Military Wife Entertains – Star Spangled Entertaining.+Add.Feed Info1000FOLLOWERS
Northern Virginia native Cassie shares the successes and failures that she have experienced over her 28 years as an active duty wife with seven kids-eleven deployments-fourteen moves- anything and everything, oh and cancer, too.
Thank you, House of Pain, for those sweet lyrics – so inappropriately appropriate.
Your spouse just walked in the door and announced orders have been cut and you are moving yet again. No problem… You’ve done this so many times that it is now second nature, right?
There are lots of different ways to approach the pack-out looming overhead and they all depend on the season of life you are currently in. With so many scenarios, let’s discuss a few.
Your spouse is deployed and will arrive home the same week as the pack out. You both hope it won’t be the same day.
Your baby is due a month before the truck arrives and you just don’t have time to sort your belongings.
Maybe your oldest is graduating from high school. College, not moving, is on your mind. Better yet, you are graduating from college, a milestone that far outweighs the burden that can often times be a household move.
Or, maybe you just don’t want to prep at all. The packers will pack, the loaders will load, the movers will move and you will figure it out on the other end.
(I have done them all and the last example is a family favorite with interesting consequences on the tail end.)
Ask any military spouse and they will gladly regale you with sick tales of moves gone by. It is with disturbing pride and bold saltiness that we retell the times where the packers packed up the trash from the McDonald’s lunch we so graciously bought them, leftover fries and all. Or during one move, a neighbor, upon answering the door, came face to face with a disturbing situation. There before her stood a man, probably in his 60’s, proudly sporting a Naval Academy Lacrosse Team t-shirt with her husband’s name on the back. Not knowing what else to do, she dropped a few classmate’s names in the hopes that perhaps they had played with the same people.
It was worth a try.
There are so many things to think about during the pack out and it goes to PCS 5.0 when small children are part of the mix. Seriously, consider setting up your move during school hours, or swap with a neighbor for childcare needs. You must remain focused on the way your belongings are packed up, how they are numbered and inventoried, and what makes it to the truck and what does not.
Did you catch that?
Yes, sadly sometimes our precious belongings do not make it all the way to the truck. You may end up on the other side of your move minus a few items. Be smart about what you choose to pack up and what you choose to hand carry in your vehicles. Human temptation is great and sometimes people rationalize their theft with the notion that as military-on-the-move, we won’t catch the hit and we will be reimbursed for the loss. This is partially true. We do get reimbursed, but it requires an arduous claim process where we rarely see the full replacement value.
As a military family, you also want to be aware of your household weight limit. You are held to a weight limit according to rank NOT family size. I speak from experience. The U.S. government does not care how many kids, cars, toys or books you have. The higher the rank you are, the harder they may laugh at your claim for exemptions because “you should know better.” It’s all on you and you are expected to know the rules. You do have the option to notate professional gear and the packing team should be familiar with the process. Professional gear notation allows both you and your active duty spouse to receive extra weight allowances that are on top of your current household weight allowances. The active duty allowance is far higher than the spouses. I will not post any numbers here because they change often and I do not want to mislead you. Don’t cause undue burden for yourself or your family by going over your weight limits. If you do, you will be charged per pound and bound to the weight regulations of the state you are entering.
Check with TMO (Transportation Management Office) and your move counselor. Do your homework!
As the Military Wife that Entertains, I occasionally find myself in a belongings pickle with my great entertaining finds. While I am able to claim some items as “pro gear,” most often my entertaining cache is my problem. I encourage you to be very selective as to what you accumulate over your years “in” as a military family. Leave grandma’s china and rocking chair in your home state with a relative. This will create room for that amazing German wardrobe find and also alleviate undue stress on your family heirlooms.
If you are moving this summer, now is the time to start a slow inventory of needs, wants and giveaways. The base thrift shop will gladly accept your offerings and in return give you a tax receipt.
Proper planning will allow you to execute a near flawless move.
If you prepare well enough ahead, perhaps you will avoid opening a box labeled ‘baby’s room’ and find a used diaper changed during the last pack-out. Accurate and horrifying all at once.
