I’ve never really been a patriotic person. Not to say I don’t tear up when the Star Spangled Banner plays on July 4th or that I burn the flag or anything, but I’ve never been one to run around the streets of America professing my love for my country and it’s people. Truth be told, if there was a distant opposite of patriotic… that’s probably what I would have been considered. Not anti-American, not aloof or unconcerned, and definitely not painting my face red, white, and blue. On the patriotic spectrum, I really didn’t have a set in stone place… until I became a military wife.
By no means do I have Uncle Sam Wants You posters throughout my home or am I typing this wearing a flag inspired Dr. Seusss hat. Understand, I still very much so question where our country is headed as well as who is running it and by all means do not always agree. However, since leaving the US behind a year and a half ago for the vineyards of Italia, I have been reminded almost on a daily basis how lucky I am to be an American.
Oddly enough, my new found appreciation for the USA did not come from seeing acts of service being done on base, or gripping inspirational stories from military members overseas. I’ve learned to love my homeland from seeing my Italian neighbors’ eyes light up at the mere mention of New York City… at the admiration and almost envy many Italians and other Europeans have at the fact that English is my native language… and most of all, realizing that America is not only the land of the free, but also land of opportunity and convenience… and this is where I call home.
So today, on Memorial Day, I feel differently than what I did before becoming a military wife. I see group shots of my friends at the beach posted on Facebook and tweets about just how much liquor will be consumed this weekend filling up my newsfeed. The other half of my feed is now taken over by fellow milspouses and members that have a very different message. Pictures of widows crying over their fallen soldier’s grave are posted with messages below like “Remember what Memorial Day is about.” As much as I’d love to be working on my tan, in the back of my mind lays the real reason why my husband has off from work today.With this being said, by no means are Tyler and I spending the day learning how to fold flags or weeping over articles on the Internet (because I’m not sure of any cemeteries in Italy that would have American heroes in them?). We’ve spent most of the weekend checking out nearby vineyards and playing with our dog at the lake. But to me, Memorial Day is still about spending it with family and friends down the shore and making delicious, patriotic recipes you’ve found on Pinterest. And, as I’m doing all of these things, I think about my little brothers – both who are deployed right now. I think about my husband who right now is sleeping safely in our bed, and thank God for this day because I know I’ll be with him. And lastly, I think about those wives and sisters and mothers who aren’t spending Memorial Day with their loved one… and I hope that after reading this, you do, too.
Reposted on my personal blog Ciao, Blogga.
I first heard about Coupons to Troops while lazily scrolling through my Facebook news feed as I have so many other times before. Cool, so-and-so got her hair cut. Great, this dude is at work. Blah, blah. Same old, same old. However a picture of a ton of coupons caught my eye that was posted by a fellow milspouse friend with the caption, “Thanks, Coupons to Troops!” Now, I’ve never been a real coupon-er at all but boy, do I love me a sale. So naturally I immediately went to my Google toolbar where I typed: Coupons to Troops. The result was phenomenal.
So often, even before being a military spouse, I would hear the phrase “Support the Troops!” Coming from a small town in Pennsylvania, you couldn’t go three cars without seeing some form of yellow ribbon or American flag. The pride that US citizens have for their military is both overwhelming and admirable; as well as bullet proof. And even though the catch phrases and bumper stickers are nice, it is always refreshing and eye opening to see people putting action behind their kind words.
Coupons to Troops does just that – random strangers silently support the troops and their families overseas by ‘adopting’ a family and sending them coupons that they may use on their base. After a year of being a military spouse I just found out less than a month ago that we can use coupons that have expired up to 6 months on base being military in Italy. How fantastic is that! So essentially, not only are people who ‘adopt’ military families and send them their coupons fabulous for supporting the troops, but also because they’re not throwing away coupons that are expired – because we can use them!
Personally, my favorite part about Coupons to Troops is not the coupons themselves by any means. Sure, I feel really cool (and old, let’s be honest) with all my cut out coupons and envelopes – and I may be planning a coupon party with girlfriends – but the real magic is in the emails to one another. I’m not sure if everyone who participates is as lucky as I’ve been with generous coupon-givers, but I’ve learned so much about random strangers all over the world – all who support the military in their own way – that sometimes, it takes my breath away.
