Sunday, August 20, 2017

Managing Expectations In Military Life

     I recently started bullet journaling. For those that don't know it is essentially using a notebook or journal as your own custom planner. One of the components that some people use is a "year at a glance" page. After creating my page I realized that it was a complete waste of time to have this page. I didn't know where I would be in the next three months let alone the next year. 

    "The only constant in life is change," is a quote I believe perfectly applies to military life. 

      You think you're moving somewhere, then you aren't. You think you'll be able to find your perfect job easily at your new post, but it takes longer than expected. We have this idea in our minds on how we would like things to go but sometimes they simply don't. This doesn't always have to be a negative thing and can sometimes even be for the better. Managing the expectations we have for our experience with military life is essential to making sure we make this experience worthwhile.

    It is impossible to know what the future will hold in military life or not. We can go months or even years with minimal bumps in the road, only to have a sudden deployment date that changes five times. I used to think that the best expectations were to have none at all. But, it made me feel lke I was just kind of floating through life....and I was bored. I can't live my life expecting things to always change at a moments notice. Changes will come and they can sometimes come more frequently than normal, but we cannot lose track of what is important like our relationships, goals and passions.

Image Credit: Mark Baker
    Acknowledge What You Feel
          You don't have to be "fine" with every new or unexpected thing that will happen in your life. I have made the mistake of burying my emotions a million times over and it did nothing but make me even more miserable. You can be angry, you can cry, and you can "angry cry". It is not shameful to not react positively to every change that comes your way.

    Seek Wisdom
            I recently started to attend a bible study where I would say at least 65% of the women are spouses of career military veterans. They have been through events in their life that most of us cannot imagine. They are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to military relationships and can provide a perspective most of us do not have.
           If you aren't in a bible study like I am, I would recommend taking a look at some facebook groups that are geared toward military spouses. There are also a plethora of blogs run by spouses of military members who have been in for 10+ years. There are so many great resources out there that can help with navigating what comes next in military life.

   Don't Give Up On Your Goals
           Just because plans and timelines change does not mean that you need to stop everything you are doing. You may have to switch focus in the short term, but I encourage you to not just give up on what you love or want to achieve. My goal was to make this blog a great resource for military spouses like myself who knew nothing about military life. If I gave up the multiple times I wanted to, I would probably be going crazy right now!
          Also when things go sideways, having something to focus on has helped me tremendously when things feel like they are out of my control.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Military Spouses I Love: Brittany Sutton

Brittany and I met during a "family shoot day" when our husbands were in the same unit. From that point on we were basically each other's POC whenever something went crazy or wrong while we were stationed at Carson. Brittany and I are different in many ways. To start, she is about 1000% nicer than me and is probably the perfect person to teach high school and middle school. She can run half marathons while I can barely run an under 10 minute mile. She has handled two crazy deployments in a way that is awe inspiring. Although we are at different posts now, she was my first true friend I met in the military life and I am eternally grateful for that.

For this post, Brit chose to wrote about how she has handled two deployments and a full time job. She is a wealth of knowledge on making the most out of deployment and reaching goals while your SO is away.

You can find out more about Brit on her blog Work,Shoes,Puppies by clicking HERE

When you hear the word “deployment”, various things pop into your mind: where is he going, when is he going, when can I hear from him, how much time do we have left, etc.  It’s all about counting down until he leaves and then counting down until he comes home.  The time before is filled with stress, worry, and anxiety.   You and your significant other bicker, laugh, cry, and hold on extra tight until it’s time.

And then they leave.  

Now what?

My husband and I have been through two deployments so far, and I think the biggest part that caught me off guard the first time, was what do I do now that he is gone?  The simple answer is to continue with your life.  Oddly, that is very difficult because the very fabric of your life has been turned upside-down, inside out, and all sorts of backwards.  

And that friends, is perfectly normal.

The first thing I did was go back to work, I am a teacher and my students needed me there; and honestly, I needed the distraction.  Jobs, volunteer work, hobbies, they all help you get back to a stable sense of normal.  Time is only going to pass so quickly when your significant other is deployed, and it will pass much slower if you simply stay in the house and wait for a Facebook Message from them.

I threw myself into work and as many activities that I could that were related with school: coaching, volunteering, you name it!  My husband and I have a dog, and Max (said dog) and I walked/hiked more than I ever thought possible.  I also hung out with my friends who were going through the same thing or have been there before.  It is always a huge bonus to have friends that understand deployments: sometimes you need someone who will bring you wine and dinner, watch bad movies with you, and let you vent and cry it out.

Another outlet for me was exercise: exercise gives you endorphins and during deployment, you need as many of those little guys that you can get.  My husband and I set a goal as well: when he got back from deployment, we were going to run a half marathon together.  As I was about as terrible of a runner as there could be, this seemed like a crazy goal.  But running is something we had started to do together before he left, and this was also a great way to give me something else to focus on.  At first, I was too busy to think of how much I missed him when I was running because I was thinking about how much running sucked!  Talk about a distraction!

Soon, running became very important to me.  After I got over most of the suckiness that was running, I actually began to enjoy it and crave the runners high that came afterwards.  It helped me think, process and just feel mentally stronger.  It helped me gain a sense of strength that infused into my daily attitude and helped remind me of what I was made of.

Deployments are always going to be rough in one sense or another: you’re going to need to allow yourself plenty of time to cry, watch movies, binge shows on Netflix, hide from the world and eat a crazy amount of chocolate.  But, you also need to remember that you are strong, capable and that you will get through this.  The best way, in my experience, is to keep busy!  Find new hobbies, new exercise routines, new places to volunteer, new ways to get more involved with your job, etc.  Time will pass, deployment will end, and they will come home to you; and those are the facts!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

How Volunteering Taught Me Everything I Know About Military Life

         I have spoken before about how I had ZERO knowledge of the military before I met my husband. If the military spouse community had a village...I would've been its idiot. In the beginning, I simply didn't care enough to try to figure anything out which put me at a huge disadvantage when it came to understanding anything about my husband's job. 