Upon arriving to work one cold, December morning, a young Marine took stock of her workplace associates’ cubicles and noticed something terribly awry…
On every desktop, as far as the eye could see, there was a small jar of Christmas Jam neatly placed, as if to say, “good morning, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!” What was this sweet concoction? Was it left the night before by some magical military elf with a CAC card? Perhaps Santa flew down on his F-18 and left an early holiday treat?
As a veteran Marine, the Sergeant had seen this before, but upon looking down was perplexed and possibly hurt to see that her desk had been passed by. What happened? Was there a run on Christmas Jam this year? Had she been mistakenly placed on the unit naughty list? Absolutely not! This servicewoman had made sure she was always on the nice list!
So, with holiday boldness, and a jam mission in mind – the Marine stood, straightened her uniform and walked down the hallway towards my husband’s office. The hallways in all units are lined with photos of the current leadership (my children swear that as they walk by Dad’s photo his eyes follow you. I believe it but I also digress).
In a very Dickensian way she appeared, much like Bob Cratchit with his query for an early departure on Christmas Eve. Taking a breath and with slight hesitation, she knocked on Ebenezer’s – I mean my husband’s – door and inquired,
“Sir, where’s my jam at?”
Before you cast judgement on what may appear to be a very Millennial moment, allow me to explain the situation a bit further. It is tradition for anyone in a position of leadership no matter the rank – whether from shop, group, company or battalion – to hand out a holiday gift of some sort. Nothing extravagant, and certainly not a mandatory thing, but quite rewarding for all involved. Cookies, candy or cake – a token of appreciation for a job well done. The worst thing when doing this however, is to mistakenly forget someone, anyone! We consider each and every person in the unit both civilian and active duty as family. To forget even one person hurts! And that Christmas, we forgot someone.
In short time, I was out grabbing a few more jars of Christmas Jam. I delivered them to the office beribboned and labeled in an attempt to make things right.
The holidays, for both civilian and military, offer a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge your staff or coworkers. A brief moment to build stronger relationship bonds with your brothers and sisters in arms. So please, don’t forget the jam.
“No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused.”
Someone once told me that USMC stands for U Suckers Miss Christmas.
I believe our spouses’ squadron was on its third back-to-back UDP and we were used to being apart – separation was nothing new. However, the powers that be had spun the magic wheel of deployment and on that particular cycle our loved ones would be missing the trifecta of holidays to include Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.
As much as we girls may have wanted to curl up in a corner and cry, we knew doing so would be the deployment kiss of death. Remain positive and stay the course, we thought, before you know it, they will be on their way home.
The wife of both the CO and XO rallied, quickly procuring a suite at the Navy Lodge on-board NAS North Island and a call went out for an old school potluck on the beach. Kids welcomed, attire of your choice, and no complaining allowed. As an East Coast girl, I longed for the crisp November air and the smell of my mother’s cooking. Instead, that Thanksgiving Day I found myself swimming in the surf with my babies on one of the loveliest beaches in America, and for a moment sharing a difficult situation with women who understood. No one could have convinced me that I would ever enjoy a holiday alone away from family. I was wrong. So wrong. And had I stood my ground and fought the situation, I would have missed out on a truly memorable squadron life experience.
As we approach another holiday season, there are countless military families apart from one another, and all of them wondering what they will do to make it through. Well, it’s time to create new memories and new traditions incorporating what we know into the reality we now live.
There are so many productive ways for spouses of deployed military to stay engaged, remain positive, and make the most of what can sometimes be an unpalatable situation. Seek out other spouses in your unit. Create groups for whatever interests you and pursue other like-minded spouses to join in. If deployment occurs over a holiday then YOU take the initiative to plan an event. It does not have to be expensive or extravagant. Grab the best cook in the group and have them host a cooking lesson specifically geared to the holiday at hand then feast together on your creation. Check with the spouses in leadership positions and ask how you may be of assistance in organizing a deployed spouses’ ball. Rally the forward deployed to create a group video message for the event. Perhaps your unit family members can volunteer as a team at a local shelter or food bank. Make suggestions and take the lead. Your military base has so many options for venues, meeting spaces, and entertainment! Are you aware that many installations allow family and civilian DOD employees to attend holiday meals at the chow hall? What fun! Check with the base community services office as to what they have planned. The options are endless.
