The Military Life Fairy Tale

  Once upon a time (10 years ago) in a faraway land (Florida), lived a beautiful princess (fairly average looking woman in her mid-twenties paying off student loans). One day, at a ball in Tallahassee (ladies’ night at a college bar), the princess encountered a handsome prince (Naval aviator). He courted the princess, they were betrothed, and shortly thereafter they moved to a tiny kingdom in the Pacific (Guam).

The handsome prince left his blushing bride on the island a few weeks after arriving, to go slay dragons (terrorists) and keep all the kingdoms safe from harm.

While the prince was away, the princess longed for him. She stayed in bed for days aching for his return. Her tears flooded the island and she plotted her escape back to civilian life. Unable to afford the $3,000 commercial flight home, and without her prince to do such things as bring food home and take out the trash, the princess withered away and died. End of story. Actually, no. No, she didn’t. That’s not how it ends. That’s not how it ever ends.

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There’s no place like home: a perfect frame of mind

Christmas in July. It’s about to happen. But first, a story:

Growing up in a large family (I’m the second of six children), every day was loud. That scene in Home Alone where the cousins are all together and no one can find who actually owns the house? That’s the perfect representation of Thanksgiving at my parents’. It’s the best kind of chaos. After college, I couldn’t wait to trade life in KC for a life in DC. I had big dreams of my own high rise condo overlooking the city, oversized sunglasses, high heels, and a fabulous life. Instead, I could barely afford to rent someone’s futon (which I did for five months), and kept all of my shoes in the trunk of my car, along with a plastic dresser I’d visit every morning before walking the few blocks back to that first floor apartment to change clothes (in the pantry no less, while my roommate was in the shower). My sunglasses, while large, were knock-offs I bought from a peddler in Georgetown. I was a hot mess, but I was sort-of living the dream. I never thought when I left home that would be it; I never imagined I wouldn’t somehow end up in Kansas. Rather, I thought I’d do the DC thing for a bit, someday get married and live next door to my older sister where our kids would run between our houses interchangeably. I someday (eight years ago) did get married, and both my sister and I did have kiddos, but instead of next door, we’re over 1000 miles apart. And instead of Kansas, we went to San Diego. And then Guam. And then the East Coast. Dorothy was right on two fronts: we are definitely not in Kansas anymore, and there’s no place like home.

Nobody really knows what they’re getting into when they get married, and I certainly didn’t have any idea what to expect as a military spouse. As a couple, you expect some separation. Although they never get easy, you learn how to handle deployments. But one thing I never quite prepared for was how much I’d miss home. My siblings are all back in Kansas. That sister I planned to live next to? She’s a five minute drive from my parents. With my husband gone again, our house feels too quiet, all the time.

What does this have to do with Christmas in July? Everything. Fitz approached me about a promotional opportunity, and I was instantly interested. When I started writing the Deployment Diary two years ago, I was almost immediately approached to sponsor products, partner with businesses, and help sell things. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to peddle insurance for a company I don’t use. I’m not going to promote a bank I’ve never set foot in. In good faith I don’t feel like I should try to sell you on something I have no interest in buying myself. My primary focus as a writer has always been authenticity. I believe there is great value in vulnerability, and ultimately I want readers to connect with our family’s stories, whether it’s finding hope and encouragement in the difficult times, or discovering something as simple as camaraderie. That said, I have yet to sponsor a product. Until now. Because… I actually think this one is amazing. And, not only did they give me one to test-run, they gave me TEN MORE to GIVE AWAY.


To give away to military families.

I feel like Oprah.

So. Here’s the background on why you want one, and then the info of how to enter.

“Fitz was built to help connect loved ones and families and enable sharing, watching, and re-living memories in a modern and easy way. Fitz Frame is closing the distance between family members and loved ones with simplified, real-time photo sharing. With a WiFi enabled photo frame controlled entirely from a mobile device, you can send photos and videos to a Fitz photo frame from anywhere in the world, instantly.”

Fitz’s digital photo frames are different because of the connectedness they encourage. Anyone with an invitation to your frame (which you send out sooo easily from the free FitzFrame app) can upload pictures directly. When my husband pulls into port in a few days and has WiFi? He can upload a video message for the kids. I was making dinner the other night when a picture of my sister-in-law dancing with my dad at her wedding popped up. Those cousins I long to have running in our front door? Well, they’re scrolling across a screen in my kitchen instead, and my kids are ecstatic. You can have multiple users, from anywhere in the world, all uploading to your frame with the click of a button. It is MAGICAL, and truly the perfect gift for a military family to stay connected with one another, parents, siblings, and grandparents as well.

