The care-free bliss of holidays is done with and we are down to what seems like crunch time before deployment separates us. Being that this is our first deployment, I'm really not sure how to prep besides the valuable tips and advice from others in the squadron.
Apart from the very logistical prep that needs to happen between you and your spouse (separate soon-to-come blog post altogether), there is the emotional prep that comes with the anticipation of separation. Nikko and I have been married for almost a year and half now. We have gotten used to coming home to one another, running weekend errands, walking the dog, cooking dinner TOGETHER. This deployment will certainly be a test for me to regain that independence that I had for so long before we were married. Here are some of the things that we have been doing to prep emotionally for the impending separation:
1. Planning out remaining weekends. We intend to make the very best use of the time we have left so we have been filling our weekends with plans. These includes festivals and events going on in and around STL, weekend trips to see family, and even having friends coming to visit.
2. Going out on weeknights. If you're like us, it's pretty uncommon to leave the apartment after we get home from work. To make the most of our time left together, we have been trying to get out of the work-workout-dinner-TV-sleep routine that we so easily fall into during the work week. We have make a concerted effort to get out on weeknights for things like hockey games, dinner dates, even just a trip to Sam's Club. It makes the week fly by and it gives us opportunities for quality time together.
3. Going out to eat. As foodies, eating out is something Nikko and I really enjoy so we have made a food-centric deployment bucketlist. In STL in particular, there are so many restaurants and cuisines to try with new ones seemingly popping up weekly. We have been slowly checking places off our list, places we've been wanting to try but never have. Not only is it something new to experience together, but it also serves as good research for places to take friends or visiting family while your spouse is deployed.
4. Talking about a big trip to take when your spouse returns. Spend the time apart planning and looking forward to the trip. We wanted to take a big trip for our honeymoon but did not have the money or the PTO. With the extra funds and leave from deployment, Nikko's return seems like an ideal opportunity for a dream trip to Greece or a forever-overdue trip home to the Philippines.
5. Giving gifts that will bridge the distance gap. One of the ways that I show love is by giving gifts (Shout out to the 5 Love Languages!). For Christmas, Nikko got some deployment-minded gifts to help keep home a little closer. Here are some gift ideas that myself or other spouses have given to do so:
Amazon prime. I have heard time and time again that Amazon Prime is perfect for deployed service men and women. It may not take 2 days given the long distances packages need to travel but it is still quicker than Amazon's norm. Also, women know more than anybody that online shopping can be therapeutic. It takes our minds off of things and there's no better feeling than expecting a package. It's the gift that keeps on giving!Furbo. This is a pet camera that has a microphone and can dispense treats on demand. If your spouse is anything like mine, they are obsessed with their pets. Sometimes I think Nikko will miss Walter more than he will miss me! This device operates on Wifi and can allow your deployed family member to see what your pet(s) are up to in real time simply through an app on their phones. They can even toss their pets a treat or talk to them through the microphone!Stuffed animals. If the Furbo is a little more than you'd like to spend or the time difference won't allow your spouse to see them do anything but sleep, there's also the option of getting them a stuffed animal that looks similar to your pet(s).Good ol' fashioned photos. Printed photos are always a good idea to deal with distance. If you want to take it one step further, you can always get creative with a Shutterfly book or a digital picture frame!Rocketbook Smart Notebook. If your spouse is like mine and loves to take notes, this is the perfect gift! They can use it to take notes for work or personal use and have it electronically exported to dropbox or sent to any email address making it easy to organize and send notes. CloudPetz. This is a stuffed animal that can play voice messages sent via internet. It comes highly recommended from a friend that is a seasoned spouse with kids. It helps them stay in contact with their dad with a new message daily that they can play over and over again!
With deployment around the corner, I'm becoming more and more unsure that anyone can truly be fully ready to part from their spouse for an extended period of time. But we are darn sure going to try make the most of the time that's left. If you have gone through a deployment before or are experiencing your first like me, let us know what ideas you have for preparing hearts and minds for the separation!
