How to Make it Cheerful when You’re Spending Christmas Apart

Christmas is about spending time with family, but sometimes military life can stand in the way of that! Here are some ways to celebrate Christmas apart.

We have been in the swing of the holidays for a few weeks now, and have a few weeks left till New Years and we go back to normal. It seems like the holiday season can last forever. With Christmas decorations hitting the store before Halloween it definitely can last. But sometimes as a MilSO we end up spending the holidays and specifically, Christmas apart from one another. When this happens it is hard to get into the Christmas spirit!

This year I am finding myself in this camp! While last year we were marking off our Holiday to-do list, this year I am contemplating Christmas care packages. And longing to decorate; especially when my Christmas decorations are all packed up in storage with the rest of our HHGs.

So what am I doing this Christmas to make it feel like the holidays?

I am focusing on the good parts of Christmas I do have this year! This year I will get to mark all the great milestones of Baby’s First Christmas! I get to spend Christmas with my parents and brother and be surrounded by all the Christmas traditions I grew up with. I may not get to decorate a tree, but I get to decorate great Christmas care package for my hubby to bring some feelings of home to him.

Doing all this makes it feel more like Christmas, even if we can’t be together.

Baby’s First Christmas:

I love to craft! It makes me feel productive. Throughout my pregnancy every time my nesting instincts kicked in I started crafting- making burp cloths, baby blankets, baby mobile; rather than channeling my energy into extra cleaning! So since this was going to be baby’s first Christmas I started working on Christmas ornaments, Christmas photo set ups, picking out outfits for Santa pictures.

This gave me something to focus on rather than just missing my husband! As much as I wish he would be here for all of this, I know she is only a few weeks old and so I know next Christmas will be like another First Christmas for her to experience again, at just over a year old!

Spending the Holidays with my Parents

We flew to visit my parents last year for Christmas, and with a newborn I definitely would not be making the 15 hour flight to Hawaii to spend Christmas with my parents again if I wasn’t already here. Since moving home after the hubby left it means I get to spend Christmas with my family while I am alone. It means Grandma and Grandpa get to help me celebrate baby’s first Christmas.

For me it brings feelings of comfort because while I don’t get to be in my home for Christmas with my own Christmas decorations; I get to enjoy all the traditions I grew up enjoying. Christmas breakfast after opening presents. Making Christmas cookies by the dozens and dozens. Bubka’s famous nut bread (my favorite treat!!). Christmas even candle-light carol service.

Care Packages for the Hubby

My favorite part of Christmas is picking out gifts for everyone! And I love buying presents for my hubby. He doesn’t always think he needs presents, which makes it all the more fun for me because I get to do it just because! And so I get to know I warmed his soul just a bit when I send him his Christmas care package! In my mind I plan to decorate the box, however I know if I come into a pinch I can order one from my friend over at Countdown and Cupcakes! And my box will look like the holidays for him!

 

So while this is one holiday I will never forget, getting out and enjoying the parts of Christmas I can without my husband will make sure I don’t remember it as an only sad time. It can still be a Merry Christmas.

 

How do you celebrate the holidays when you are missing your loved one?

Christmas is about spending time with family, but sometimes military life can stand in the way of that! Here are some ways to celebrate Christmas apart.

PCSing to Hawaii: You Guide to Avoid Quarantine

PCSing to Hawaii can be stressful, especially when there are animals involved. Here is my step by step guide that got my dog there safely!

When I decided to go to Hawaii while Brian was in Korea the hardest part of the whole transition was making sure my puppy got there safely. As ya’ll know my puppy is very important to me, and she has proven invaluable in adjusting to new places.

My first instinct was to head to Google and Pinterest to see what I could find about getting Lucy to Hawaii with me. Of course, what I found was all convoluted and unclear. So I thought I would help consolidate some of the information I found! All I found was that there was a FOUR month quarantine period if you didn’t get to it in a timely manner! There is a 5-day or less track that you can get your dog on if you start early enough. So I made sure to start as soon as the possibility of going to Hawaii became present!

Here is everything you need to know about getting your pet (cat or dog, I am not 100% sure on procedures for other animals!) to Hawaii on the 5-Day or less Quarantine Track!

