Sunday, June 25, 2017

5 Commandments of PERSEC

  


 I know what you're thinking....another post about another acronym? 

      

    PERSEC also known as Personal Security is VERY important.

     Recent articles such as a piece on Politico have shown a recent uptick in hackers targeting military members and their families. While this is nothing new, you still need to remember that what you are posting online and saying in public can be seen or heard by ANYONE. 

A recent hack back in 2016 primarily targeted military members and veterans. Nearly 22% of those hacked included journalists and 1/5th of them were military spouses who wrote about military life.....scary. (Source)

   While hackers might not be after you....you still need to be careful. What you should and should not post about yourself, your life, your spouse's life, etc. can be confusing. Here is a simple guide to help you stay as safe as possible on and offline.

1. PERSEC is not OPSEC
   While both are important, OPSEC primarily focuses on things such as deployment dates, troop movement, training information, etc. PERSEC is focused on more personal things like where you live, what job your spouse has, your children's information, etc. 

2. Support groups are not always safe
    Many spouses are parts of Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr support groups. These groups are great sources of information and support but they are not 100% safe. 

    I have seen people join that pretend to be married to military members but are not at all. I have seen someone post where they work and people from those group have reached out to their jobs when the didn't like what someone wrote. 

                                           

The internet is still the wild west and we all need to remember that our information is never secret.

3. Oversharing can be annoying....and unsafe
   None of us are innocent in posting a bit too much about what we are up to. It is a normal thing to do. We need to remember that there are certain things that not everyone needs to know about. 

    Example #1: You posting an Instagram about your spouse leaving for NTC is almost a surefire way to guarantee that you will be home alone. This isn't to say that you are some damsel in distress who can't live on their own and handle their &#$! but why make it known?

4. Pictures say a thousand words....that don't need to be said
    I love Instagram more than I should.  I have probably posted a picture of my husband and I a few times a month. While it is completely okay to post photos of your SO, keep in mind who might be looking at them and what kind of information people can find out simply from a photograph.

    I have decided to wait on posting the photo until we are gone from the place the photo was taken. I also post a vague location like a state or city instead of a restaurant or store. If I receive a sketchy request or follow, I will simply block them.

    I will NEVER post pictures of my car, church, or the outside of my house (that is my biggest pet peeve). Those are my personal spaces that I share with those I love...not my followers. These are all simple things that can help you feel a little bit safer but still take advantage of the positive sides of social media.

5. Some things are better left unsaid
      I would've been a bit annoyed if my husband posted everything I did at work and what my job is. Your spouse's unit, MOS (Military Occupational Specialty), etc. should be personal information that doesn't need to be known to strangers. 
       
      We are responsible for the things we post. Many of us have spouses with clearances that require them to use more discretion with what they say and do. We are not bound to those rules in any way but it is not our job to share information they do not want the world to know.

   We do not need to live in fear or under a rock. It is fun to see what my friends are up to online and to share what I'm up to in at our new duty station. The world of social media can make us think that we are safer than we actually are. 

Think before you post.








Monday, June 5, 2017

"How Do You Marry Someone Who Is Never Around?"


    When writing this post, I tried to think of the one question that I got the most right before I married my husband. 

"Why would you marry someone who is never around?"
"Well...he is around. I mean I wouldn't marry someone who is NEVER there."
"If he is gone for months or even years at a time is it worth it?"

...Is it even worth it?

If I didn't know much about military relationships, I would probably ask the same thing. 

Communication can be even better
Don't all the romance movies tell us that we will want to spend every waking moment with the loves of our lives? We would go on endless dates, and just enjoy your spouse's company 24/7. We think that constant communication and contact is what we need for our marriages to thrive.

Relationships survive or die by communication. However, communication does not mean having to talk constantly or being with one another all the time. Many spouses have felt their relationships grow stronger during periods apart. 

My husband and I learned a lot about each other when he deployed. We didn't talk every day and would sometimes go days without even so much as a text. However, our conversations were so much richer because we never ran out of things to talk about. You can cram a ton of info into a 15-minute phone call if you try!

You have a lot to learn....about yourself
 I sometimes feel more inclined to spend a lot of my free time with my husband when he is home. A lot of people become so engrossed in their relationships that they lose their sense of self. We want to spend time with the ones we love.

Our spouses are gone frequently and because of that, we are able to explore more about ourselves. 

 I fell in love with the gym while my husband was gone for a month. At first, it was a place for me to just clear my head. Now, it is something I need to do almost every day.