         You are not in the military. You don't technically need to know anything at all. However, you moved to the other side of the country for your spouse's job so you might want to know a little bit of what goes on. Maybe you don't really care about what they do at all but you want to learn a bit more about what goes on in the military community where you are. I found that the best way to learn all that I could was by volunteering my time on post.

Start with what you are passionate about
       Volunteering is not a job. There are some expectations while volunteering, but you do have free range to do what you love. Most posts have a volunteer coordinator who can explain either what volunteer opportunities are available or can try to find one to fit your needs. I knew I wanted to interact with military members and their families and was able to do so with ease. With my nonexistent knowledge, they decided the best place for me to learn...was putting me at the front desk.

Ask ALL the questions
         I felt like I was bothering people all the time who worked in the building with endless questions. I soon realized no one was bothered at all. In fact, they appreciated someone taking the time to learn about what is offered to military members and their families. There is no harm in admitting you don't know something. I used to grab pamphlets on things that didn't even apply to me (like joining the German Club on Fort Carson) partially because I was bored during the slow periods but also so I could learn more. 

Keep it professional
         While you are a volunteer, you still need to realize that some of the people you are working with still need you to act in a manner that is acceptable. Since I was at the front desk, I especially needed to look like I didn't roll out of bed. You also may have to sign confidentiality agreements depending on whom you volunteer for. This protects you as well as the clients you may be working with. When I am volunteering I treat it as a job. If I came through the door of ACS in dire need of help, I would want the person at the front desk to be as calm and professional as possible even if they were a volunteer.

Keep your emotions in check
          I had to keep a professional manner while a spouse who was badly bruised was checking in to speak to a Victim Advocate. I have had to smile and welcome someone in who was inquiring about an Army Emergency Relief loan for their house that had burned to the ground. You can see people at the highest and lowest point in their lives but you need to stay as level headed as possible. You can be the calm in these peoples storms just by providing a friendly face and simply being the gateway to the groups that can really help them.
          Through volunteering, I soon realized that the complaints I had in life were absolutely nothing compared to what others were going through. Volunteering gave me an appreciation for the life I have and a broader perspective on the military community as a whole. I have seen the best and worst come through the doors where I have volunteered and I am a better person for it. 


    You don't need to completely immerse yourself in the military world to learn about it. Volunteering is a great way to do what you love and learn information along the way. My viewpoint of the military completely changed once I started to get involved.

       I completely understand that we all work and have families who need to be our first priority. if you can spare a few hours a week, it can provide a deeper perspective on the military world and the world around you. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Day They Come Home

             I picked an awfully dramatic title for this blog post. Most of the time I like to steer away from the "Army Wives" take on things like deployment and being in a long distance relationship. Many people are expecting this romantic and movie worthy moment when you see each other from across the auditorium and then run with tears streaming down your faces and embrace each other. Then a flock of screaming eagles is released and red white and blue fireworks go off and somehow you ran to your spouse in heels. 

             Yes, there are absolutely homecoming experiences like this (minus the eagles and fireworks usually) and they are beautiful to see. However, I see many spouses put a ton of pressure on themselves to have the perfect homecoming experience for their spouse.

            There are several things that stuck out to me that day:
                 1. Your spouse will be exhausted. Odds are they have been traveling for days and have hardly slept at all.
                 2. How you choose to welcome your spouse home is up to you. Some people have signs and photographers and others choose not to. It is entirely up to you! 
                3. Keep it low key the first day they come home. It is sensory overload to suddenly be back home after so long and can take a while to adjust
                4. There is no way you can predict what their mood will be like when they come home. Some people are excited, nervous, in shock, exhausted, or all the above. Yes, they are happy to see you, they just landed in the USA after a long time away so its a bit of a mind bender.
                5. Since they can't usually drive during deployments (if they do its usually no more than 15mph) so be prepared to have your spouse get a bit nervous when you drive over 40 on the highway. 
                6. They will smell and their stuff will smell...bad

             My husband and I were in a relationship at the time of his homecoming (on Thanksgiving) and I knew NOTHING about what to expect. I flew out from New Jersey and rented a car in Colorado to see him come home. Other than a close family friend who graciously gave up part of their  Thanksgiving to see him home there was just me and I DIDN'T HAVE A WELCOME HOME SIGN. I didn't know that people did that and even if I did there was no way I was bringing it on a plane.

             I'm not sure if Carson likes to do things a little differently but while I was standing there in the gym the soldiers entered through the doors and a smoke machine to the American songbird Toby Kieth's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue.".....doesn't get much more 'Merica than that.

             It all became a fog (not because of the smoke machine) I don't think I heard anything once they all came in. I couldn't see him since everyone is wearing the exact same thing but just knowing we were in the same room after almost 10 months apart seemed surreal. I didn't cry but then again I don't ever cry. The only time I nearly cried was when I saw a child crying when she saw her Daddy because could you not? When we finally saw each other through the sea of green it was a huge hug, a big kiss, and just a giant relief. 

            While it felt like no time was apart at first we soon realized that we needed to get used to being in the same country again. It can take time and can be easier for some couples than others. There is no easy way to simply pick up where you left off. It will take time, and at times be painful. You don't need to be afraid to reach out for help if you need to.

 If there is one thing most military spouses can say is that "We've been there. We get it. We're here if you need us."