt, Bliss Change
2016: Dream, Enough, Focus
2017: Grace, Humor, Intention
All of those words served me well, and I feel like each year they took me to wonderful places. But in 2018 a big three no longer serves. I have to continue releasing what does not serve and infusing life instead with what does, and being ultimately okay with the knowledge that changes from day to day, month to month!
This year it’s time to flow. It’s is another round of the good work that must be done to live the way I want to. I’ve gained so much more clarity and enjoyment from my days when I flow with them, instead of fight them. It’s where this muddy journey of being a mom and military spouse meets. Moving with the tide, because there are moments where it is more perilous to move against it.
With flow I am not pretending- I do not know yet how to flow well, but I’m willing to learn. I’m seeking to find a way to keep leaning into our current chapter.
Do you choose a word for your year? What motivates you going into a new year?
“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
― Philip Pullman
Uplifting Anchor began as a place to tell empowering tales of motherhood. It began as a place for me to share my inner musings on the difficulty and joy of carrying the weight of new motherhood around.
Connections were formed with fellow mothers and we blossomed together, spinning words that captured our current places in life.
As I slowly started sharing my experiences of being a military spouse and mother I unknowingly stumbled into a beautiful, unique community that has strengthened my writing and my resolve.
I now know my mission is to encourage the heart of mothers, military spouses, and especially milspouse mothers.
It is no wonder that like a child, this blog has grown over the past eighteen months. I am growing and changing, which means this creative space has to do that with me. The blog is growing, and changing as we wander into 2018. I don’t think you can truly know where you are going next until you reflect about right where you are.
Reflection: Blogging 2017
Looking back, I spent 2017 just trying to keep up. I created content, making it so that the blog was consistent when much of the rest of my life was not. I am not upset about what I created; it has all been a journey. I needed to try new things to find what can continue to stick as I move forward.
I spent August- November catching up on pins for Pinterest and realized that in total, I have published 250 pieces of content for this space. That feels tremendous! I am proud of not just the number, but for the commitment that has entailed.
However as I did the work of updating each post, I was forced to revisit each one in detail. I found that while I’ve added value in some, there was heart missing in others. The pockets of beautiful writing, of the storytelling were revealed, and that is what I started this website to be.
In updating the posts, I could also see my mistakes, and glistening tries that did not quite pan out. I had to force myself to not haphazardly start deleting words and posts! I am keeping them, and working to archive them, knowing that the future goal is clear.
My mission is to complete a set of archives in 2018, in hopes readers can enjoy searching for pieces of work they want to revisit, or discover new gems along the way!
The Future: Blogging 2018 = Storytelling & Collaboration
I’m making 2018 the year of the story.
It does not mean that I will not share an occasional how-to post or 5 greatest lists anymore, but it does mean I’m taking a step back and diving into what feels most authentic to me: writing. Stretching myself to tell stories that encourage and inspire.
It means less is more. You can also expect an exploration into other creative avenues such as video blogging and diving into a current passion: homeschool preschool. This space is meant to grow with me, and grow we must!
I’m also curious to utilize 2018 to collaborate. If there’s anything I’ve learned during 2017 it is that our milspouse community is strong, and willing to lift one another up. We are a force to be reckoned with especially when we work together. That excites me.
Guest Author 2017
I made a goal to submit my writing to other websites, and found a boost of confidence there. You can read the whole story in Dusting off the Keyboard. An excerpt:
“It’s Fear that has kept my writing fingers at bay. Uncertain of what would pour out of me, I might never be “ready”. I forced myself down into a chair this morning. There is a hot cup of coffee billowing next to me. A book glares at me from the living room, one part promise, a smattering of hope, and a tinge of anxiety.
The yellow edged guide is the hefty 96th Annual Writer’s Market 2017. “The most trusted guide to getting published.” Somewhere into the 11 months of writing on Uplifting Anchor, I decided to give myself an added mission. Submit 20 pieces to outside sources this year. Get published by someone other than myself.
Am I really doing this?”
I found the balance of becoming a “writer”- which is that for every piece I create, only some are found interesting enough by others to click accept & publish.
Out of the 22 pieces I created for outside sources this year, I had 18 accepted for publishing. Two of them were heart-filling interviews that make me excited to pursue further interview/collaborations!
What is strangely refreshing is that for every piece I had published by an outside source, it felt good and right. What did not get accepted did not phase me or hurt my artistic feelings. I simply shrugged and hit the keyboard again. I knew that I still loved the story, and I could share it here, in this space. It reminds me of when I used to pound the pavement in the audition circle. Putting on my dancing shoes, putting my hat in the ring for a position, finding out if I was the right “fit”.
It is the same with writing, and it feels like I am doing what I am supposed to in life right now. In 2018 I’m going to work at my main job: serving my family. I am also going to push myself creatively, and keep serving the mothers and military spouses with what I know best: utilizing my own experiences to share stories. May you find this place as one that lifts your heart and wraps you up in a cozy blanket of rest, and a voice that reaches you and speaks to your hearts.