I was watching the 2017 Jingle Ball on TV last night when a commercial for Macy’s came on. A little girl had brought up a bottle of men's cologne up to the counter. She told the sales associate that it was for her mother. He said “Are you sure? This is for men.” The little girl said “Yes, it’s perfect.” The next scene showed her mother opening the gift and hugging the little girl. The screen then flashed to a scene with a sailor in his quarters closing his laptop to reveal the same bottle of cologne the little girl had bought for her mother. The final scene of the commercial showed the mother spraying the cologne on her husband’s pillow as she climbed into bed.
Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bOLDPhN8fE
This sweet commercial probably tugged at so many emotional heartstrings but I'm certain that it hit home for military families. It especially struck a cord with me because my husband and I were apart for pre-deployment training. So many folks take "family time" over the holidays for granted, but as military spouses, we know that it is time to be cherished. I loved that Macy’s decided to shed light on the not-so-fortunate families at Christmas time – those who are separated for the holidays because of their duty to our country. I so appreciate Macy’s nod to those who are deployed or even those who have to work on Christmas, whose hard work and sacrifices allow us to enjoy our holidays at home with our loved ones safe and sound.
Just a quick reminder to keep those servicemen and women as well as their families in your thoughts and prayers this Christmas.
We're a month out from leaving Arizona and starting our next journey across the country. Some of our friends have already had their stuff packed up and moved, one in particular I helped with a few weeks ago. It made me think about all we should do to prepare before TMO (Transportation Management Office) arrives.
TMO is probably the greatest thing ever. Once you receive your orders, you schedule the time you want to move, they come and pack up all of your stuff, and then they move everything for you. They can also hold your stuff for up to 90 days which is nice when you can't move into your new home immediately. We could just leave the house the way it is right now and let them pack everything up and then unpack it in South Carolina. However, someone said to me recently, "I wish I had to move every couple of years like you do. It would force me to get rid of so much junk that I have." and it is SO TRUE! I think about unpacking everything at the new house and I know I will not want to be unpacking junk. Who in the heck wants to do that?
Before long I started noticing all of the things we could do to make the moving and unpacking process easier and most importantly, less wasteful. This list has helped us drastically and I hope it can do the same for you!
1. Take a look in your pantry and freezer. Evaluate what you have in there and come up with meals for the next few weeks until you use everything up. This might require some creativity but it will certainly save you from having to get rid of tons of food when you move. TMO will not pack and ship any liquids! We have a lot of ingredients in bulk so we've had to get extremely creative the last few weeks (breakfast for dinner, oats, flax, chia, cranberry, honey "breakfast cups", homemade pizza dough with cheddar cheese, to name a few). The only thing we plan on taking with us is a box of spices. Hopefully we reach the point where we have literally nothing left in the pantry/fridge in a couple of weeks. If that's the case, we'll most likely buy what we need per day for very, very simple meals.
2. Drink up! Like I said, TMO won't take any liquids so have some friends over and enjoy a few drinks together to get rid of any alcohol/drinks you have stashed in the cabinets.
3. Start going through your closet. Create a keep, donate, and sell pile. Poshmark is a great way to sell your used items. If you don't want to deal with selling anything, donating is always a great thing. This process can be a pain but it is so worth it. A very simple but fairly extreme approach: If you haven't used it in the past 90 days or don't plan on using in the next 90 days, get rid of it.
4. Burn all of your candles! Half burned candle is pretty pointless to move...
5. DO NOT buy any food, condiments, soaps, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, paper towels, shampoo, etc. unless it's completely necessary! If you do need to buy something, only buy it in the quantity you'll need (i.e. don't buy the Costco package of toilet paper). Also, use up that hotel mouthwash stashed under your bathroom sink. We all know you've had that bottle for years.
6. Donate any books you don't need or want anymore.
That's what I've been able to come up with for now. I hope it helps avoid waste and stress during the moving process. Don't hesitate to let me know if you have any questions!