Being more in touch with yourself and what you love can make your relationship even stronger. We are always growing and changing no matter what. Positive changes in ourselves, lead to positive changes in our relationships....no matter the distance.

- - - - - - - - - 

Yes, my husband is gone often. I can be hard, but every marriage is a challenge. Having a third entity in your relationship that tells you where you live, how long you'll live there, etc. etc. can be difficult. However, a journey as crazy as the one we are on has strengthened individually and as a couple. 

Being apart from one another does not mean that my world falls apart. There will be challenges in marriages that are harder than distance and time spent apart. Why not take this time apart and make it something positive? This inconvenience can become an opportunity an even stronger, more loving and more fulfilling marriage.












Wednesday, May 17, 2017

5 Things You Need When You PCS to the "Worst" Place on Earth



Your spouses' orders are in! You are going to the middle of nowhere with a neverending winter for three years! It's two hours north of nowhere and the equivalent of the 7th circle of hell...or so you've been told.

The military has some "interesting" places they choose to send people to. We might try to avoid these places the best we can, but the needs of the military come first...or better or worse.

Our current post is this exact place. I had multiple people tell me how awful this place was. There is nothing to do and nowhere to go. 

I decided I was not going to have a terrible experience...even though I thought I might. 

To have the best experience at your next post...you need to have 5 things (wine is not included but encouraged). 

1. An Open Mind
   People can tell you all they want about their experience at a post and sometimes they might be right. People have loved Fort Polk....yes, Polk. People have also hated Fort Carson for reasons I cannot fathom but that is okay. 

    Everyone is different and we all come from different places and previous experiences. No one is going to have the same feeling about a post and no one can tell you exactly what it is like. Your job hunt, spouse's unit, neighbors, etc. etc. will be entirely different from other people's experience when they moved to that post.

   Take EVERYTHING with a grain of salt and come to your own conclusions before just accepting the attitude of everyone else around you.

2. Research
   I love trip advisor. Not because I can necessarily afford a trip anywhere right now, but because I can learn more about the places around the area where I am going to be living. I was able to find amazing spots in Arizona so far that would not have gone near at all if I didn't do some quick online searches. For example, did you know Arizona has a wine country??? Also that they do shuttle bus tours to those wineries??? 

   Joining spouses pages on facebook has also helped me find little things like a good dentist and a woman who does the most AMAZING eyebrow waxing on the planet. They send out useful info and are great at answering questions. Keep in mind, some of these groups have a bit more drama than others...so keep that in mind.

3. Embracing the Differences 
   I am originally from North Jersey (it is different from South Jersey so it is important to make this distinction) and am used to everyone moving at a million miles a second. The fact that I have moved to a place where everything shuts down by 8:00 pm is insane to me. However, this slower pace has been a lot better for me. 

I feel like people are less stressed out here, but that could also be because most of them are retired.

Either way, I have learned a lot from moving away from my comfort zone. For all of the craziness the military can throw at us, I have learned a lot from living in parts of the country I never thought I would even visit.

4. Your Tribe
    I knew a woman who was stationed at Fort Sill in Oklahoma for six years. Most people hate Sill with the passion of a thousand suns. 
    
    I asked her if she missed and she responded, "What I miss the most is my friends. I hate the most fantastic group of girlfriends ever. "

     When you really think about it, being sent to a place with not much to do really makes people come together. You are able to come together with other spouses who are in the same boat as you are. If you want someone to just sip wine and commiserate about the endless winter you now live in...you can do that! This is a great opportunity to learn new about new places, job opportunities and just create fantastic friendships!

5. A Chance
     Just go easy on yourself and your new place. You might end up loving it or you might simply just want to light the whole place aflame. I was in a mourning period when we PCSd from Carson. After about two weeks I knew that would not be happy if I didn't just try to enjoy this journey. 

     Post assignments do not last forever but they will leave an impact on you no matter what. We all want those dream assignments but sometimes we will end up at places that are nowhere near what we wanted. I have learned so much about the army, myself and the place I live since we PCSd. I did not think I would even remotely enjoy my time here but I know I will be sad once we leave. 

  








Thursday, May 4, 2017

Stop Comparing Yourself To Other Spouses



   You know those Olympic gymnastics judges you see every four years? The ones that never smile and seemingly enjoy breaking the hearts of young Romanian girls because their toes weren't pointed during their vault routine? That is me...judging myself. 

I am especially hard on myself when I compare myself to other spouses. 

Most of us are our own toughest critic. The voice in our head is sometimes louder than those around us. I felt this voice to be amplified when I first married my husband. It wasn't my husband making me feel this way at all but I felt an immediate pressure to be THE BEST WIFE EVER.