  • As soon as you have a hint that you might be going to Hawaii, make an appointment with a vet! I started before we had hard orders because I knew the vet care process would take a while (about 6 months!)
    • At this first vet visit my pup had a check up to make sure she was healthy, and she got her 2nd rabies shot. This is important because dogs need TWO rabies shots (At least 31 days apart) to be able to get into Hawaii. The 2nd must be no less than 90 days before entry)
  • Before you get your animal’s rabies shot, ensure that your animal has a microchip implanted. If the microchip is not implanted prior to the rabies shots and FAVN test, he or she will still spend 120 days in quarantine.
  • Three weeks after that first visit we returned to the vet. At this visit she had her blood drawn and sent to a lab. The test preformed was a FAVN. It is a blood titer test to make sure she had enough of the rabies vaccine in her system. This important because Hawaii is a Rabies free state. The results will be sent from Kansas State University to Hawaii- it is good for 36 months!
  • After the FAVN is done your animal begins 120 day quarantine period. This is why I started the process before we had hard orders. Even if orders get changed having the 2nd rabies shot won’t hurt your pet. If you wait till too close to your departure date, then your pup will have to spend the remainder of those 120 days in a quarantine facility once landed in Hawaii.

I was personally willing to spend a bit extra upfront with the chance our plans would change to avoid my puppy spending up to four months in quarantine and paying for that cost- since it is out of pocket!!! That is a big expense!!! And a lonely time for your animal!

  • After your pet passes the FAVN test then it is mostly just a waiting game until about 2 weeks before you leave for the islands. Within 10 days of arrival on the island your pet must get a health certificate from a vet. I am personally choosing to use an Army vet to do the health certificate since they are very well practiced at sending animals overseas for service members.
    • During this appointment, the vet will administer and sign off that your pet has flea protection. Regardless of what normal flea medicine your animal uses this will be frontline.

 All Documents you will need for your pet to gain entry into the state of Hawaii:

  • Original Ink signatures of Rabies shot certifications- you will have 2!! Must be original, no photocopies accepted
    • Vaccination certificates must have vaccine name, serial number, booster interval, vaccination date, and expiration date
  • Original Health Certificate done within 10 days of arrival in Hawaii
  • Vet must treat pet for fleas and ticks with Frontline within 10 days of arrival- noted on health certificate
  • Send all documents to Animal Quarantine Station:
    • Completed Dog and Cat Import Form
    • Payment and Fees:$165 per pet in advance for direct airport release or $224 for 5 day or less program. Must be a Cashiers Check or Money order (no cash or personal checks)

Other considerations that need to be made when sending your dog to Hawaii:

  • How big is your pet? If it is a cat or small dog you can carry them in a soft carrier under the seat.
  • If your pet is an emotional support animal you need a letter from your health care provider. Let the airline know as soon as possible. Have all the proper documentation. Same for Service Animals.
  • If your pet is large and not a service animal then you will ship your pet as “checked” luggage. However, most airlines will not allow you to check your animal when it is above 85 degrees Farenheit or below 65 degrees F.
  • You can either wait to send your animal for the weather to cooperate. Or you can consider a pet shipping service such as Island Pet Movers.

So, there you have it, a condensed version of the information needed to move your furry loves to Hawaii. Unfortunately, the military will not pay for any of these pet related expenses, which can really start to add up!

If you want a printable checklist to make sure that you have everything done in the proper order, please check out this checklist. This will ensure your dog spends as little time in quarantine as possible!

If you have any other questions you can check out the Hawaii Animal Quarantine Information Page for FAQ that I found helpful!

PCSing to Hawaii can be stressful, especially when there are animals involved. Here is my step by step guide that got my dog there safely!

Making the Best of Travel During the Holidays

It is wonderful to spend the Holidays in your own home, but sometimes it just isn't always the case. Here is how to Own the Holiday season away from home

As a kid we always stayed home at Christmas time. I can only remember one Christmas when we traveled and I think I was like 4 years old. In college I had to travel from the dorm to my parents house, but it definitely isn’t like traveling away from your own home at Christmas. The last two years though I traveled once to my in-laws’ house for Christmas and once to my parents’ house for Christmas. This year I am staying put (no need to travel with a 3 week old!!), but not in my own home.

Each year away from our home for Christmas has been bittersweet for different reasons. The 1st year we were married we traveled to my in-laws’ house for Christmas. It was bittersweet because it was our first Christmas together and we didn’t get to celebrate together in our own home, making our own Christmas traditions. The 2nd year we went to my parents house. That year it was bittersweet because it was our first Christmas in a house that was just ours, that I had decorated! And this year our baby will be celebrating her First Christmas in a house that isn’t ours. I say bittersweet, because it is always wonderful to spend the holidays with family.

But there are unique challenges to travel during for the holidays.