Britni and her husband, Keith, have been married for 10 years and he is currently serving in the United States Navy. They have called 5 bases home including Pensacola, FL, Corpus Christi, TX, Jacksonville, FL, Whidbey Island, WA, and San Diego, CA. They have been through two deployments and it has only served to strengthen their marriage. Britni is an expert at military spouse networking and we are so excited to feature her as a Woman with Wings!
Advice for finding jobs
Though it is often tough to find jobs as a military spouse, Britni has made the best of her situation. She works remotely as a Marketing Specialist. She is also a fellow military spouse blogger on a site of her own, MilSpouse Resource, where she shares stories and resources for military spouse entrepreneurs as well as remote work opportunities. Additionally, she is a small business owner, running a site called OakTree Network that allows military spouses to network and locate, hire, and support nearby local military spouses who offer services that are location specific.
Her advice for finding jobs is to "network, network, network!" She advises using sites like LinkedIn, joining In Gear Career and MadSkills, and utilizing the various Military spouse networking groups!
Advice on Deployments
"Deployment can be extremely overwhelming. Get involved with the spouses’ club or FRG. You will need friends who know what you’re going through. Get a “Deployment Buddy” – someone to check in with once a day every day to simply make sure you’re ok. Try to take it one day at a time, and try to stay busy by filling up your schedule. Use this time to focus on something you want to do, if you can. Find out your passion – this last deployment I created a new business! (OakTree Network for military spouses launched Oct 1!)"
Favorite part about being a military spouse
"I love moving around and meeting new people – both locals and other military families. I’ve been able to experience life in each of these cities and learn how different the US is in certain areas."
Most important relationship lessons learned
"Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. Use this time apart to learn more about yourself and what you can do to make your relationship better."
Thank you for your service, Keith, and thank YOU for yours, Britni!
My husband, Nikko and I rarely have date nights on weeknights but this week Nikko planned a hot date on a Thursday. We spent the romantic evening with Dave Ramsey and his band of “financial preachers.” I’ve talked about my financial prowess – or lack thereof – in former posts so you can imagine how unenthused I was when Nikko got us tickets to see people talk about money for a couple hours. I knew this is a passion of his and I knew it was good information to have so I agreed to go. We left for our “hot date” right after work before we could even eat dinner and drove to a nearby modern church where the event was to be held. The traffic was backed up onto the adjacent street leading up to the church. I remember thinking “What kind of event is this?!” Upon pulling into the HUGE parking lot, I was dumbfounded to see a line of people filing into the church. I seriously thought we would be here with the ten other couples whose wives got tricked into going because their husbands told them they were going to dinner. The people in attendance were - to my surprise - extremely diverse of every ethnicity and age, some married, some single. The venue looked like a concert hall. It had stadium seating and sat a couple thousand people. This event was obviously going to be much larger than I had imagined it. We took our seats and waited for the event to start. Nikko was getting his neat and tidy notebook ready to take notes while I was busy thinking about what I wanted to eat for dinner after the event finished.
The event kicked off with a witty MC who introduced the main speaker, Chris Hogan, an ex-football player turned financial motivational speaker. He was a great speaker almost like a stand-up comedian throwing punchy jokes and funny life stories into his introduction. I was entertained and laughing along when he seamlessly began to relate his funny life stories to money and finances. He held my attention and I was actually listening when he started to delve into the meat of the program: the “Seven Baby Steps to Financial Freedom.”
