A Time Of Reflection

free-thanksgiving-subway-art-printable-free-thanksgiving-printableThis year Thanksgiving dinner is on me. I love cooking Thanksgiving dinner! The smell of stuffing and pies wafting in the air makes my home feel warm and welcoming.

I remember the first time I cooked a Thanksgiving turkey. I was pregnant with our first son. My parents drove through the night to be at our home for the weekend. My step dad chatted with me about all the topics you can’t talk about in mixed company and we planned when he would come to help paint the baby’s room. While my mother stared at the ultra sound pictures of the baby and talked about his nose. It was relaxing and perfect in every way.

Our dinner has evolved over the years to include our military family. The year we hosted our first dinner away from our own blood I was scared. Scared it wouldn’t feel the same as with my family. But, a very close friend assured me the day would be perfect and to have faith. She was right! That year Thanksgiving became more than giving thanks for my own family but for those who come and go in it, too.

I love a full table with lots of conversations going and yummy food and kids playing. This is what Thanksgiving with military families are like. They are special in their own way just like that first one I hosted with my parents and sister.

This year we will once again open our home to our military family to celebrate the day. As my turkey thaws in the fridge I once again reflect on my first one. It seems so far away yet so close in my heart. Each year is different, yet the same in that we come together to break bread and take time to give thanks.

How will you spend your day? Home with family? Hosting? Will your military family be with you?

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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5 Tips To Ease The Stress Of Kid Schedules

It’s Saturday morning and I feel a mix of emotions as I sit here writing and listening to Spy Kids in the background. My emotions are a mix of calm, anxious, nervous and relieved because my younger son is sick and I’m home with him (calm and relieved) but my older son is at a swim meet that I’m missing (nervous and anxious). It is in these moments I pause and reflect on the first two emotions because I can actually have them.

10702116_10205419205108129_1025539488963724959_nAs a military spouse, I’m always prepped and ready for days like today. When I have one kid who needs to be somewhere and the other needs to be in a different place or worst… sick and can’t be anywhere and I’m ALONE. It is a type of stress that is ever present but not today.

Today I can relish in the fact I’m not alone because my husband is home and we can divide and conquer. But, how do we prepare when we are not in those shoes but in the dreaded alone shoes instead?

1. Have 2-3 families you trust to take your child where they need to be. Having a babysitter to stay with the sick one is an option but really you are who they want. So, have your go to families that can take your child and you stay with your sick kiddo.

2. Plan ahead for kid activities before TDYs or deployments. If you know your spouse will be away and your kids will have conflicting schedules reach out to the coaches, band directors, etc for help with car pools. When you need it an SOS from the coach saying a family will need help gets people to step up quickly.

3. Let go of what you can’t control. Sometimes you can’t control schedule changes of your child’s soccer team or unexpected travel from your spouse. In those moments you will need to sit down with your kids and drop the disappointment bomb they will be missing their event. It happens, but reassuring your child that it is just one game or practice and they will be at the next one is important. I’m always surprised how well my kids handle these. Military children are so understanding in these moments more than you might think.

4. Keep a list of emergency contacts at all times. Use these for when you are in a bind like already out at a committed event and you need to take sick or injured child to the doctor. This can be tough in new towns, I suggest finding a friend of a friend or maybe a co-worker of your spouse. Our military community is full of wonderful people always willing to step up and help someone they don’t know.

5. Don’t over schedule your family. Kids like to try so many things from horseback riding lessons to sports to music to dance and sometimes more than one at a time. You should ask yourself if you can handle it all alone before committing. My boys were very disappointed to learn they couldn’t play summer soccer but one sport and a music lesson was all I could handle alone while my husband was on his travels.

Having a plan and not over booking your day can help ward off the stress of getting kids where they need to be. Kids learn to be flexible and understanding while also gain a sense of respect for you limits as the parent doing it all while the other is off serving the country. And sometimes no matter how much we plan Murphy still pays us a visit. I always say, “The best laid plans of mice and men.” in those moments. Just take those days one hour (or minute) at time because they only make you strong.

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The Heroes At Home

1016074_10201583885827544_1553898116_nOur children are born into a life of so much turmoil. So much change all of the time from new schools to new homes. So much time away from one parent (and in some cases both) from weeks to months. Maybe never knowing what life is like to live near extended family and how wonderful growing up with grandparents babysitting you can be.

So, as I watched my children playing recently I saw them differently. Not in that I was amazed how much they have grown but that they are amazing little people. They take on so much and yet the continue to laugh and be carefree.

This begs the question, “Aren’t they heroes in all this?” Yes, there is no arguing that our brave men and women who defend us are heroes. They are the ones going into battle for the great good but what of their children fighting the battles at home? Our men and women in uniform choose this military life. For many it is their calling or passion but the children? No, it was us who put them into the battles of the homefront. The battles of making new friends, going to new schools, having to accept a change in their war torn parent or the worse battle of grief of losing one.