One woman I’ve been chatting to has a husband who retired from the military. We’ve been discussing how different the world is from when she was a military spouse to today. She also made me see the light at the end of what can sometimes be a very long and strenuous military tunnel. As she wrote about her fantastic husband, I grew more and more proud of my own vet and realized, yet again, how blessed we are to be living this life. It is connections like this that make the world go round. And Coupons to Troops is just one more amazing military support network that you should absolutely check out.
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucious
When I married my husband a little over a year ago, I never once considered that getting a job would be a problem. This was mostly because I fell head over heels for a man in uniform and wasn’t asking myself those questions, but also because I knew I had earned my Bachelor’s Degree years ago and had been employed ever since. My resume was rich with experience of numerous levels, I had networked my tail off in the Higher Ed world and truly (naively) thought it would be cake getting another job once we were married. Sure, we were moving to Italy and I didn’t really take into consideration how much that really limited my job search but hey, I had made a name for myself professionally once before, I could do it again – right?
Well, the truth is we’ve been in Italy for a year and I’ve been employed exactly one month during that time. It was a good job, somewhat in my field, but it wasn’t something I truly loved to do like I had before we were married. I felt like I had sacrificed and gave up so much to be with my husband; I didn’t want to have a job I loathed, too. My father taught me very little growing up, but one phrase he told me long ago rings in my ear to this very day: If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. I thought about this all throughout college as I was earning my Bachelor’s Degree in Communications/Journalism and wondered: Would I really love being a journalist? I pictured myself in oversized glasses and a fedora with a newspaper and the answer was a very strong no. After getting involved with Residence Life during college though, I realized this was my true calling. It got to a point where I was majoring in being a Resident Assistant and did all that Communications/Journalism stuff on the side. This paid off for me, though – I quickly networked throughout my campus, met some amazing people I still keep in touch with today, was offered a job right out of college, and the blessings list goes on and on. Before getting married I had a great job working as a Resident Director in New York that I honest to God loved waking up for in the morning. This is a feeling I am not willing to sacrifice for a paycheck.
After a year of unemployment however, I’ve realized that sometimes – a lot of the time – a job is more than a paycheck. It’s where you meet friends, network, where you are (hopefully) appreciated; it’s something that gives you purpose or worth; especially if you don’t have children like me. I was only in Italy a few months until I realized that my dream job may not be here, but that didn’t mean there was nothing I could do to better myself professionally. I took my first graduate class in May of 2011 and haven’t looked back since. I was accepted into the School Counseling program at UMUCEurope after taking two classes and my third starts next week. I absolutely love learning, especially at this level and about these topics, and while it may not be exactly how I pictured grad school – it is something that occupies my time, keeps me thinking, and can explain the employment gap on my resume.
The Air Force has decided to no longer fund the Spouse Tuition Assistance Program (STAP) which means my classes just got a whole lot more expensive. While I would love to throw the ultimate tantrum and kick and scream about how it’s not fair; there is no time for that. I want to have my Master’s complete by the time we leave Italy in 2014 and like it or not, I need to find other financial means stat. After tweeting to just about every Air Force/military/spouse profile there is, I was directed to a great Spouse Career & Education site hosted by Military One Source. As well as empowering spouses to earn their degree and pursue their dream career, they do the same for our active duty members as well, which I thought was great. After only a year in this military life I have talked to so many young members who seem to think that because they served in the US military, they’re set for life professionally. Realistically, this is not the case. While their service is appreciated in the civilian world, a college education is almost always required for most professions today.
Thankfully our active duty members are able to earn their degree for free* and spouses often get assistance with tuition as well. In the short time I’ve been a milspouse, it’s become painfully apparent to me that with the hustle and bustle of this lifestyle, I need to remain true to myself and my goals as much as feasibly possible. I love working with students and growing professionally in the Education field, so if I were doing anything else I may become bitter or even resent the choice of entering this military life all together. It has been entirely too common to see military spouses mold their lives around their service member, but at some point we as predominantly women (roar!) should take a step back and evaluate what we are doing just for ourselves. Is it a class you’ve been dying to take? A job fair you’ve let come and go one too many times? A craft or idea you’ve wanted to mold into your own business? God knows you have supported your spouse in their endeavors, why not do the same for yourself? I’m behind you 110%. You go, girl!