Baby Step 1: $1,000 cash in a beginner emergency fund
Baby Step 2: Use the debt snowball to pay off all your debt but the house
Baby Step 3: A fully funded emergency fund of 3 to 6 months of expenses
Baby Step 4: Invest 15% of your household income into retirement
Baby Step 5: Start saving for college
Baby Step 6: Pay off your home early
Baby Step 7: Build wealth and give generously
Though Nikko and I are not starting from scratch with our finances and though most of these steps are well-taken care of, in going through these baby steps, I learned I could be doing a lot better with planning and budgeting (something that Nikko has been telling me for quite some time now). Aside from the baby steps, some various take-aways that were particularly impactful to me were:
YNAB: You need a budget. Assign every dollar in your checking account a purpose. Which brings me to my next point…If you don’t have a plan for you’re the money in your checking account, you can consider it spent. I KNOW this to be true from my online shopping escapades.The FICO credit score is NOT an indicator of how you manage wealth, but how you manage debt. So while it’s great to have a stellar credit score, for our next big purchase, we really need to think about if we even need to “contribute” to our credit score in the first place. Which leads me to the next point…Choose not go into debt if you have the cash to pay upfront.Think of interest that you earn as a reward and interest that you pay as a penalty.No matter how old you are or your marital status, you need to create a will for your assets in case anything happens to you. This hit me especially hard with Nikko’s deployment approaching.
All of these were good lessons, some of which I did not know prior to the talk and some that were paraphrased to be more impactful.
Now don’t get me wrong, I STILL hate talking about and dealing with money but after tonight, I certainly do feel more confident. I feel confident that Nikko and I are doing alright for ourselves. I feel confident that I know what to do to create a plan for our money. Most importantly, I feel more confident that we will be prepared for whatever life throws at us. This confidence is coming at a great time because I will have to be the one doing the majority of financial planning while Nikko is away.
When the show was over, Nikko whole-heartedly thanked me for coming to the talk with him because he knew it wasn’t my first choice for a hot date on a Thursday night. I assured him that I actually enjoyed it and had so much to take away from it. We capped off the night discussing our financial take-aways over a Chik-fil-A dinner date. He was happy because I was actually engaged and actively participating in a conversation about finances and I was happy because I got Chik-fil-A, the perfect ending to a “hot date.”
Both Jordan and I had the pleasure of planning a wedding with fiancees who were in the military. As if wedding planning isn’t stressful enough, there are added stresses that come with marrying both your spouse AND the military. It sure ain't easy, but you can bet it's all worth the trouble. Here are some tips to ease the wedding planning:
If you’re long-distance, plan ahead.
The first challenge was that we were both long distance from our fiancees. Being apart was extremely hard especially taking into account all of the joint decisions that wedding planning entails. Planning together took a lot of phone calls as well as trust. When we were together for a short weekend, we made sure to make valuable use of our time together. Plan things like getting your marriage certificate, food and cake tastings, church preparations and venue visits well in advance when the rarity occurs that you both are in the same place at once. Another tool we used was our families. We were both living in different places, neither of which were the location of the wedding. Luckily, we had family on site that could help us with wedding tasks in the crucial months leading up to the wedding.
Military Wedding Party?
Another challenge was that a lot, if not all, of Nikko’s groomsmen were military servicemen as well. We were blessed to have met them all in college while the boys were in ROTC at Virginia Tech. I had perfect plans of eight bridesmaids and eight groomsmen but the military had other plans. Know and accept that they might not all be there for your bachelor or bachelorette parties or even on your special day. The distance may be too great or military engagements and trainings come up and sometimes there are no exceptions. We ended up with eight bridesmaids and seven groomsmen. Pictures and processions were just fine so don't sweat the small stuff.
Utilize federal holidays.
Along that same vein, if it's a priority to have those special servicemen and women at your wedding celebration, it's a good idea to plan the wedding with their schedules in mind. Nikko and I looked for a three-day weekend to increase our attendance and allow our family and friends some flexible travel plans. Additionally, we made sure that the three-day holiday weekend that we chose was a federal holiday so that our groomsmen would be sure to have the day off.
Take advantage of opportunities to cut costs.
Have the groom (and possible groomsmen) wear their dress uniforms instead of renting tuxedos. Additionally, their ribbons make boutonnieres unnecessary (DOUBLE SAVINGS!) Consider venues on base that may come at a cheaper cost. Use a Space A flight to jet off to your honeymoon and see if MWR has any deals on tickets. There are many benefits that you can take advantage of so do your research!
Despite these added challenges, everything was perfect on both of our special days. It took a little extra planning, a lot more communication, and a lot of trusting each other to get things done but all of the added stresses made seeing everything come together even more rewarding.
