Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What they should have said.

We have a few friends who are waiting on the Centralized Selection (Command) List to be released.  Those who I have spoken with have shared concerns about whether their spouse would be selected for this crazy gig and if so, where would they be stationed.  It’s a very familiar and exciting feeling. 

Prior to Tony taking battalion command we spent a week at Fort Leavenworth, KS at what is commonly referred to as PCC, the Pre-Command Course.  We participated in joint and individual sessions designed to help prepare us for the ride on which we were about to embark.  It was a good week.  Exhausting, but a good week set aside to begin to formulate a plan about how we would approach Tony’s time in command as a team.

I’m glad we had the opportunity to attend PCC but here’s the deal--it’s very difficult to truly prepare for what’s headed your way.  While I acknowledge the experience is unique for every family, I think those of us who have been there can all say it’s pretty darn intense.  I am by no means an expert but here is what I think someone should have said to us spouses while attending PCC.

1.       The unbelievable stories are the true stories.   Sure there will be the run of the mill things that you expect and some of those things may happen.  Then there are the “couldn’t make it up if I tried” stories and those are the ones that really happen.  There will be days that are truly bizarre and you will shake your head in disbelief.  Just hang tight because it will get weirder.  It will all make for good laughs in a couple of years. 

2.       Make real friends at your duty station.  I am not talking about people you chat with in passing (those are good too but stick with me here) but real friends.  Real friends that you can laugh and cry with, share ideas, help each other out with kids, and just enjoy some downtime together.  Most important to me were a couple of ladies within our brigade—people who knew the nuances of our larger unit and simply “got it” without a lot of back story, a group of neighbors from outside of the brigade who’s spouses were in the same type of position, a few people totally removed from command life but with an understanding of the Army, and then those tried and true friends from home who rarely, if ever, wanted to talk “Army”.  You are going to need these people more than you would ever think, and they are going to need you. 

3.       Please don’t try to compete with the other command team spouses in your brigade or installation.  There’s not too much to say about this besides that nobody likes a snake.  It’s ugly and it’s wrong and people know exactly what you are up to.  And while we’re at it, can we get rid of the Military Spouse of the Year/Volunteer of the Planet awards?  It’s gross. 

4.       People are going to die.  Whether your spouse’s unit experiences a deployment or not, people still die.  Accidents happen.  Poor decisions happen.  Soldiers may die.  Spouses may die.  Worst of all, children may die.  It is heartbreaking whether you know the Soldier/Family personally or not.  Allow yourself time to grieve and know when to take a time out. 

5.       Try to set aside a night each week to have dinner as a Family at a normal time.  It doesn’t have to be the same day each week but give it a shot.  I held dinner for Tony most nights because our oldest child was just in pre-school and bedtime could be flexed, but that isn’t the case for most Families in this position.   You have to make time to reconnect during the week.  Plan to do a weekly calendar scrub on this evening.  Calendars = life, even if they do change before the dishes are cleared from the table.  

6.       Don’t let bitterness take over.  I admit it.  There were some weeks when I was BIT-TER.  Bitter about the lack of Family time.   Bitter because I felt like a single parent.  Bitter because it seemed that every other Family in the unit came before ours.  (Let’s be real.  Many times they did.)  Bitter because sometimes Soldiers and Leaders make bad decisions.  I hate that I felt that way and I hate that I hung on to it longer than necessary.   Bitterness helps nothing. 

7.        Ask for help if/when you need it.  I had multiple friends who used their unit’s MFLC or a professional counselor when shit got tough.  Don’t be afraid to reach out.  It might be once during the entire tour or it might be twice a week.  Use them and encourage others to do the same.  That’s what they are there for.

8.       Battalion connections are priceless.  If you are willing, you will find spouses and Soldiers within your unit that you absolutely adore and form a true connection with.  After seeing your spouse doing what he loves, this is hands down the BEST part of command.  There is the potential for these to be friendships that you will treasure for the rest of your life.  Be open to them and then thank God for them.  They will make the tough and ugly times worth it.  There might also be a few you would like to punch in the throat.  Over and over again.  Don’t do it.  It’s not worth scuffing your mani. 

9.       However you choose to embrace the role, you are still the senior spouse in the unit.  Back in the day the Army used to call the person in this position the “leading lady”.  It’s all kind of ridiculous and hilarious but the bottom line is there are going to be some ladies looking for guidance on how to make their way through this crazy Army life.  No one expects you to have all of the answers and everyone approaches this role in their own way but make no mistake, how you treat people matters.  It matters a lot.  Maya Angelou said it better than I could ever dream of saying it…”I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Treat them well.  Treat them all with some grace and whole lot of humility. 