Have any of you had the same experience with adjusting to the military world after having a career? Who of you are in school now? Share your stories below! Until next time – ciao!
*For more information on earning your degree for free, check out these articles on Earn My Degree and Military.com, or speak with your Education Center on base. As military spouses we have so many resources to further our education or expand our professional experience – don’t be shy about asking Family Readiness (or your version of it) today!
The last time I wrote I was celebrating and ready to welcome 2012 with open arms. I am happy to report, a little more than a month later, I am still full of love and energy for the new year. In my personal blog, I went back to review the resolutions I made and make sure I was still on track. Below are the results:
1. Organize our finances. We’ve definitely started the process and I feel like that’s at least something. I’m not sure how it is for ‘normal’ marriages, but when you marry someone in the military no one pulls you aside before hand and says, “So, listen… that whole career thing… might not work out the way you had planned.” They also don’t exactly explain to you that you’ll be moving around every few years so a steady job might not be a part of the plan, either. And, even if you did know all of this, your military spouse may have no idea how to explain how they’re used to organizing their finances or vice versa. I can say, somewhat exasperated but mostly proud, that Ty and I have started this conversation. And I have an excel sheet. (Insert big, huge nerd grin here.) As a newlywed, I am more than open to advice from ‘seasoned’ milspouses in this area!
2. Continue blogging. C’mon, 24 posts in January alone? I’m on fire!
3. Get involved. Huge improvement on this end and I couldn’t be happier. Not only have I submitted a few articles to The Compass (okay, okay – started writing articles to submit) but I did go to the Spouse Group meeting last month and invited everyone to my birthday party next week. I’ve met some nice girls over the past month and it’s nice to get to know other newlyweds and younger-ish military spouses. As well, if I continue enjoying the church I went to last week I wouldn’t mind getting involved with them. And I seriously need to research Italian classes and/or getting a tutor. Seriously.
4. Get a GD job. I applied. I interviewed. I’d appreciate prayers (I need them). I’ll let you know.
5. Order glasses. (Ordered 1-13-12)
6. Attempt P90X. (Attempted 1-13-12) Failed immediately afterward… but my resolution wasn’t to KSA, it was just to attempt P90x. However I will say that since meeting more spouses I’ve heard a lot of great things about Zumba and other classes on base that I swear on my life I will attempt. Someday.
7. Go to Paris. I have no idea when this is going to happen in 2012. I laughed out loud remembering this resolution made only a month ago, really. Tyler is planning on going back to the states for at least two weeks in early May and while I’d like to go with him my sister is turning 16 in late October. God willing I could go home both times, but that’s TWO trips to the states in one year – PLUS three friends visiting this summer – PLUS my cousins coming to visit as much as possible over the next few months – PLUS my German girlfriend Meggie doing the same. I’m thinking Pari$ i$ more of a 2013 thing.
8. Be that student. I am proud to say I have signed up for my third grad class. Now that I’m officially accepted into UMUCE/Bowie State’s School Counseling program I want to be sure to take as little time off as possible… especially because that’s all I really have is time. I’m doing really well in grad school thank God and want to keep that momentum going. This class sounds a lot less interesting than the previous two, though… Intro to Research. Womp womp. But hey, it’s needed and ya gots ta do what ya gots ta do sometimes. My goal this year is to keep my GPA as shiny as it is right now… maybe shinier.
9. Start my book. All in good time, my friends… all in good time.
10. Treat every moment with my husband as though it is precious. Man, that is a tough one! I hope I didn’t set myself up for failure. Knowing your husband can up and leave any minute and be gone for an extended period of time is always in the back of your mind as a milspouse, but somehow that doesn’t keep me from nagging wanting him to talk about his feelings or stop hogging the bed. So far Ty’s been gone about half of 2012 and our communication, while every day, has been limited. I’ve tried to channel the days where we were as long distance as it gets (New York – Japan) and remember how I would make him feel loved then but somehow it’s just different when you’re married. I guess I’ll have to ask him how I’m doing on this one and get back to you.
What about you? How are your resolutions coming along? I have to say, writing my goals for 2012 down and then publishing them for all to see has held me more accountable than ever before. Blogging is so cool.