My husband is currently going through training. He is supporting me financially as I struggle to set up my art business online. I feel so guilty with how much the supplies cost. I haven't sold a single piece yet and I haven't been accepted into any juried shows either. (As a fine artist they are required for expose) I'm very discouraged. I was hoping somebody here would understand.
A Skilled Spouse
Dear Skilled Spouse, I think of all people, Natalee and I understand what you're going through! In the last couple of months we've been talking so much about the importance of doing what we love. We're both in the process of building our businesses (Natalligraphy for her and Donut Ever Stop for me) while running Kiss the Co-Pilot so we definitely understand your concerns. It takes A LOT of work to run a business. I'm not saying that to be discouraging at all because I believe you have all of the passion in the world to pursue art. I say that in the most gentle and truthful way possible. I watched my parents work day in and day out for 25 years to make their business successful. Heck, they still have some difficult times to this day. There were multiple times when my dad wasn't even able to pay himself from the business and my mom had to pay for materials, pay the employees, etc. from her hard earned flight attendant money. Looking back on all of it though, those times were SO miniscule in the grand scheme of things. All of that struggle made my parents smarter business owners with much tougher skin. I think it's really rare to come across a successful business that didn't start out with tough times. This is just one of those points for you. Don't be discouraged. Like I said, pretty much every business owner has to start from the "bottom" and build their way up from there. I'm sure as heck doing that with my blogging business and it isn't easy by any means. Some things that I think might help - Create a budget for your business. Every month say x number of dollars will go towards materials, x number of dollars will go towards advertising, etc. That way, your husband will know what to expect and since you have your set amount to spend every month, I think it might ease some of your financial stress. I don't know much about running an art business specifically but have you thought about selling it online on a shop like Etsy? Maybe that is a dumb question but it might help to bring in a little bit of income while you're working to get accepted into juried shows. Have you thought of sharing your art on Instagram? Again, might be another dumb question... Another thing that Natalee and I have done is seeking the support of family and friends. They can offer plenty of resources and connections that can help get your business going and your name to the right people. For example, Natalee has gotten a lot of her calligraphy business from friends’ weddings and non-profit organizations. When people like her work at those events, the word about her business spreads that much further. Another example is that my blog, Donut Ever Stop, has taken off with the help of social media and in huge part to family and friends sharing my blog posts on those outlets. I wouldn't have half the readers on my blog without them sharing my blog both on their social media sites and by word of mouth. Lastly, I think it might help to set small goals that lead up to your big goal. I don't know what those would be in the art world but let's say for example that selling your art on Etsy is one of them. It might not be your ultimate goal but it is a small stepping stone that can help you get there. Be persistent and be consistent. Those are the two biggest things I've learned while starting up Donut Ever Stop. I work most hours of the day but I have faith that in ten years down the road this time will be just a small blip in my past. Better yet, I'll be a better person and business owner because of it. I really hope this helps! Please remember that you are not alone in this. You WILL reach your goals! Keep pushing forward.
This week, we have a really special WWW! This Woman With Wings is not only an expert at long distance relationships and a military spouse, but she is also currently serving in the Air Force alongside her husband, Tony. Tony and Kelly met during their junior year at the Air Force Academy. They were both in the same rock climbing PE class and ended up being belay partners. They spent the rest of our time at USAFA rock climbing, hiking, off-roading, and exploring Colorado together! They even got stuck up in the mountains a couple times while off-roading. Tony and Kelly got married the October after graduation while Kelly was attending graduate school in Ohio and Tony was stationed at Scott AFB. Kelly has called three bases home with only one being with Tony. They are about to celebrate 4 years of marriage right before Tony leaves for a one year deployment!
Advice on Bases
"Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. This base is nice because you are within an hour drive of Cincinnati and Columbus and within a 6 hour drive of a ton of other big cities (Louisville, Indianapolis, Detroit, Nashville, Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburg, etc.). The area around the base is nice so the commute is short. The cost of living is low and there is a lot of job availability for spouses. A great base to raise a family!