10.   Don’t take it all so seriously.  Looking back, there are many times I can think of that I wish I would have just loosened up and enjoyed the ride a little more.  Often there was so much on my plate and so little time to do it.  That can become a dangerous combination.  Towards the end of Tony’s command time I started to ask myself, “Will it matter in a month?”  If the answer was no, I relaxed a bit and enjoyed my own Family and the battalion a little more.    

Our Army is a unique organization.  We view our experiences over the 18 years we have shared together as some of the very best life has to offer.  There have been disappointments and many difficult times but looking back, I truly could not imagine our life any other way.  I wish those who are about to experience one of the most unique parts of Army life nothing but the absolute best.  Your Family will make significant sacrifices for the rest of our Army and our nation.  We are so incredibly grateful.  It’s tough but it’s a beautiful thing. 

Enjoy the ride!
Disclaimer:  I use the terms battalion/brigade/ladies because we are an Infantry family and we experienced command in a Combined Arms Battalion.  I am a Type A, all or nothing, everything in kind of gal.  We had our son and I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer during Tony’s command time.  We were stationed at Fort Riley, KS and we did not experience a deployment. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Home:  A loaded word with so many meanings for this Army family.

Home:  A structure to live in.  I mentioned in my previous post that there is quite a difference in military housing from installation to installation.  We just moved from Fort Riley, Kansas which in my opinion has the best of the best housing for the lieutenant colonel and up crowd. 


Enormous, historic homes filled with character and stories.  Hardwood floors, 10 foot ceilings, beautiful moulding, multiple fireplaces, storage galore, beautiful old oak trees, and a neighborhood that rivals Mayberry.  I could go on for days.  We were spoiled and we knew it.  I was reminded of that fact even more so when we arrived at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island.  We wanted to come here.  We chose to come here.  We didn’t anticipate this type of "unique" military housing. 

Hey, post-battalion command, lieutenant colonel families!  This too could be yours if you are stationed at beautiful Naval Station Newport.  Dream big, folks.  Dream big.   A structure to live in: home.

Home:  Our household goods.   Along with our family of 4, this is what makes a house our home.  Mostly collected during our nearly 14 years of marriage, they help to tell the story of our family.  They bring a sense of familiarity to what sometimes feels like outer space when we first move to a new duty station.  Some would probably say I have an unhealthy attachment to my “stuff”.   To those folks I say, “Let’s go shopping!”.  I love a pretty table, a leopard print ottoman, some beautiful lamps, and framed photos of our kids.  I like seasonal décor, dishes, craft supplies, heavy furniture, and big rugs.  What I don’t like is a bill from the government because someone, somewhere in Ikea furniture land, decided on how many pounds of stuff is appropriate to transport based on Tony’s rank.  Give me a damn break.  Right now those household goods are on two semis bound for Rhode Island.  Well, one semi is bound for Rhode Island.  The other one, carrying the majority of our HHGs, is broken down in Indiana and should be headed straight into an east coast snow storm tomorrow morning.   Our household goods:  home.

(The parlor is packed.)

(Row after row, column after column.  Fit together like a puzzle.)

Home:  Hooah.  Today I pulled up to the gate checkpoint at the Navy base here in Newport.  I was by myself and the young Sailor who checked my military ID card saluted me.  That hasn’t happened since we were stationed at Fort Campbell, KY when MPs used to salute officers’ spouses. (Why did they do that?!)  It made me uncomfortable then as it did today but it reminded me of Fort Campbell, my favorite duty station.  I thought to myself “HOOAH!”.  And then I remembered that had I said it aloud, the young Sailor might not have known what the hell "hooah" meant.  While I am sure Sailors have another word for yes/affirmative/got it/wilco/great/well done, etc., it’s definitely not hooah.  Hooah is an Army thing and Army things, as much as they drive me crazy sometimes, are home.  Hooah:  home.

Home:  Family.  Whether in a beautiful, historic home on Fort Riley or a small, overpriced, and outdated home here in the Newport, RI area, the three people who I share my day to day life with are the “home” that keeps me going.  While they sometimes drive me batty with their constant chatter, workaholic tendencies, with the mysterious spilled milk that makes my new car stink (MUST shampoo soon), their sleeplessness in the hotel we are calling home for now, and their need for food/bathroom/Frozen at the most inopportune times, they are home to me.  They are the reason I worry about the semis carrying their special toys, baby furniture, fishing/hunting gear, and wood working tools.  They are the reason I search high and low for the perfect curtains and bedding for the kids’ rooms so they can have a special, pretty place that is their own.  They are the reason we have an excess of chaffing dishes, drink dispensers, and serving platters to entertain Soldiers and their family members.   They are the reason we stress ourselves out looking for the best house we can afford in the best school district with the best opportunity for playmates and friends.  They are the reason I agree to yet another move to the ends of the earth so Tony can keep doing what he loves and does best.  Family:  home.    