The interesting thing about these kids is that no matter what battle they face, they fight with strength and virtuosity. They come out winning every time. Military children know how to adapt and overcome better than the people teaching them. I often look to my kids for a better way to handle stress and pressure of life. This is all they know so they are the perfect teacher.

Life often hands us a lemon so take a cue from your child, cut it up and make some lemonade with it. Our children always see the their ever changing world as limitless possibilities and so should we. Change is inevitable and we should embrace it as they do and OWN it. Laugh and play more, accept more and be more flexible.

But, in the tough moments with these little homefront heroes (cause there are a lot) remember all the battles they fight. While they are brave and embrace life’s challenges sometimes like our service members they need a hug and understanding, too.

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What Motivates Them?

Unknown-1Motivation is what drives people to do one thing or another. It is like a little fire in your belly that burns and guides you to through life.

Advocacy has its own special motivation. Generally, people who take on advocacy do it for love of someone or something. It’s a thankless thing and the people spend their lives advocating for others and the greater good ask for nothing in return but change. Change for those they speak up for. Advocates have courage that is often seen as unattainable and awe inspiring but the truth is we all have it, the burning fire of motivation. It’s just that theirs is different in that they don’t expect much in return.

Being a Navy Ombudsman is much the same. While the majority of the time is spent helping others live better military lives by providing military related tips, information and resources, they are also advocates. They have a special kind of motivation because it is one of the most thankless (volunteer) positions a person could hold. Yet, Navy spouses around the world do it every single day with love and tender hearts ensuring our Navy families have the best quality of life they can while their Sailors are at sea.

It is why I do it, too. After 4 plus years and 2 commands, I have learned there is no glory in this job. Sometimes it has heavy hearted moments that cause me to question “why” and tests my motivation. Kind of like the 20 mile mark in a marathon when you think your body just can’t handle another step. There is hardly thanks except maybe in passing from time to time and it what keeps me going. The spouses who are genuinely so grateful someone was on the other side of the phone to give them reassurance or a useful resource to ease their worried mind.

Often times I am told we, Ombudsmen, should be paid and then asked why the Navy doesn’t when other service have moved in that direction. To me, that answer is simple. Ombudsmen are very special people. It takes a lot of fire belly burning motivation to willing step into a job that doesn’t pay, with little in return. To willingly answer angry phone calls (or desperate ones) with no solution and walk away ready for the next one. To stand before the command leadership and say they aren’t getting it right and the families deserve better. But, when you dangle something in front of person to take on what Navy Ombudsmen do then the person desires the dangling item more than to help our families who need and deserve it. Ombudsmen don’t need the dangling item they need for our families to be armed with resources to live successful military lives and platform to fight for them when the resources are lacking.

Even in our day and age of social media and instant ability to find information I believe deeply in the Ombudsman Program. There is a reason it is over 40 years old and it is because it works. When you have a strong advocacy program built with people who are driven with motivation to help others our Sailors set out on their mission with clear, calm and reassured hearts and minds that their families will be well cared for.

I feel very strongly about that and it is why I continue to give of myself and volunteer as an Ombudsman.

Advocates can have money, award titles and gifts of thanks but at the end of the day it is the belly fire of motivation for the greater good and change that drives them. Thank an advocate today, military or civilian. They are all the same in their “why” and our world is a better place because of them.

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I Have A Confession….

My confession? I’m an introvert and highly sensitive person.

Are you surprised? Most often people are surprised by this news since I don’t come off as introverted. How is it that I can be introverted but fool everyone with my extroverted outer appearance?

Well, I made a choice long ago to put my introvert tendency to the side when necessary. As a new military spouse I struggled making friends and a lot had to do with my awkwardness around new people and in social settings. After years of practice I’ve gotten better but with every new social event I attend (my running workouts included) I feel the butterflies in my stomach. My mind plays tricks on me and wants me to say, “No, no.. not doing it!”

But, can we really be happy all introverted and hidden away? I couldn’t, personally.

The trick to an introvert living an extrovert life is knowing when to recharge your introvert. Social settings over stimulate me and most of them in a good way. I feel happy and euphoric but it also taxes me and I get fatigued easily. I also need to the quiet to process my outing.

Here are my three ways I decompress and feed my introvert:

1. Turn it all off. I silence my phone and close my computer. This is accessional for me to recharge and I do it daily. My family gives me a hard time about not answering my phone but I have to and it isn’t because I don’t want to talk to them. It’s that when I do, I don’t want to feel like I need to flee to my bed and hide under the covers.