The First is How to Transport Gifts.

The first year we traveled for Christmas we drove, so it was a bit easier to transport everyone’s gifts. I could wrap them ahead of time and put them in the car. This way they stayed out of preying eyes! It also made traveling with everyone else’s gift easier too. I didn’t have to worry about any space issues. The second year though we flew. This made everything more tricky. We only had finite space in the suitcase, that we shared! For this one we opted to mail presents ahead of time to my parents’ house, and wrap there. Then we brought back an extra suitcase.

Not Being Able to Start our Own Traditions.

Every family has their own unique twist on Christmas traditions. Growing up we always went to Midnight Mass on Christmas eve and when we got home we were allowed to open one present before we went to bed. It was generally one from my grandparents or Christmas jammies to wear to bed that night. Then we woke up in the morning and opened presents from Santa and Mom and Dad before enjoying a Christmas breakfast. It was generally just the 4 of us at Christmas. My husband’s family celebrates differently. They didn’t attend a service on Christmas. They woke up, did presents, and then later that evening had a big family dinner with extended family.

But since we haven’t been able to celebrate Christmas with just us in our own home we haven’t had the opportunity to start making Christmas traditions of our own. I sorta miss that. I want our little ones to be excited about the Holidays and the traditions they bring! Maybe next year we will get lucky enough to spend Christmas as our little family of three!

But there are some great things about traveling for the holidays too!

We have been lucky enough to spend the holidays with our families. I know for military families this is not always possible. But my hubby has been fortunate enough to either get holiday block leave or a 4-day pass for the Christmas weekend.

That means spending time with family that we may live far away from and not get to see regularly. I know this was especially important to my hubby on our first Christmas when we weren’t even living together yet because I was still in school and he was training.

So However you are spending the holidays this year! Make the best of it, someone else is probably desperately wanting to be in your position! 

It is wonderful to spend the Holidays in your own home, but sometimes it just isn't always the case. Here is how to Own the Holiday season away from home

The Best Holiday Gifts for MilSpouses In Your Life

Best Holiday Gifts for MilSpouses in your life that deserve the best Gifts! No better way to celebrate than supporting MilSpouse Businesses in the process.

The Holidays are fast approaching! I can’t believe it is only 6 weeks or so till Christmas! This year really has flown by! And while this Christmas I am so much more less concerned with what I want for Christmas and how I am going to make this Christmas special as it is our baby’s first Christmas (she may only be a few weeks old but still counts) and special because the hubby and I will be separated by duty this holiday season.

But I can’t forget all my fellow military spouses (and I thought I might put together a Christmas list for the hubby to follow as well 😉). I didn’t want to just put together a list of things I wanted for my holiday gift guide, but I really wanted to highlight and feature all the wonderful Military Spouse Businesses that are out there selling great products! So, I went hunting for all the things I would love to receive this holiday season that were made by military spouses for military spouses (we can deal with the kiddos another day because there are so many great options for the kids too, but this is for us!)

For the Organized (Or Not So Organized) MilSpouse

  • Rosie Planner: The Rosie Planner is so cute in its three different covers. With Deployment and PCS check lists it has everything the busy MilSpouse needs to take charge of her family life and Make Things Happen! I love my planners and spend months picking a new one out for the new year and I personally can’t wait to try this planner out in 2018! My favorite planners have separate monthly and weekly planning pages! It will be perfect for keeping my blog organized! And all the activities for me and the Little One. Since this planner comes UN-dated it allows you to start at any point in the year. Whether a year of PCSing, Deployments, or planning coffees is in your future- this gift will have all the MilSpouses in your life covered! To get your Rosie Planner Click here!

For the MilSpouse who loves to Read

    • Sacred Spaces by Corie Weathers: We all have one friend (or maybe we are that friend) that just devours books! Which makes books a perfect gift! As military spouses, we all go through separations- deployments and TDYs. And during those separations we all face challenges that our partner just can’t understand. Both the service member and the spouse left at home. For the service member, it might be a combat mission that changes them; for spouses, maybe we faced childbirth alone. We will never be the same person we were before they left. And those will be our sacred spaces in our marriages. Corie addresses these sacred spaces and how they affect our marriage, and how we can use them to make our marriages stronger rather than pushing us apart.

For the Trendy MilSpouse

  • Rocco & Norah Headbands: For the Busy Mom on the Go what better than a soft headband wrap to keep your hair out of your face, worry free, and totally on point! When your hair looks this good so easily, you are ready to rock your day without a care! Soft fabric that stays in place! If you want you can even purchase matching momma and baby sets! Find their products on their website here!