Keep in mind that when families on the home front are doing well, our spouses are better able to successfully complete the mission at hand. If there is trouble at home, our active duty become distracted and that can be dangerous.
Someday you will fondly recall these life moments and know that you overcame, you succeeded and you won the deployment challenge. Once you have a few deployment holidays under your belt, you too will find yourself making statements that go a little something like this:
“ For our 10th Christmas my husband was on his 9th deployment and I went into labor with our 5th child driving myself to the Naval hospital while timing contractions, confirming en-route via Facetime the base fun-run for our sister squadron wives, then posting my status on Facebook, and cancelling base soccer carpool, while going through the drive-thru to grab my kids dinner (mistakenly ordering from the trash can, which I had to post that on Instagram of course), yet pushing through and buying an extra meal to feed the corpsman who would possibly deliver my baby, and voice texting the entire spouse’s group to let them know I was in labor and would follow up with them upon baby’s arrival. Then after that we had newborn portraits done at the Exchange, and right after I requested a Red Cross call to my husband while setting a date for the banner making party and ordering farewell gifts online, while simultaneously coordinating next year’s ball date with the Sgt Maj.”
In honor of our Corps’ 242nd birthday I attempted to write a heartfelt tribute only to stumble upon this outstanding explanation of “Marine arrogance.”
In December 2013, a Marine Sergeant wrote this in response to a comment posted on the Marine Corps’ website complaining of “Marine arrogance”.
The Sergeant responds,
“I think that’s what makes Marines special, if only in our own minds, is that elusive Quality of Esprit D’Corps. It’s the fact that we, as individual Marines, don’t feel that we are individual Marines. When we wear our uniform, when we hear our Hymn, when we go into battle, we are going with every other Marine who ever wore the uniform.
Standing behind us are the Marines who fought during the birth of our nation. We’re standing with the Marines who fought in WWI and gave birth to the legend of the “Tueful Hunden”, or “Devil Dogs”. We are standing with the Marines who took Iwo and Tarawa and countless other blood soaked islands throughout the Pacific.
We are standing with the “Frozen Chosin” and our beloved Chesty Puller. We are standing with the Marines who battled at Hue City and Khe Sanh and the muddy rice paddies of South East Asia. We are standing with the Marines who fought in Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom and now, are fighting in Afghanistan.
Like real brothers, their blood courses through our veins, and when we go into battle, we would rather lay down our lives than be a disappointment to them. We carry on our backs, their legacy, their deaths and their honor. We carry that for the rest of our lives.
The Marines Corps uniform doesn’t come off when our active duty is over. We wear it daily in our attitude, and our love of Corps and country. We wear it on our tattoos and our bumper stickers. We wear it in our hearts.
It’s why, no matter where we are in the world, on November 10th, every Marine celebrates the Marine Corps birthday. It’s why we’ll never be an army of 1. It’s why we never stop being Marines. It’s why, for most of us, being a Marine isn’t something we were. It’s something we are.
It’s the most important part of who and what we are. Some say we’re arrogant. We say we’re proud. We have a right to be proud. We are the United States Marines the most feared and ferocious group of warriors to walk the face of this earth.
When Americas’ enemies formulate their battle plans, they plan on going around Marine units, because they know Damn well that they can’t go through them. We are what other branches wish they were.
We are the modern day Spartans. This isn’t bragging. It’s written in the battle history of our country. When there’s a parade and the Marines march by, everyone pays a little more attention. Some say “arrogance”. We call it “pride”. It’s why, in a crowd of service men, you can always spot the Marine. Why are Marines special? I don’t know. We just are.”
If that doesn’t make you want a giant slice of birthday cake, nothing will! Happy Birthday Marines!
1. Balls are expensive. A year in advance, create a ball savings fund just as you would for any other big life event. Contribute every payday.
2. Consider inviting local friends, relatives or supporters of the military that you would like to honor.
3. Be on time. You have one year between military formals so plan accordingly. Pull up an image of the entire venue to include the parking lot. Check to see if parking is complimentary or not. Know the lay of the land as well as the sequence of events.