Scott AFB, IL. Although this base is situated in the cornfields of Southern Illinois, you are only about a 30 min drive from downtown St. Louis which means you get the choice of living in the city, on a farm in the country, or somewhere in between. There is a train that gives you an easy ride into town and to the airport. STL is a cool city with plenty of food, events, sports, and concerts. The schools around the base are good so it’s a nice place for families.
US Air Force Academy, CO. If you love to be outdoors, nothing beats Colorado! There are countless opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, camping, skiing/snowboarding, snowshoeing, offroading, white water rafting, and more! The base is built on the side of a mountain and there are beautiful mountain views from anywhere in the city. The summers are beautiful but the winters are a bit long…but it’s sunny there so the snow melts quickly. There’s also a large military community there which is nice. The cost of living is a little higher, but nothing astronomical. There are plenty of job opportunities and good schools."
Advice for Deployments
"I have a bunch!
For our last deployment, I waited until Tony packed all of his bags then while he was away running an errand, I sneaked into his bags and hid a bunch of cute notes written on post its. I stuck those bad boys to everything: his laptop, battery, inside boots, between shirts, his gas mask, and in every pocket. I wanted him to find those notes over the next week or so to know that I'm thinking about him. He definitely appreciated the gesture.
Have someone available to talk to after you drop him off at the airport. I didn't think I would cry when I said goodbye but I did. It was nice having my mom and a couple of friends to call afterwards in case I didn't want to feel alone. Try to build up a support network of family and friends to keep you sane while your spouse is away. I've been lucky to have friends to third wheel with (I'm pretty much a professional 3rd wheeler by now).
Use FaceTime/Skype as much as you can, but also realize that one or both of you may be too tired/busy to talk every day and that's ok! Along with that, one tip I learned from my coworker is to never play the "who had the worse day" game. Meaning, be empathetic to the hardships that each of you are going through in your separate lives. Being in a war zone is hard but so is holding down the fort alone at home.
I find it best to have a routine to keep my mind positive. I like to wake up and work out every morning. Having that feeling of accomplishment and endorphin rush in the morning just sets my day up in the right direction. I notice that the days I don't get up and exercise are the days I start feeling sad and lonely. Set goals for yourself! Sign up for a race and work towards it while your significant other is gone! You will have plenty of extra time to work towards that goal."
Favorite Part about being a Military Spouse
"Even though we spend a lot of time apart (for us, we have spent more time living apart than living together and Tony is about to deploy for one year), I love how these times make us even happier to see each other. We value the time we have together so much more because we know there are going to be times where we will be apart. I guess absence does make the heart grow fonder!"
Most Important Relationship Lessons Learned
"Communication is important: both speaking your mind and listening to your spouse. The earlier you communicate about something, the smoother things go.
We like to appreciate the small things in life, whether it’s being able to walk the dog together in the morning, taking our dog out to ice cream (what can I say, he’s spoiled!), making pancakes while watching the Sunday morning news, holding hands in church, or watching the sun set over the mountains while eating a pizza.
Over this latest chapter of living apart, I’ve tried to develop a new mantra. When Tony is gone and I'm all alone, I have two choices. I can choose to feel sorry for myself and my situation or I can feel empowered by my situation. Don't get me wrong, I have my times of feeling sorry for myself every once in a while. However, by and large, every day I choose to feel empowered by everything I do. For example, since Tony's departure, I have lost my main hiking buddy. But now I research and choose the hikes myself, carry everything in my pack (Tony used to carry all the heavy stuff!), and hike alone with our dog! Hiking a mountain all by myself reminds me about how strong I really am!"
Our first GUEST BLOGGER! We think it's so great to share different perspectives so we're thrilled to have Alex on the blog this week. She's able to discuss something that we can't just yet... Motherhood. We hope you enjoy what she has to say! Feel free to email us if you'd like to join her in sharing your thoughts and advice as a military wife on Kiss The Co-Pilot.