 

  • Riveter Bags: I know I am not the only one who carries a bag that contains everything I may *ever* need. So, I love a big heavy-duty bag that is still cute and stylish. Enter R. Riveter tote! The R. Riveter tote is heavy duty and durable so it can carry the heavy load we MilSpouses carry around with us on a daily basis without compromising style. I love this bag for its durability! I am constantly going through cheap TJ Maxx purses because I try to carry way to much in them on a daily basis. Because Starbucks is my favorite place to work I often find myself carrying my computer, books, and more. This one stands up to it! Also, now with the Little Miss this bag is big enough to throw in some of her stuff if we are out running a quick errand! What better bag to carry your planner around 😉 Check out their site to see all their fabulous bags and accessories!

                      

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

  • Subscription boxes is one of the top new gifts to give to anyone! Here are two awesome subscription boxes that will come once a month full of goodies.
    • MilSO Box: Dedicated to honor and respect the women holding down the home front, MilSO Box sources gifts meant to excite, comfort, assist, and beautify our warriors at home. Each month’s box will feature 4 to 7 thoughtfully curated gifts.  Even though these items will be a surprise, each subscriber can expect a mix of bath & beauty products, home decor, accessories, helpful gadgets, inspirational items, unique gifts, and of course, anything patriotic! They feature products from Veteran and Military Spouse owned business. When you purchase this gift you can choose a single month, or a monthly subscription where the recipient gets a unique curated box each month! Click here for more information and to shop their site

 

  • The Six Box: Everyday we support our service members and we care for the kids at home. We send care packages, but who of us ever wishes we could receive a care package?? Now with The Six Box you can! Again this is a monthly subscription where you receive a box especially designed to help you care for yourself so you can stay happy and healthy caring for everyone else! It is all about self-care! They call it a Reverse Care Package! They’ve got your six. Click here for more information and to shop their site.

I hope you take the chance to explore these MilSpouse businesses this holiday season as you make your holiday wish lists and gift lists. Don’t let the holidays slip by without getting one of these fabulous gifts! Even if you have to buy it for yourself (don’t worry, we all do it)!

Best Holiday Gifts for MilSpouses in your life that deserve the best Gifts! No better way to celebrate than supporting MilSpouse Businesses in the process.

Where to Find Help When You Need It

The military provides mental health services in many different forms. Here are some popular sources to find help when life gets hard and need extra support.

Military Life is hard, and we all need some help from time to time. And as much as we hate to admit it, we can’t always do it on our own. But sometimes we need a little bit more help than even a friend, neighbor, or family member can give us. And that is OK. It doesn’t make us broken, damaged, or any other negative idea we get about people who seek counseling. It can be hard to find help when we need it.

Know It’s Ok to Seek Help

Sometimes we exhaust all our coping strategies, self care just isn’t working and we need a little extra support. It is not a sign of weakness, but knowing when you’ve hit your limit can be a sign of strength.

The military has improved the services to meet the mental health needs of service members and families. However, these services are often not publicized. So few people know where to find help when they want/need it.

Where to Find Help:

1. Military Family Life Consultants (MFLCs)

MFLCs are social workers and licensed counselors contracted by the military to provide free, 100% confidential counseling services. They are equipped to handle individual counseling, counseling for children, family counseling, and marriage counseling. If you are looking for them they are housed by ACS. Military One Click recently published an article about what it is like to talk to a MFLC. Hopefully that will help demystify the process.

2. Family Life Chaplains

Most soldiers know that chaplains have 100% confidentiality as well, but are hesitant to seek out help from their unit chaplains because often their offices are very close to the commander’s office and so they may be seen going to and from appointments. Service Members worry that the chaplains are not equipped to do formal counseling, pushing religion down their throats. Most chaplains only have a course or two in counseling during their seminary. Family life Chaplains have degree in counseling. Their sole responsibility is to provide marriage and family counseling services. While yes, they are chaplains they are not there to necessarily provide Christian counseling. I have worked with the family life chaplain’s office at two different posts and provided services through them.

3. Military One Source

If you are looking for other resources, providers that are outside of the military post you can go to Militaryonesource.mil and click on Confidential Help and they have options for face-to-face counseling, online counseling, phone counseling, or video counseling. While I have no personal experience with using this resource I know many people who have had lots of success using these services.