2. Set aside alone time. Each day I block time to be alone doing something. This is everything from reading, watching TV, running and yes, taking naps. The time alone allows my brain to recharge and prepare for the next time I am around everyone, mostly my children.

3. Learn to say “no”. If the introvert in you needs that recharge say “no” when a friend asks for company. It’s OK and no one will fault you for that. When you say “no” just say why and don’t fear the outcome. Most people are very comfortable with the “I just need to recharge and have some quiet.” They understand the introvert mind more than you might think.

So there you have it, my confession.

Do you have a secret that no one else knows about you?

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Tips For School Supplies

10511247_10204940118731269_5348873866738197993_nThose who know me well know my very deep feelings on school supplies. If not well…. let’s just say I’m not a fan. In my perfect world schools would have enough money to give teachers so teachers could buy what they wanted for their students. But, this isn’t a perfect world and schools don’t have enough money for their teachers and so we parents have to buy the supplies.

As military families we often find ourselves moving mid year expected or not. So what do you do with all those school supplies? All schools are different and so is grade to grade. Since I’m not a fan of buying school supplies I have a few tips to lesson the cost and keep you from having an over abundance of unnecessary supplies.

1. Save what is in good shape.  If your child comes home on the last day and their folders are all looking good, keep them for next year. This also goes for pencil pouches, scissors, etc. Even markers and pens are savable. At the end of the year I go through everything that comes home and keep stuff for next year. I swear the boys are on their third year with the same folders. Teachers don’t mind because they slap stickers right over the old.

2. Get good quality. I’m a fan of spending a little more for a longer wear and tear. This is will be handy with said folders previously mentioned. Also, good for back packs, lunch boxes, markers and pens. Want to go cheap? Save on things like paper products, crayons, pencils etc. Things you know will be used and a lot! Spend on the items you know could go further than one year.

3.  If you know you are moving mid year (like orders in hand) ask the current school what you won’t need. We did this for our last move. My husband had orders so when it came time to buy supplies I called the school and they gave me a shorter list. For example crayons. Instead of the 4 we only got 2 and same with pencils and so one. Have the same conversation with the transferring school. You might be surprised what they are willing to let you leave off “the list”.

4.  Check out Operation Homefront’s “Back-to-School Brigade”. Let’s face it school supplies are expensive and some just aren’t in a good financial place (it happens so no judging). This program is great way to get some supplies for nothing! But, don’t take advantage and save what you can!

While I may never truly like shopping for school supplies I’ll do it willingly and try to smile about it. Our kids and teachers deserve to have classrooms stocked full of all the things they need for a successful year.

Have a GREAT school year everyone! 

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Never Really Alone

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I’m somewhere between mile 18 and 19 and I can’t take the pain anymore. There is a blister on my toe. I know it! Why did I wrap my toe? Mom said it would end up hurting and being uncomfortable but I didn’t listen and now the bandaid is rubbing and hurting more and more with each step. So, I stop to release my toe and replace my socks with clean ones I brought with me.

As I pulled my sock off I saw them! So many blisters! All over my foot and I immediately regretted this choice. Why did I stop? This is a horrible decision! But, there was no turning back from it so, I took off the bandaid and changed my socks (the other foot was just as bad). Each new step in my new socks felt worse than the old and then it happened! A piercing pain from toe; the blister popped. Reassuring myself the pain would subside I was relieved I had on clean socks.

Then the doubt set in… I began to question why was I doing this and alone? My running club is doing two of these things (marathons that is) locally and I could have done it with them! Why did I do this one? ALONE?!

Ahh… mile 20.. Only mile 20! I reached for my phone and shot my mom a text to tell her where I was and how much my feet hurt and that I was run/walking the rest of the way. What I saw though was Facebook alerts and lots of them. All with words of encouragement. It was in that moment that I reminded myself I wasn’t alone. Hello? I’m texting my mom who was at the finish line!

I thought back on what my running club did the day before. How one by one they changed their profile pictures of me with them. My sister who made multiple memes to keep me laughing. My family and friends near and far waiting anxiously for updates. That is NOT alone. Sure, I was actually on the race course alone but not in spirit. The miles drag on and you have to dig deep and that is what I did and I did it knowing my support system was there. They were cheering me on to the finish line from hundreds and thousands of miles away.

As I came to the finish I saw my boys and my mom with big smiles and I couldn’t help but smile, too. No, definitely not alone. They ran to me with big hugs that almost knocked me over on my weak legs and I was over come with joy and peace.

You see, this military life often leaves us feeling alone like the many miles of a marathon but we aren’t. If in those times of self doubt we look closely we will see it and be comforted by it like my Facebook notifications and my ability to text my waiting mother.

With words of encouragement and support we all can get to whatever finish line the military tells us to cross.

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