4. Pack a small emergency kit to include extra rank, uniform pieces, needle, thread and super glue for medal mishaps. Chances are good that your spouse or a comrade will experience a wardrobe malfunction. It’s your turn to be the hero!
5. Have your formal picture taken right away. Make-up fades, food spills, hair falls, and lines grow.
6. Always buy your picture! Years later, your regret for not buying it will outweigh your regret of how you thought you looked.
7. Stay seated for the entire presentation to include dinner. The waitstaff is eager to place a lovely meal before you. They cannot maneuver easily between guests darting in and out of tables.
8. Familiarize yourself with Flag and General Officer etiquette- when to sit, when to stand, and when to place your hand over your heart.
9. Avoid bringing small children unless your spouse has permission from the command. If children do attend, they are held to the dress code of formal attire to include children’s tuxedos and formal dresses.
10. Have fun and know the ball is a time to reflect on honored traditions, camaraderie with fellow service members, and to honor those who have fallen.
Truer words never spoken. The problem was, I had no idea what those words meant.
My Marine and I were stationed on the West Coast and loving life. We were settling into our base housing bungalow and getting started at our new duty station. One day I was out gardening my little spot of heaven with birds chirping, barefoot children running and jets flying overhead. Glorious. Pausing for a moment I noticed a landscaper throwing mulch into garden beds. He was up the street at one of the senior leader’s quarters not more than a half block away. Oh, I thought- free mulch! I scooped up what children were within arm’s reach and confidently approached the hard-working man.
“Excuse me, sir,” I politely interrupted, “Can you explain to me how I go about having mulch delivered to my quarters?”
He paused briefly and shifted not unlike a sports car flying down the freeway, suddenly coming upon a traffic jam.
He turned, looked at me and asked, “Where do you live?”
“Right there,” I pointed.
He squinted as the morning sun glared in his eyes, paused for a moment and said,
“You don’t rate mulch.”
Seeing the look of confusion on my face, the kind man went on to explain. You see, just a few doors up were higher ranking active duty who were afforded more perks and benefits within the realm of military housing than those of a lesser rank. Fascinating I thought.
“Well,” I asked. “What do I rate?”
He looked at my yard and replied, “Fertilizer.”
That day I came to understand yet another piece of the military lifestyle puzzle. Everything is worked for and earned even down to the minutia of base housing. There are so many “understoods” that go along with being a military spouse. For example, I personally understand that I cannot and should not park in the E-9 parking spot at the Exchange. I did not earn that spot and would be in a state of total disrespect to those who did. I cannot and should not park in any of the designated spots at any base activities to include clubs, office buildings, Commissary and the like. I conducted exactly one minute of research on your behalf (a phone call) and confirmed that these “cannots” are not actual base orders but courtesies and part of our military culture. Don’t embarrass yourself or your active duty spouse by participating in the slow chipping away of our customs and courtesies. Embrace them and have within yourself the desire to carry them on long after you are gone.
This “understood” also applies in base housing.
Ask any military spouse and the majority will tell you that yes, indeed they have driven through the housing neighborhoods of higher ranks in a motivating moment of aspiration. Someday honey…
It’s a wonderful thing to have collective goals and dreams with your husband or wife. It is a bond that ties when there is so much pulling you apart. Deployments, training, work ups and every day duty.
Nobody likes being told no, or coming to the realization that your neighbor on base rates something that you cannot have. Even something as simple as mulch.
As I work in my garden here in base housing prepping for the oncoming winter, I get a chuckle from my mulch experience.
I thought you might appreciate an update. I recently called housing to see if my husband rates mulch yet.
Yes, I was told, but only once a year, in the spring, and I don’t get to pick the color.
As a young boy, my husband often found himself in places he should not have been. This includes (but is not limited to): His older brother’s bedroom, the living room that his mother kept so perfectly and, of course, his step-father’s study.
Occasionally, he will recount for our children the day he snuck into the study and simply started looking around. His step-dad, a Vietnam era fighter pilot and Colonel in the Air Force, was an old school, American fighting man. His office, like so many others, was visual proof of a long and illustrious career of honorable service to his beloved nation. Certificates, trophies, citations and mementos from worldwide travel hung on walls and sat on shelves.