4. Behavioral Health

This is service members least favorite option. The reason this is that since it provided through Tricare, commanders know when you are receiving services here. Service Members can be mandated such as ASAP (alcohol or substance abuse program) or PTSD treatment.

The next time a friend or fellow MilSpouse is suffering, hopefully you will be able to share resources with them. Nobody should have to go it alone, just because they are unaware of the resources available.

The military provides mental health services in many different forms. Here are some popular sources to find help when life gets hard and need extra support.

Plugging into a New MilSpouse Community

Finding a community is a crucial part of making a new duty station feel like home. Here are my tips for plugging into a new MilSpouse Community.

A few weeks ago I shared about the loneliness you can feel when you don’t have a military spouse community around you. But since then I have moved to an area that has a strong military presence (on Hawaii all five branches of the military are represented), and I will be here for a while. It is really important for me to find a community here since my husband will be gone and we will be having our first baby while I am there.

But it really takes intentionality to get plugged into a new community. This intentionality happens before you arrive at your new location and then continues when you arrive.

Before you Arrive:

As soon as I knew I was going to be in Hawaii I went looking on Facebook for their spouse pages and groups that I could join. I went and found their PWOC page, MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers), Stroller Warriors. By joining these pages early I can see what activities they engage in and can begin to plan how to engage with them when I arrive. I was part of PWOC at Ft. Benning, so I knew I wanted to be part of it again. It was such a supportive community and I knew I would need that when I arrived.

MOPS is a new group to me. It is important to me to find a group and community for our little one to be socialized in when she arrives. Stroller Warriors is also a new one to me, but I heard such wonderful things about Stroller Strong Moms at Ft. Benning. This can a fantastic way to stay active after baby.

More than just Military groups, I also joined more general Facebook groups like the Baby Wearing group and La Leche League of Hawaii. I thought these would be important for finding mom community as well when my little one arrives.

By doing my research ahead of time and knowing when these groups meet, I can look for events that I can attend once I arrive. For example, I found that the USO is hosting a What to Expect Shower for all expectant moms right after I arrive and I could register. This helps me be accountable to make it out of my parents’ house!

After Arrival:

After I got here I immediately plunged into the community. Like the USO event I mentioned above, registering before I arrived helped me stay accountable to attend. I could meet women who are in the same place in life as me.

It is not enough to just join the Facebook Groups/Pages and hope that community will find you that way. You must get out of your house and go to the events. I am quite an extraverted situation, but I much prefer to go to new places armed with at least one friend already. This is not always a possibility. Even though I have friends in Hawaii, it will be totally different when I am there for an entire year. Yes, my family is there, but they all work full time, and I will have lots of time on my hands during the day.

Because I am an extroverted person, I know I get down when I am lacking friends and support. This will get me out of the house during the week! So I got out of the house and participated!

Why it is Important:

If ya’ll have been following my blog for a while you know my opinions on the importance of community. Without the community I developed at Ft. Benning moving would have been a nightmare. The ladies I knew there really came together to support me and make sure I could get it all done! They let me stay with them, help me clean up, and give me encouragement I needed to succeed. I know I am going to need this community aspect in Hawaii too.

Finding a community is a crucial part of making a new duty station feel like home. Here are my tips for plugging into a new MilSpouse Community.

Always on the Move: Lo & Sons Luggage Review

This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links

Let’s get honest right now, traveling with the military is no joke. And if we had enough suitcases to take all of our belongings with us they would need their own room, and that just is not feasible anywhere! That is why I am here to share my luggage review of Lo & Sons!

Our luggage goes through the ringer- moving trucks, whole families + pets in the car, rough handling by the airlines. This summer alone I have spent my weeks crisscrossing the state of South Carolina just to see everyone before we leave the country for the year! And I want to tell you about my new wonderful travel bag!

Quality luggage is important to me, as someone who travels so frequently I always find it such a waste when I buy a suitcase of a duffel bag and it only lasts a few trips before it falls apart. I have had Vera Bradley duffel bags that have had the handles ripped when handled to roughly when checked on the airplane. I have had suitcases where the lining rips almost immediately; where wheels stop spinning, or handles are broken. And I know I am not alone in this.

I recently discovered Lo & Son’s luggage. I have the Catalina Weekender bag, and let me tell you it has held up to four airplane trips and numerous road trips over the last several months! I received this stylish canvas weekender bag in April. And I have not been disappointed. The first trip I took with it I was packing for nearly two weeks! And it fit everything (plus several unnecessary pairs of shoes)! For a weekender bag, I thought that was pretty good!