How to enter? Comment on this post with why your military family wants a Fitz frame by midnight eastern time on July 3. You’ll receive an extra entry if you share this post on Facebook, and another entry if you share on Twitter. Be sure to hashtag #FitzFrame Giveaway wherever you post it, and let me know in your comment that you did, so you’ll get all the credits you deserve! Winners will be selected in a drawing on 4th of July. And if you don’t win? Here’s another another reason to buy a Fitz frame: Fitz offers a 20% discount to all military families on their website: https://fitzframe.com/pages/military, with the code “MilitaryFam” at checkout.

There might not be any place but home, but a special thanks to Fitz for closing the distance!






The Democratic Candidates and Their Foreign Policy Strategies

We’ve covered taxes.

We brought you the GOP candidates’ strategies for our troops.

Next up, the game plans of the 2 remaining democratic candidates’ (Secretary Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders) for everything from involvement in the Middle East to working with our allies around the globe. While Senator Sanders is the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, as former Secretary of State, Clinton has the upper hand in foreign policy experience.

What would either of these democratic candidates’ presidency mean for our military families?

Click here to continue reading on NextGenMilSpouse.com

5 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

IMG_0028Winter has officially arrived at the “ugh” stage. It’s cold. It’s been cold for a long time now. Unless you live somewhere truly wonderful, it’s not going to get warm again for awhile yet.

Given the opportunity, I think most of us would like to cuddle up by a fire and wake up when it’s spring.

But you can beat the winter blues — I promise. As the temperatures and your motivation continues to stay at a truly depressing low, use these five tips for giving yourself the motivation you need.

5 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

1. Get moving.

You made the New Year’s resolution to actually use that gym membership you’ve been paying for; now is the perfect time to start. Already a regular gym goer? Sign up for a race or other challenge that will push you. Beyond the physical benefits of getting some exercise, multiple studies have been conducted to show the link between working out and mental health. According to a report from Harvard Medical School, researchers found that “walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week had a significant influence on mild to moderate depression symptoms.”

2. Make (and keep) plans.

The easiest thing in wintertime is to want to pull the covers over your head and wait for the day to be over. However, it’s just a matter of time before the walls start to close in on you. Whether you agree to meet a friend for coffee, accept the invitation from your neighbor to go over for dinner or take the kids to the library, do something. Getting out of the house and being around others can help boost your mood.


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A Military Wife During Deployment is Asked, ‘Is it Worth it?’

An installment in the New York Times’ Deployment Diary

We sat around my sister’s dining room table, laughing so hard we had tears in our eyes, reliving and rehashing the events of the night before. My aunt and uncle “fishing” for each other on the dance floor. My brother’s hilarious toast to the bride and groom (my other brother). My cousin’s Russian girlfriend responding to someone’s question of “Where did he find you?” with “Amazon Prime.”

There is nothing like a wedding reception at a whiskey distillery to keep things entertaining. Since my husband, a Navy helicopter pilot, deployed in early October, moments like these have been rare. While I was surrounded by family, laughing with abandon, it felt as if he were simply in the next room watching the Chiefs game with some of the guys, instead of on a ship, somewhere in the Middle East.

As my aunt told a story, my newly turned 5-year-old climbed on my lap. She quietly slid my phone off the table, and asked in a whisper if she could look at pictures. I kissed her head and nodded as I laughed along with the other adults. Moments later, we were all interrupted as my daughter started to cry. Not sniffling. I’m talking lose-your-mind-something-is-really-wrong-wailing-hysterically kind of cry. I looked down at my phone and saw what stared back at her: a “today in history” picture of my husband holding her in the hospital, his face full of the wonder and joy that new parenting brings.

“Daddy,” she said, sobbing. “I miss my daddy.” I scooped her up and carried her upstairs to a rocking chair to console her. My father (her Papa) and her cousin Finley came up to help soothe her, but she wasn’t having it. “I don’t want YOUR daddy,” she cried to me. “Not Finley’s daddy, or Addie’s daddy, I want MY daddy.” Over, and over again she said it, until a funny video of her playing at the pool with my husband (accompanied by promises of doing that again soon) consoled her. Those 20 minutes felt like 20 years. Finally calm, we walked downstairs to find a quiet dining room, where the tears of laughter in everyone’s eyes had quickly been replaced by ones of deep sympathy and palpable sadness.