Making the decision to have a child - it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go outside your body." - Elizabeth Stone
Nothing can truly prepare you for the moment you lay your eyes on your baby for the first time. The baby smell, tiny hands, soft lips…It is a truly indescribable feeling and something no baby book or mommy blog can come close to expressing. However, after having my darling daughter and being currently pregnant with a second, I have compiled a list of my top 6 things you can do in the months leading up to making the momentous decision to have a baby!
1) Have a check-up with your OB-GYN. No one likes going to the doctor but it is important to have a pap smear and routine blood-work to make sure everything is A-okay before baby making time.
2) Start a prenatal vitamin immediately! My doctor suggests starting a prenatal at least three months before you decide to start trying. WARNING: These vitamins can make you very nauseous (at least it did for me and my sister), so make sure to take it with a meal. It works best for me to take it in the evening.
3) Have a sushi date and order a cocktail (or two!). Of course, there are exceptions to every rule but for the most part there are foods and drinks you need to steer clear of when pregnant. Have a fun date with your husband or a girls' night with friends and indulge in all the pregnancy "no-nos."
4) Take that cruise you’ve been eyeing! With the Zika virus on the rise, many women are being advised to stay away from several cruise destinations. Also remember after a certain point in your pregnancy or if you are high-risk, you may be limited to how long you are allowed to fly.
5) Start asking other mom friends for recommendations on an OB doctor. Depending on where you live and are stationed, you may have options outside of the base clinic. It can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming choosing a doctor when you are not familiar with area.
6) Familiarize yourself with social media mom groups/blogs and find a book or two to read. DISCLAIMER: Be careful to not go overboard. With my daughter, I am totally guilty of this! I joined one too many mom groups and abused Dr. Google. While it is beneficial to do your pregnancy research and ask other moms for advice, it can easily become overwhelming and take away some (a lot!) of the joy of becoming pregnant.
Oh, Motherhood. Nothing can truly prepare you for being a mama until the day you become one. Until then, I hope this list helps as way to prepare yourself before you see those two sparkling blue lines!
Christine grew up a military brat calling six different bases home. She was a senior in high school at the base in Adak, AK where she met her future husband, Tony, who was in his thrid year of active duty. Fast forward to today, and Christine and Tony have now been married for 26 years - during all of which Tony has served in the United States Navy. Together, they have called three bases "home:" Newport, RI, Rota, Spain, and Dam Neck, VA. They have been through numerous deployments and even been separated during two to three year assignments. All of these experiences have taught Christine lessons not only how to be a great military spouse but moreover, how to be a better spouse in general.
Advice on Bases
"Adak, AK - This is where we met. I was a senior in HS and he was in his 3rd year of active duty. Sadly, this base closed down in the early 90s. It was definitely a unique experience living here…no trees, no traffic lights, long winters (sunrise at 1000 and sunset at 1500), a 4-hour flight to the nearest mall!
San Diego, CA – Beautiful city! This is where we started dating; so much to do within driving distance; beautiful weather and great food. The base exchange is HUGE! It is a military town, but everything is so spread out. You must have a car to get from place to place. One of my favorite places to live.
Newport, RI – I absolutely loved living here; great place to raise children although the winters are long; lots of fun places to see in New England, fall season is the best! There is a military clinic, but the nearest hospital is Newport Hospital. Boston is less than an hour away.
Rota, Spain – I LOVED living overseas!!! Spending time away from “home” allowed us to closely bond with other military families. We took every opportunity to travel to other countries and cherished every experience we had. It was truly amazing! We sent our son to Spanish school and immersed ourselves in the language and culture. Take advantage of the military space-A flights when traveling from one military base to another (i.e. Rota, Spain to Naples, Italy) – it’s practically FREE! Make sure to have your passport with you at all times. Mingle with the locals and spend your weekends exploring your surroundings. There are limited jobs available for military spouses; a great time to look for volunteer opportunities and take advantage of the down-time to be that “supportive spouse”.