Here are some photos from my last 2 week trip I packed into my weekender:

I was able to fit all my toiletries, makeup, three pairs of shoes, 3 dresses, 4 shorts, 1 pair of pants, a skirt, mix and match tops for it all plus 2 pairs of PJs, gym clothes, & my bathing suit!!

It also made a wonderful carry-on bag. Since it is canvas it is soft sides make it easy to squeeze into even full overhead compartments!  The cross body strap made it easy to carry through the airport! Even for this preggo momma.

Why I love this bag?

  • The bottom compartment for shoes and toiletries. I love that I don’t have to keep my shoes or potentially exploding toiletries with my clothes.
  • Outside pocket for easy access. It has a great outside pocket that I can slip my phone charger into as I am walking out the door. Then I can easily slip it out in the airport.
  • Heavy duty canvas makes it super durable. I know I am not the kindest to my luggage between trying to squeeze it into overhead compartments or just throwing it into the car with all the dog supplies the stitching and canvas have proven to be extremely durable.
  • I love the beautiful blue color! It is a is dark so it doesn’t show a lot of dirt! Which is excellent.
  • I love that when I am not using it, it folds flat completely making it extremely easy to store! This is super important for me because I may not always have a lot of room to store extra luggage!

This bag is great for military families because it extremely durable, can fit two weeks’ worth of clothes in it so it’s perfect if having to drive cross country without and laundry facilities or if you’re flying home for the weekend to visit family. If you’re interested in checking out their full line of bags and suitcases check them out here!

When you're always on the move a great suitcase is a Must Have Item! Here is my luggage Review of Lo & Son's duffle bag! A necessity for MilSO's on the Go!

I received the Catalina Weekender bag as compensation in exchange for writing this review. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own.

When you Can’t Find a MilSpouse Community

Sometimes its as MilSpouses we are in locations where it can be harder to find a community. Here are some ways to engage when you can't find your community

As many of ya’ll saw a few weeks ago, we are currently in a weird in-between stations situation. I was so excited to be coming home for a few months before I left for year. It would be the perfect opportunity to see all my friends and family again before we left for who knows how long! And it truly has been great in that capacity. I have been able to see old friends, college roommates, extended family, and spend a lot of time with my in-laws. But something is definitely missing. The thing that has been missing is my ability to get involved in a military spouse community.

While we have been living on a military post, I was here for such a short period of time, less than 3 months it was hard to get involved. Furthermore, since my husband is here for a TDY, there are no other spouses here in the same unit as my husband. To top it off summer time is generally the time of year that everything slows down because people are traveling, kids are out of school and so programs break for the summer. So I am sitting in this lull and don’t have much of a community around that understands the ins and outs of military life.

I’ve always understood and valued community. I have even written about it quite a bit. But until recently I never understood just how important community in your own walk of life really is.

As you may have read a couple weeks ago, we are going through the pre-deployment process, and it has been a bit stressful. To top it off, as I watch the days and weeks tick by on my pregnancy tracker, its just days closer to D-Day. Something I am definitely not ready for. At my baby shower so many people asked if I was excited. And its then that I realized the answer to that question was so complicated. Of course, I am beyond excited about this baby and becoming a mom. It is something I dreamed about for a long time. But, I am not excited for the hubby to leave, to not be here for the end of the pregnancy, the birth, and much of baby’s first year. I wanted so badly to explain all of that, but I realized as I started into my explanation that none of them would truly understand the duplicity with which my heart split.

I quickly texted one of my closest friends from Ft. Benning, but sympathizing via text can definitely not take the place an in person Starbucks date on a bad day. So what do you do when you find yourself at an assignment that isn’t in a military heavy area? Where do you go to find that support?

Here are my top places to find support from the military spouse community when it isn’t local:

  1. Facebook: There are so many great Facebook Community and Support groups out there right now. Julie from Soldier’s Wife, Crazy life; and Lauren from Military Wife & Mom have formed large networks of support for military spouses of all branches, ranks, genders, locations. These have been super encouraging to many.
  2. Find just one person, a guard or reservist, a retired spouse. Having just one person can make all the difference, someone who has been there. And you are more likely to find them in non-military towns because they don’t necessarily have to be anywhere near a base.
  3. Phones are awesome. Pick up the phone and call a friend from a previous duty station. It isn’t always the same but I know from experience that just talking to a friend can make me feel better. I can get my frustrations out, cry, yell whatever and still be heard by someone who understands.
  4. And when all else fails, don’t discount the importance of friendships with everyone. While yes my friends who aren’t married to the military may not understand the complexities of military life they understand disappointment, sadness, guilt. Those are human emotions, not exclusive to military spouses and so they can empathize with the emotions if they can’t with our situations. They have been my biggest support this summer, during this transition and I couldn’t do it without them.