In his search for nothing in particular, my husband came across a pen. But, this was no ordinary pen and my future husband knew it. He quietly slipped the pen into his front pocket and tip-toed out of dear old dad’s office.
Next stop… Show and Tell.
Raise your hand if you remember Show and Tell. What a great opportunity to share the doll you received for your birthday or new baseball bat you received for Christmas. My husband was and has never been that predictable. He was an over-achieving Kindergartner, not to be outdone.
As he was called up front to present, one can envision the class patiently waiting for the next classmate’s turn (perhaps even a little bored, depending on what their fellow students had brought to share). Like a magician playing to a full house, with drama and flair, Joe removed the pen from his front pocket and thrust his arm high in the air. On the front of the pen was a woman dressed in a black one piece bathing suit. When turned upside down, the suit slowly dropped to reveal a nude woman. He turned it right side up and voila, she was dressed again! Point up, naked lady. Point down dressed lady, and so it went. For a five-year-old, it was mesmerizing to say the least.
As an educator myself, I imagine his teacher sitting at her back desk possibly grading papers and probably paying little attention to the items brought from home that day. I also imagine her, upon looking up and seeing the unpalatable pen, pulling together her 1970’s poly-rayon dress and scaling not only her desk but subsequent desks much like an Olympic hurdler going for gold.
A day that will go down in infamy at The Kiddie College of Orlando, Florida.
The military culture also has a form of Show and Tell, though nowhere near as scandalous. As far back as I can remember, there have been ceremonies and socials, recognition and recitations all in an effort to send the message “well done” to an active duty service member and often times their spouse. But what happens when the party dies down and the parade is over? You find yourself with a collection of really amazing, one-of-a-kind awards, photos, trophies and certificates. Fast forward a few decades into a career and you have what the military sarcastically refers to as an “I love me” wall. Some may even think it hearkens, “look at me, look at me, I’m awesome, aren’t I?”
A properly hung wall inspires the next generation to create their own accomplishments. Everything on the wall is a story to be shared. A memory to be pondered and a piece of history for all who observe. It is a celebration of camaraderie and the relationships forged during adversity and challenge. A display of gratitude to all the people who served along with you. It also gives our younger service members a sense of enthusiasm and offers a glimpse of what he or she may experience while serving. The wall acknowledges combat experience, multiple deployments, personal achievements, promotions and displays an overall dedication and love for country.
In the simplest of moments, the awards wall is a fabulous conversation starter and point of interest during a unit gathering in your home. I have actually seen people tear up when recognizing a comrade in arms or recalling a fond memory with a unit. Honestly, how many people do you know who have earned the title of Shell Back for their first crossing of the Equator or own aerial shots of themselves in an F-18? It is always fabulous and always interesting from your first plaque to your certificate of retirement.
Unfortunately, it is not all guts and glory. If you are a cut-up, your farewell gift may reflect that. I recently heard a friend describe a gift her husband received from the unit as a farewell. A toilet seat that when opened revealed a picture of himself. Brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that? Would that go on my wall? Absolutely. I’m sure they hang well but it would have to be the right color of course.
If you are just starting out, I encourage you to hang with pride. My husband’s “I love me” wall is my job (by choice) to create every time we move. I find a place of honor in our home for the branch he serves in, pride in my country and to reminisce about our amazing experiences together.
Sadly, there still is no room for the naughty pen on our wall.
The Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France, was sculpted by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence.
On October 28, 1886 the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York Harbor. Completed in 1884, the 152-foot-high icon was erected almost 20 years prior to the Wright brother’s first flight. Many years later as aircraft hovered overhead the meticulous creation of hair and crown were evident. Bartholdi, in creating his masterpiece, cut no corners.
Most people of that era never imagined that someday humans would fly. It was believed by some that the detail taken on the highest point of the statue was a waste of time and talent as no one would ever see it-so they thought. Attention to detail was in the artist’s very essence. He created a work of art that was perfect from all vantage points-one that would stand the test of time.
For our beloved military, the details are what set them apart. Attention to the details in uniform, speech, personal life and of course in successful execution of their jobs and duties.