Later that night, once the children were asleep, I found my generally stoic brother (Addie’s daddy) in the basement, also in tears. As he wrapped his arms around me, he offered: “This just seems so hard for you guys. Is it really worth it?”

Click here to continue reading this post on NYT.com

National Mentoring Month Makes Sense for MilSpouses

If you have big plans — a word for the year, some personal commandments or something else — for 2016 you could probably also use big help.

Yes, help.

No matter what your goals are for this year, don’t tackle them on your own. Whether you’re a stay at home parent looking for resources on sleep training or a busy professional building a business (or maybe you’re trying to balance both!), we all need someone to turn to for guidance from time to time, and Google only helps so much.

You need someone who has walked the same path ahead of you.

You want someone with firsthand knowledge and experience.

You have to have someone who understands your goals and can help you meet them.

You need a mentor, and with January being National Mentoring Month, now is the perfect time to find one!

Stay with me — this isn’t as wild as it seems. Having a mentor certainly isn’t a new concept. The very word “mentor” dates back to Homer’s Odyssey, when Odysseus left to fight in the Trojan War and entrusted his home and child (sound familiar? Turns out deployments aren’t a new concept, either!) to his friend, Mentor. Mentor watched over Odysseus’s son and became his most trusted advisor. The relationship was so revered that we still use the word ‘mentor’ today.

But, why do you need a mentor? And, maybe more importantly, how do you find one?

Continue reading this post on SpouseBuzz.com

More Than a Hundred Sleeps: A Father Deploys

An installment in the New York Times Deployment Diary

I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “live like he deploys tomorrow.” I remember thinking it odd at the time, since my husband, a Navy helicopter pilot, and I somehow always spent the day before deployments frantically getting uniforms ready, packing bags, responding to last-minute tasks and making tearful goodbye phone calls to parents, siblings and friends. Nothing about it was worth trying to live like that every day. This round, however, was different. Dickens very well could have been talking about the days before deployment when he said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

My husband was supposed to deploy on a Saturday. For months, it sat on our calendar in pen, taunting us with inching proximity. In what felt like the blink of an eye, we went from next fall, to next month, to next week, to “he leaves on Saturday.”

Click here to continue reading this post on NYT.com

5 Things the Navy Taught Me About Being a MilSpouse

Brad Crooks Photography

Brad Crooks Photography

This post was originally posted on Spousebuzz:

Happy Birthday, Navy. I fondly remember the first time you and I were formally introduced. I was in a bar, in Tallahassee, Florida where I ran into a high school classmate of mine from Denver, who had gone on to become a naval aviator. I instantly fell for him, and you. Your traditions, your strength and your breadth of capabilities (and let’s not forget flight suits and dress whites) all appealed to my sense of patriotism and love for our great nation.

As with any long term friendship, Navy, we’ve certainly had our ups and downs and our fair share of disagreements. I’m not sure I’ve fully forgiven you for that time you sent my husband back on deployment less than four months after homecoming. Or how about the move from Guam when you lost part of our shipment? I’m still replacing items from that.

Mostly though, Navy, as with all of my closest friends, you’ve helped me grow. You’ve taught me invaluable lessons about myself, marriage and life.

Here are 5 things you taught me:

What to Do Before Deployment? There’s No Crying at Disneyland

An installment in the New York Times Deployment Diary

My husband, finally finished with the year of work-ups (short deployments preparing for the “big one”) and about to deploy, sat with me on the curb at Disneyland, watching our two children gape in awe at the Paint the Night Parade. Lightning McQueen revved his engine and the Princesses twirled before us, and the air was filled with the music’s repeating refrain: “When can we do this again? I never want this to end.”

As our children giggled with excitement, I couldn’t help the all-too-familiar tears welling up in my eyes. The countdown to our big goodbye is rapidly approaching single digits. “Not now,” I pleaded silently with my emotions. “There’s no crying at Disneyland.” Viewing the parade, cruising through It’s a Small World, listening to our daughter talk to Elsa and Anna as if they were old friends, every time I looked at the children with their father, I wanted to burst into tears. More than once I caught him looking at our little ones longingly, as if he were already gone. The “happiest place on earth,” and we were wiping away tears on the teacups. How do you enjoy the present when you’re so focused on what lies ahead?

Click here to continue reading this post on NYT.com