So no matter where you are and what situation your find yourself, any community is better than no community.

Sometimes its as MilSpouses we are in locations where it can be harder to find a community. Here are some ways to engage when you can't find your community

I am a Selfish Spouse but its Ok

I am a selfish spouse, and that's ok! Having feelings of jealousy before your spouse leaves is normal. Figuring it out is a bit more difficult.

As a military wife, we know our time with our spouses can be precious. Especially as they are gearing up for a really long TDY, Deployment, or Unaccompanied Assignment. The pre-deployment period can be difficult. One emotion I was not prepared for was jealousy, and the desire to be a selfish spouse. Stealing him away for the remaining time we had together.

How am I a selfish spouse

I know I am not the only my husband is saying goodbye to over the next couple weeks. He has to say goodbye to his parents, brothers, and friends. And I don’t want to rob him of that opportunity. Except somewhere in my heart I do. I want to hide him away and keep him all to myself! That is why I am a selfish spouse.

Am I going to do that? Absolutely not! I want him to experience all of his last few weeks. Not just me! I want him to go to one last Ju Jitsu saturday with his brother. I want him to get another weekend at home with his mom and dad. I want him to get one last Howrah with all his friends! I only want all those good things for him. I don’t want him to regret not getting to say goodbye to everyone!

And while I can certainly encourage him to do all those things, he can sense the hesitancy in my voice. Would I love one more Saturday morning breakfast out, one more Friday night at home, one more weekend away? I absolutely would! But not at the expense of everyone else!

Owning My feelings

Before I was able to put words to identifying this desire for selfishness it was coming through in my interactions with my husband. I could tell he was feeling tense and insecure about his decisions to finish out his ju jitsu lessons, spending time with his brothers, making a trip to see his grandparents. Even though I was telling him it was ok, he could hear it in my voice.

It took me a while to be able to identify that I was jealous of these other things he had going on in his life. But life can’t stop. I didn’t stop my life just because we are preparing to leave. Why would it be fair of me to ask him to stop his life? That’s right, it isn’t. And so I won’t.

But knowing what exactly I am feeling rather than just being emotional has made it easier for us to communicate it. When he can hear the hesitancy in my voice I can look inside myself, and ask where it’s coming from. Is it that jealousy? Most likely yes, and if it is then I can assure him that it is more than ok for him to go do whatever it is. I can encourage him.

It’s Ok

See so its ok to have any emotion, but until I owned it and identified it it was causing conflict in my relationship. It is not wrong of my to be a selfish spouse, wanting to steal away all his remaining time. Taking the time to examine my thoughts and beliefs to identify the emotions I was feeling was important.

It wasn’t exactly a fun process, no one likes admitting to negative feelings. But here are some steps you can take to try and identify the concrete emotions behind your behavior, even when you might be tempted to ignore them.

How to Identify You Emotions

  1. When you begin to feel overwhelmed by an emotion take an account of the situation. What is happening? what happened just before? Taking an inventory of the situation can help you identify the triggers for the emotion. Knowing the trigger can help in identifying your emotions because different events are likely to bring up certain emotions. I read online that watching her husband pack for a short TDY brought up a lot of negative feelings because it reminded her of her husband’s departure from a previous deployment.
  2. Think back to other times you have felt this way. One clue to me that I was feeling jealous is that it was very reminiscent of feelings I had shortly after he left for Ft. Benning while i was still in school. When he would come visit, we would spend so much time with his parents, hardly getting time to ourselves. I was jealous wanting that time for just ourselves.
  3. Don’t be afraid to admit your emotions. I know it can be scary to feel big emotions. Trust me as a counselor I know its not easy owning your feelings, especially when those feelings leave you feeling insecure. But the only way your feelings can be validated is if you admit them, and stop hiding them. When I finally told my hubby why I was hesitant and that I was feeling like a selfish spouse, he could tell me that it was ok. That he wanted as much of that time he had left just for the two of us too. (this is especially important, because it will never be just the two of us again. Next time we are together we will be a family of three!)

Know that if you’re afraid to admit your emotions it is normal. There is nothing wrong with you. And if you’re not very good at identifying your emotions, that is ok too. It isn’t easy and we aren’t born knowing how. It takes practice and we can only get better at it by doing so.