I met a woman when we first moved to Colorado who was my definition of perfect. Her house was lovely, her kids were lovely, she was beautiful, her husband was an amazing officer, and her life looked perfect from the outside! 

 I hate to admit jealousy but I was absolutely jealous of her.

 Military spouses especially are at times guilty of comparing themselves to one another. Why else would there be tons of Instagram accounts showing perfectly manicured photos of wives in dresses and husbands in uniform looking like Ken and Barbie? 

Is it that society still thinks that we are all housewives waiting by the window for our husbands to return home? Maybe it is the show Army Wives :gag: that shows perfect spouses that we should aspire to that makes us self conscious? Do we do this to ourselves? Do we think that we have to act a certain way or aspire to be a certain way to be a perfect spouse? 

Either way it is EXHAUSTING to try to be the perfect wife. This is not Mayberry. We cannot be flawless and we are not supposed to be. I can smile all I want at my husband's promotion ceremony but I don't necessarily have to be happy to be up at 5:30 am to make sure I make it on time.

The world is an ever changing place. It is the most volatile we have seen it in years. As a Military spouse this can be frightening time with the possibly of an uptick in deployments in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and beyond. Do we really have the time to worry about whether or not we measure up to one another? I highly doubt it. 

The cliche "comparison is the thief of joy," could not apply more to this post. I felt inadequate instead of empowered by another strong woman, which is how I should have felt from the start. Our best resource for getting through the craziness the military can through at our relationships is one another. 

I am not trying to make this sound like a modern day version of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or anything like that. But we can learn so much from one another and gain knowledge from those who have been married for five, ten or even twenty years. We cannot do that if we are too worried about how we are perceived to others. 

We are not cookie cutter spouses. We have our strengths, weaknesses and fears that sometimes keep us up at night. If we could put our own thoughts of being inadequate aside...we might come out stronger and simply better equipped to face whatever the military throws at our relationships.





  

  








Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Best Apps For LDR Couples


You can find an app for anything these days. Want to sell your clothes? There is an app for that. Want to find true love? There is an app for that. Want to order take out but are too scared to call a stranger on the phone? There is an app for that.

Social media and high cell phone usage has a tendency to be perceived as harmful to relationships. While this can certainly be true, we can also use our iphones to our advantage. 

When my husband deployed to Afghanistan it was nearly impossible to get a good connection to talk. Turns out Afghanistan is a bit behind with their cell towers...go figure. We learned quickly to take advantage of apps that were perfect for people who are far apart from each other and wanted a reliable way to communicate.

Since we were an LDR couple, it feels like a million more apps have come out geared toward couples or simply geared toward communication. Here are my favorite apps for LDR couples.

    This is one of the main apps we used while we were apart. Couple is an app that allows you to communicate with your partner and keep each other up to date with your lives. You can text, send audio and video and even share calendars to set up a phone date or skype call. I used to find the "Thumb kiss" option extremely corny....but man did I use it A LOT.

Free for both Iphone and Android

2. Facebook Messenger Audio
     This app was pretty much the only way we were able to call one another. Facebook Messenger Audio is essentially like calling someone from your phone but instead going through the app. The calls are free and are excellent for those who are international. You simply open up the messages app, select the person you want to call, and click on the telephone icon. 

Free for both Iphone and Android

3. Gaze
     Many couples love to watch shows and movies together. It is one of the things many of us miss doing with our SO when they are gone. Gaze allows you to send a link to your partner can join you in everything from synching screens to video chat. It is the prefect way for one of you to not get mad at the other for watching episodes of Game of Thrones without them. 

This program requires a computer. 

     Texting internationally can be difficult and EXPENSIVE. WhatsApp allows you text privately through their app without worrying about spending an arm and a leg. You can send audio, video and text even in a group chat. This was the texting app my husband and I used when we were long distance and it was AMAZING. We were able to send messages offline as well which was key when we were away from home or not near wifi. 

Free for both Iphone and Android

5. Gaming Apps
      There are hundreds of FREE apps you can download to play games against your significant other. From Monopoly to Draw Something (Yup, that is still around) you can play just about anything. My research led to find so many choices I could not choose just one. For couples that have a more competitive edge or simply want to have an activity to do together (even though you may be a continent apart) will love these options  AppCrawlr has a great article of the top 100 gaming apps on ios. Many of these games are available on Android as well. 







Saturday, April 22, 2017

5 Things PCSing Taught Me


PCSing season is upon us yet again! Some of us are moving to new states, new timezones and even new countries. 