Dam Neck, VA – Nothing’s better than a duty station that is “home”; it makes such a difference to be stationed where your family is. Although I’m not originally from Virginia Beach, I call this home because my dad retired and settled our family here over 20 years ago. I moved here after being away for over 13 years. The thing about living in a military town is that you have access to all your military needs in close proximation; however, military spouses in a larger city have a harder time connecting. Most often, unless they connect with their sponsor’s co-workers and attend their sponsor’s events, it is more difficult to form friendships compared to within a military community overseas or in a smaller town or isolated city. This is the time to connect with the command’s ombudsman, especially if the spouse deploys on an assignment."
Advice on Finding Jobs
"USAjobs.gov is the place to go for finding a government job. I highly recommend that you upload a resume on this site and keep it current; military spouses have priority when it comes to job searching within the area of the spouse’s new assignment. If you are overseas, make sure to volunteer so that you will be the first to know of any jobs that come up. Also, take advantage of the Fleet and Family Center (Navy) to get advice on resume building, job searching, and financial assistance."
Advice on Being Separated "My husband is currently a “geo-bachelor”, which means he is assigned to a location without the family. This is his 2nd tour as a geo-bachelor. His first assignment was in Yokosuka, Japan for 2 years, and he is currently stationed in Charleston, SC for a total of 3 years. Although these assignments are not deployments, it separates us from each other and feels like a deployment. It was a choice we both made based on our new home purchase, our son’s age in school, and our choice to call Virginia Beach home.
COMMUNICATE!!! Before he took the assignment in Japan, we both agreed that we were going to see each other at least every 3-4 months. We made it work; however, it was NOT easy when he left us for the first time. Thank goodness for Skype, Facetime, and email. It is a blessing to be surrounded with family during a deployment because it can be very lonely. You have to remember that your military spouse is also very lonely, so make every effort to let them know you are thinking about them; send snail mail, care packages, pictures, etc.
Also, allow time upon the return from a deployment to get settled; don’t assume you can pick up where you left off. Your military spouse is ready to come home to the comfort of his own home and belongings; he/she wants to feel loved and welcomed. Don’t expect chores to be divided right away because that’s going to cause arguments and misunderstandings. Communicate your feelings about what it was like to be apart and your expectations about what to look forward to in the future. Make sure to communicate clearly what your nonverbal cues are saying. Don’t ever assume that your partner knows what you are thinking. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!!!
Also, be okay with letting each other have space once in a while, and allow each other to spend time with other friends/family. Don’t be too restrictive or overbearing with each other. It’s good for each of you to have an outlet that doesn’t necessarily involve being together all the time. As long as you communicate with each other, you are establishing and building trust."
Favorite Part about Being a Military Spouse
"I loved having the opportunity to travel. I have pockets of friends in various places that I lived. I like being well-rounded and have learned to adapt easy to change."
Most Important Relationship Lessons
"1). It’s okay to agree to disagree. You will never change your partner. The joy of a marriage is discovering what compromises you come up with that makes things work.
2). Keep the passion alive. Once you are married for a while, the relationship can lose its spice. Make sure to take time out for romance and remember the initial desires you had for each other. Be adventurous and don’t be afraid to try new things together.
3). You are the backbone to your military spouse. Be supportive and recognize the responsibilities that your spouse has accepted for our country. Allow them to do their job without complaining, nagging, or making them feel guilty that they have no time for you. They made a commitment to serve our country, and they can only be successful in their job if they have your full support. Be flexible and always present when they need you most.
4). Take advantage of your military benefits. We are very lucky to have the military advantage – retail discounts, space-A travel, military accommodations, entertainment discounts, etc. Network and share your knowledge with other military spouses; be a mentor to someone else. Military spouses have a lot of support to offer each other.
5). Have faith. Pray together, trust each other, keep God in your presence, and always try to find happiness together. Believe that you were united in good faith and destined to be together for a lifetime; set a good example to your children and be role models for others."
Thank you for your service, Tony, and thank YOU Christine for yours!
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