I’d like to think that some of that has rubbed off on us as military families. When we are around our active duty, we stand a little taller and walk a little smarter, don’t we?
The longer you are “in” with your spouse, the more opportunities you will have for mentoring, assisting and leading military families. In fact you may be their lifeline of information and comfort at critical points during deployment or life crisis.
We as military spouses understand the vital role entertaining plays in the life and career of military families. Family days, spouse coffees, Hails and Farewells and of course your respective branch’s annual Military Ball. It is our opportunity to love on one another as well as thank the team for a job well done.
Attention to detail should become your mantra if you are in any type of volunteer, leadership, or chairperson position. Take nothing lightly and leave nothing to chance. Our social events are where we get to know one another, where we might meet the leadership and where we have the opportunity to thank the shop, company or unit by serving them with thoughtful food and drink.
From the menu you create to the scent in your home to the way you have parking set up for your guests – it all counts and it all matters in making your event memorable and successful.
Sometimes I take it a little too far. I was in the habit of chevroning my toilet paper in the restroom (I lovingly blame my Mother for that) and got laughed at like you cannot imagine. So unappreciative. I realize it was my tiny 1970s duplex on base but I treated it like the Ritz! Occasionally I will sit in different sections of my home to see if there are dust bunnies under the couch that my guest might notice. Total insanity or entertaining genius? I leave it to you to decide.
Rather than striving for perfection, set a goal to achieve your personal best. The implication as military spouses is that your best will be better than the norm.
After all, it’s that way for our active duty husbands and wives isn’t it?
…..said a million moms on the first day of school.
Look, I adore my children, they are my beautiful gifts I never deserved!
– after a long, hot summer of camps, classes, beach trips and swim lessons, or (don’t say it) a PCS, I am exhausted.
I know, I know, I choose to do all of those things, I can’t help myself.
I miss the kids as they walk out the door that first day, I really do, but I know in my heart of hearts it’s “me time!” So, as our summer winds to an end and those first back to school commercials hit the airwaves, I want to plant a little entertaining seed in your brain.
A few duty stations back, I met a Marine wife who is now one of my best friends. I loved everything she did to include a back-to-school, mommy-only-party.
No kids, no dudes, just the ladies and a whole lotta time.
9am – 3pm to be exact.
Her mother had hosted back to school lady’s brunches since the time she was a child and she continued the tradition. Brilliant! Here we have an opportunity for good food, good drink and if you’re new on base, the opportunity to meet your neighborhood and possibly some other spouses in the command. Let’s not forget though, our friends that might be sending their first or last student off to school. This can be a very emotional experience and it is comforting to be around other parents who have gone through the same thing.
Call it a back to school, base housing, Bellini, Black coffee brunch. You’re welcome.
Call it whatever you want just start planning now. According to my calendar, we have a few paydays left to order, bake and freeze a few items before the first day of school.
Always remember – proper planning is the key to a successful event!
You don’t want to be baking quiche and packing backpacks the night before the first day of school. Preposterous!
Simple instructions: At this point, everyone should have an area Facebook page specific to your housing neighborhood. Post an event and get started. Make the decision as to whether your event is kid friendly or not. There are toddlers and siblings who are still home as well as our home-schooled friends. Perhaps you only want adults. I have done both. No children is a lady’s brunch, children included is a playgroup brunch. Both are great and it is up to you as the hostess to decide.
Create a signature drink for the day whether alcoholic or not. Will it be potluck or hosted completely by you? Will you do a light buffet of breakfast foods or transition to a brunch? Make a dozen quiche a week before and freeze them. I love this recipe from the Food Network- http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/quiche-lorraine-recipe Order croissants and bagels from a local bakery and grab some of the bakery’s business cards for your new neighbors to take home with them.
I believe the punch behind this event is that it is held on the first day back to school. Everyone is on an emotional high for a myriad of reasons and it creates a real sense of energetic fun!
Get creative with your decorating to include school supplies, red apples, school buses, crayons and fun preschool style name-tags.
Before your event, consider running to your respective schools and grab some bell schedules, bus schedules and year-at-a-glance calendars. Your guests can leave with a little goody bag at no cost to you!
While my post is military specific, anyone anywhere can do this…so get planning!
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