This time can be both exciting and scary for many of us! 

We recently made our trip from Colorado down to Arizona for our next post and it was.....an experience. I won't say everything went perfect because it absolutely did not but I learned A LOT along the way.

1. Save yourself time and stress by researching packing hacks
    I am a terrible packer. My journey toward minimalism has made me a slightly better packer, but I still loathe it. I turned to Pinterest for packing ideas and inspiration. I found a ton of great ideas but my favorite had to be the garbage bag hack. 

   If you hate having to put clothes back on hangers after a big move. THIS HACK is amazing! It probably saved me about two hours since almost all my clothes are on hangers.

2. Your air mattress will feel more comfortable after a few days
   After a week and a half on an air mattress I think I actually began to sleep okay...either that or a severe case of Stockholm syndrome. Honestly though, our air mattress was a life saver. We bought it at Walmart and we have had all of our visitors (over ten people) use it and it hasn't popped! 

3. Prepare for the worst
    I know that this sounds extremely negative and a bit dramatic...but you seriously need to be ready for anything. 

    

This is my car on the side of the road right outside of a town in New Mexico. My car was full of our belongings and was now completely dead on the side of the road. This lead to a wild journey in our other car through Las Cruces to find a U-haul truck. By the time I got the truck and got back to my husband who was waiting for the tow truck....we had twenty minutes of daylight left to move everything from my car to the uhaul.

What happened to me is an extreme situation of course, but always be prepared the best way you can. On long road trips anything can happen. If anything else, make sure you have a first aid kit, water bottles, food, flashlight, jumper cables, and all items needed to fix a flat tire. 

We are very lucky to live in a day in age where cell phones exist but in many parts of country (including our new house) the reception is not good. It is not going to help relying on a phone especially late at night.

4. Something will break in the move
 We were lucky to have great movers despite some of the horror stories I've heard. However, we did have a few casualties break in the move. My biggest piece of advice is to wrap anything that you feel to be very valuable and irreplaceable yourself. I was a control freak who wrapped all our wedding china like it was a newborn. 

 We lost a couple serving platters and have a claim in process with the moving company. So far it has been an easy process. But after driving a uhaul through a border patrol checkpoint in New Mexico to pick up my stranded husband...almost everything was easy.

RIP Watermelon Shaped Serving Bowl 2015-2017

5. Take this new journey as an opportunity
  I was not super excited to leave Colorado at all. I had dreamt of living in Colorado since I was a kid. The best piece of advice about new duty stations I ever got was "It is what you make of it that will make the difference."

   The great and sometimes no so great thing about the military, is that we get to experience new places. I would not have visited most of the places I've seen in the last few years had it not been for the Army. 

   New towns, new foods and new journeys are all waiting no matter if you're going to a new state or a new continent!










Monday, April 10, 2017

10 Perfect Podcasts for A PCS Road Trip




If you are anything like me, you LOVE listening to podcasts. I listen while cleaning, driving, falling asleep, and even at the gym. I am about to drive 11 hours to our next post and will be needing to listen to something to pass the time. 

I have found my top 10 podcasts that will help your road trip through boring parts of the country more bearable.


1. Car Talk
   Car Talk has been an institution on NPR for years. Tom and Raymond Magliozzi from Cambridge, Mass take callers questions on their automobile issues. This duo is laugh out loud funny with fantastic Boston accents and you can learn a thing or two about cars. Although sadly Tom passed away in 2014, their episodes are still available in podcast form. 

Fun Fact: Both brothers are MIT grads who then got into car repair.

Average Episode Length: 1 Hour
Suitable for All Ages

Photo Credit: NPR

2. Lore
   For those who enjoy history and scary stories, Lore is for you. Host Aaron Mahnke has quite possibly the best voice of any podcast host. Aaron takes listeners on a journey through the scarier side of history with tales that can send shivers up your spine. Episodes cover everything from haunted mausoleums to warlock cults.

   The podcast is set to be made into a TV show sometime in 2017 and has won multiple awards for its amazing historical retelling of some not so great moments in time. 

Average Episode Length: 20-30 minutes
Suitable for Ages 14+

Photo Credit: LorePodcast.org
3. Welcome to Night Vale
   This was the podcast that started my love affair with the podcast world. Welcome to Night Vale is the home of the fictional desert town of Night Vale's community radio. This desert town is just like any other except for the issues with the Sheriff's Secret Police, the glow cloud, a five headed dragon named Hiram McDaniels and so much more.