I am a selfish spouse, and that's ok! Having feelings of jealousy before your spouse leaves is normal. Figuring it out is a bit more difficult.

How do you Handle Pre-Deployment Emotions

Gearing up for a deployment can be tough emotionally, but this period often gets skipped over. We talk about the actual deployment, we talk about homecoming. But what about the rough days and weeks leading up to the deployment. If you are beginning to feel isolated and alone, you are not alone! Here are some tips on handling those pre-deployment emotions.

When I was in graduate school working on my counseling degree, I was pretty sure I was going to marry my current boyfriend (And I did a semester before I finished school). And so knowing that I was going to be a military spouse I took the opportunity to do as many as my research projects on different aspects of military family life as my professors would let me do. One project was on the effects of the deployment cycle on military families. One area that was woefully low on research was the pre-deployment part of the cycle. Well now that I am no longer in school and in the midst of military life I wanted to share what I found, and how it has helped me during this period of pre-deployment for me and my husband.

We all know that deployments are emotionally intense for military SOs! But what is talked about less is the emotional strain that comes with the pre-deployment period.

There are several things that make the pre-deployment period emotionally difficult for a couple. The first is that before our spouse even deploys they begin to build up emotional walls that are necessary during deployments, and in all honestly, we do too. The second is when we play games thinking that it will make it easier to say goodbye. We want to spend as much time together as we can, but maybe family wants to come visit before he leaves. Or, the Military is claiming much of their time with TDYs and other trainings that are required before they ship out.

If you have children this time can be even more confusing and difficult to navigate. Younger children may sense the tension in the home, but may not understand the impending separation. When children are older they may have a similar reaction by withdrawing from the soon to be gone parent. They may act out in protest of their parent’s leaning.

Why Pre-Deployment Phase is Hard

The pre-deployment period is difficult because we are preparing to be by ourselves. Our spouse is preparing to leave and be placed in potentially hazardous situations. Because of this, we begin to shut ourselves down emotionally before we even get to the deployment.

We might also begin to pick fights with one another the closer we get to the deployment, believing it will be easier to say goodbye to one another if we are mad at each other. So, we pick fights over silly little nothings, or maybe over important things that come with a separation.

What can I do?

So with all these emotions running high, how can we make the most of our last few days or weeks with our soon to be deploying spouse?

First, don’t ignore your emotions! Sometimes as military spouses we get caught in the trap believing that we aren’t supposed to be upset or sad when they leave because this is their job and we know that. We are supposed to put on our big girl panties and figure it out, no sadness in our hearts. That just is not true. Anybody would be sad that their spouse is leaving for an unknown amount of time.  So, acknowledge your sad feelings, tell your spouse, find a good friend to vent to. If we stop pretending not to be sad, we will be less likely to play games. We won’t pick fights with our spouse just to make it easier to say goodbye.

Understand that them becoming more and more closed off as the departure date approaches is normal, and a survival tool for them down range. When deployed it is hard for soldiers to keep family in the forefront of their minds because emotions can compromise the mission. As “good” military spouses we know that its mission first. But also shutting down emotionally doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process that takes weeks, and so it happens before they even leave home. More than allowing them to put the mission first, shutting down emotionally is a survival mode instinct for them.

As much as we hate leaving, and as much as they say they want to deploy, rarely do they want to leave us behind. The emotional disconnection helps make that process easier for them. And in reality, we do it too. We begin doing more and more around the house ourselves. Asking for less help with the kids. So it just looks a little but different.

When we know it happens we are less likely to take their emotional shut down personally. It creates fewer fights and less tension in the home. After going through many deployments we might begin to pick up this pattern, but what if we didn’t have to struggle so much to figure it out? That is why we share our experiences with other spouses and friends. Trust me I know it is hard when it feels like right before they are leaving they want so little to do with us and we want nothing more than to be even closer to them as the date gets closer and closer.

So if your spouse is gearing up for a deployment like mine is then hopefully my insights might provide just a little bit of clarity into why things aren’t what you expected. Why he is withdrawing more and more, and why there seem to be more tension. By using this information to your advantage maybe you can just savor those last few sweet minutes before D-Day approaches.

 

Gearing up for a deployment can be tough emotionally, but this period often gets skipped over. We talk about the actual deployment, we talk about homecoming. But what about the rough days and weeks leading up to the deployment. If you are beginning to feel isolated and alone, you are not alone! Here are some tips on handling those pre-deployment emotions.