I know there will be a time in the not so distant future when we will hang up the Army hat.  We will choose a place somewhere in this great country of ours to call our forever home and we will hopefully stop moving every 1-3 years.  We will look back at these PCSs (job relocation) and laugh at the madness.  We will remember mostly the good—the houses that we turned into homes, the places where we brought our babies home from the hospital, some of the greatest friends and people we have ever known, and the sense of adventure that comes with exploring a new hometown.  I doubt we will ever forget that PCSing is nearly as painful as preparing for a deployment or the very special breed of folks in the moving/civilian transportation industry.  Until then I need to get my box cutter ready and sharpen my furniture arranging skills because we are about to have a whole lot of boxes that need our attention.    And we are just about ready to put move number 9 in 13 years in the books.  Can I get a HOOAH?!



Monday, December 16, 2013

Welcome home...

We truly love this old home we have had the opportunity to live in the last 2+ years.  Military quarters vary GREATLY from installation to installation.  When we found out we were moving to Fort Riley the first thing I did was check out the housing situation.  I was thrilled to learn that our new home would in fact be over 120 years old.
This year our home was on the 30th Annual Historic Fort Riley Tour of Homes.  It was a treat to share our home with the community.  I created this virtual tour of the first and second floors for family and friends who won’t be able to make it to Kansas for Christmas.   
Welcome to our porch.
 Costco has the best live wreaths. 

A plaque in our vestibule lists all previous residents of our home and facts about the construction, including the original cost of $4,721. 
Through the vestibule you enter into the parlor. 
 Who doesn't need a leopard print ottoman?!  I know my mom and bestie do! 
Ballard Designs gets it so right sometimes. 


A current Soldier dressed as a Civil War Soldier shared facts about our home with those on the
Tour of Homes.

A few of my favorite things fill the photos, wedding china, books special to our family, an anniversary clock, and Sid Dickens tiles.

Formal Dining Room.

Sid Dickens tiles. 
The postcard in the lantern is a picture of our street, postmarked 1910.  I found it on Ebay before we even signed for our quarters.
Each of the three fireplaces have different mantels and original tile surround. 
I always think about redoing our Americana powder room but I like the bright, vintage look of it.
Before we moved in, housing (sort of) renovated the kitchen.  Unfortunately the questionable cabinets stayed put. 
Love this happy little snowman.
 This framed nightlight is one of my most treasured items.  It is my favorite photo of the kids etched onto resin so it glows when the light behind it is illuminated.  Such a special gift from my bestie!

Samantha added a touch of Christmas to her fairy garden.
Family Room--While I love so many of the neutral Christmas decorations I am seeing these days, for me Christmas calls for red, gold, and lots of sparkle.  It's a birthday party!
I love a wrapped gift!  No bags under this tree.
We hang the homemade ornaments on the tree too. 

He's got his eye on you!
Let's head upstairs.
An original telephone nook.
Maxwell's Room.
I love a big monogram.
The blanket on Max's chair was Tony's bedspread at West Point.
Baseball chandelier handcrafted by Tony.
Tony's favorite--Chevrolet.
And my favorites--baseball and gifts from Tiffany! 
In every house we live in we always have a couple of strategically placed little green Army Soldiers.  
I am crazy about this gallery wall between the kids' rooms.  The wall isn't yellow, there just isn't any natural light in this hallway. 
Words of wisdom.
Oh, pink monogram...

The "tablecloth" is a quilt made for Samantha by one of my very best friends, Kelly.

Bed crown made by Tony.

Love Sarah and Abraham.  

Every girl needs a chandelier.

My Roots Lie Here.  A fun, pretty way for Samantha to note all of the places she has and will live.  Kind of like those "Home is Where the Army Sends You" plaques but without the cheese.  

 Our room.  The only space with carpet in the whole house. 
 I had my eye on this plaque for probably 8 years.  Tony surprised me with it for Mother's Day a couple of years ago. 
The hand statue is made from a mold of our hands.  It was a wedding gift from a family friend.

 Thanks for stopping by!  Merry Christmas from our family to yours!