   The community radio includes updates like the community calendar, the weather, traffic, and a reminder that the dog park does not exist. To truly understand the genius of this podcast (which is also a book) give it a listen! 

Average Episode Length: 25-30 minutes
Suitable for Ages 14+

Photo Credit: DeviantArt



4. Up and Vanished
    Up and Vanished explores the disappearance of a Georgia beauty queen and teacher Tara Grinstead. The case had been unsolved since Tara's disappearance over 11 years ago. Director Payne Lindsay decided to try to solve the case himself after hearing about it from his family who lived near Tara. This podcast has caused MAJOR breaks in the case that will finally give us the answer to question "What happened to Tara Grinstead?"

Average Episode Length: 30 min-1 hour
Suitable for ages 16+

Photo Credit: Rolling Stone

5. This American Life
    The podcast that started other famous podcasts like Serial and S-Town is perfect for long car rides. I honestly don't really know how to describe this podcast so I'll let the show's founders describe it themselves.

"One of our problems from the start has been that when we try to describe This American Life in a sentence or two, it just sounds awful. For instance: each week we choose a theme and put together different kinds of stories on that theme. That doesn't sound like something we'd want to listen to on the radio, and it's our show.

So usually we just say what we're not. We're not a news show or a talk show or a call-in show. We're not really formatted like other radio shows at all. Instead, we do these stories that are like movies for radio. There are people in dramatic situations. Things happen to them. There are funny moments and emotional moments and—hopefully—moments where the people in the story say interesting, surprising things about it all. It has to be surprising. It has to be fun."
Bottom line...it is amazing and you will not be disappointed. I am also aware that is an extremely generic and uninspiring review so just trust me and listen to the podcast dammit!

Average Episode Length: 1hr 
Some episodes are more age appropriate than others use discretion.
Photo Credit: Iserotope


6. 1A
 1A's name is inspired by the 1st Amendment which protects our freedom of speech. Host Joshua Johnson explores hot button topics in our country with a panel of experts on topics ranging from politics to pop culture. According to their website, "1A’s goal is to act as a national mirror—taking time to help America look at itself and to ask what it wants to be." What I really like about this podcast is that they take questions from callers of all different backgrounds and beliefs. 


Average Episode: 30-45min
Most episodes are suitable ages 16+ but some are definitely more suited for ages 18+

Photo Credit: 1a.org
7. Anna Faris is Unqualified
   The star of the NBC show "Mom" and wife to my celebrity crush Chris Pratt, has a great podcast for people who love comedy and celebrities. Guests of the podcast vary from Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls to Katie Couric. Anna and Co-host Sim Sarna are completely unqualified to give advice on anyone's relationship and it is hysterical.

Average Episode 1hr-1hr 30min
Suitable for ages 18+

Photo Credit: Soundcloud
8. The Minimalists Podcast
     If you are looking for a calm podcast where you can learn about not only decluttering your life but just living an overall better life...this is your podcast! Hosts Joshua and Ryan were living the life that most people dreamed of. They had luxury cars, big houses and just a ton of stuff and decided it wasn't giving them the life they wanted.

Even if you are not planning on become a minimalists, you can learn tips to live a better life with less stuff and less stress. These guys are all about making things like creativity, travel, passions, relationships etc. more important than stuff. It is a relaxing podcast that has a message we all need in this day and age.

Average Episode Length 1-1 45 minutes
Suitable for all ages 

Photo Credit: The Minimalists

9. Sword and Scale
      True crime junkies will become addicted to Sword and Scale. The tagline of this podcast is the "The show that reveals that the worst monsters are real," if that gives you an insight into how dark this show can be. There was a time where I listened to this podcast for two weeks straight and was too scared to sleep...in a good way. 
     The great thing about this show is that the editing is phenomenal and the stories are usually ones I have not heard of before. I will give a disclaimer that some of the topics covered may be too much for some listeners. There has been more than one time when I listen to this podcast and I just rip out my headphones and say "This is too much." However, I think these stories need to be told for the victims, their families and a warning to others. 

Photo Credit: Sword and Scale
Average Episode Length 1hr 15min
Suitable for Ages 18+

10. She Explores
    If you love the outdoors and/or exploring the world like I do, then you will love this podcast! She Explores started as a blog for women who enjoy the outdoors, travel and simply exploring the world around them. Host Gail Straub interviews women who thrive off of adventure and talk about what they overcame to reach their goals or find their passion. This podcast has truly inspired me and makes me want to get back into nature again.

Average Episode Length 30-35 minutes
Suitable for all ages