By elaine | November 19, 2013
This morning, about to leave for church, I grabbed my good coat off a hanger and began to slip it on. Unfortunately, my sweater sleeves were too bulky to go into the sleeves of the coat. Frustrated, I hung it back up and grabbed the oversize fleece jacket that I usually wear when running. I knew that my sweater sleeves would fit, but I was very uncomfortable wearing such a casual jacket to church. Oh well, it couldn’t be helped. As I put the car keys into the jacket pocket, I felt something different. I pulled out my driver’s license! How long had that been in the pocket? I hadn’t worn the jacket for almost a week, and wasn’t planning on wearing it in the near future. While it might not seem like such a big deal, in this circumstance, I let out a “whoop” of joy! There was a reason for that. The next morning I was leaving on a week-long business trip with an early morning flight. I would have grabbed my purse on the way out the door, thinking that my license was in my wallet. I can imagine being totally freaked out when I wouldn’t be able to produce my identification at check-in! That would have been a huge problem, and my worst nightmare. I was incredibly thankful and relieved that I had chosen the sweater with big sleeves, put on that old running jacket and best of all, stumbled upon my license in the pocket. What a gift that chain of events was.
November is a month for connecting with the things, people and circumstances you are thankful for. In many households, before Thanksgiving dinner begins, there is a ritual of going around the table and telling others what you are thankful for. Usually we hear answers like family, a good job, and sometimes even that your football team won…all great responses. This year we’re putting a twist on that game at our house. Everyone is going to share a “little wonder” that happened to them that they are thankful for – one of those small things that happen to let us know that we’re on the right track. If your family is going through a deployment, you might not be thankful for that “big” circumstance that takes you apart. But can you look for things to be grateful in that circumstance? Maybe a child has “stepped up” and helped out more than expected or maybe you found solitude in a few moments of alone time to catch-up on a hobby. Share something that makes you smile, “whoop” for joy, and recognize that all those little “gratitudes” pile up into a great day. This year, I just might tell the story of my driver’s license!
By elaine | October 22, 2013
In the last post, we began talking about the connections in your life. We started with your kids. There’s another relationship I want to address. That’s your relationship with…YOU! Connect with you. When we spend so much time doing things for others, the first relationship to bite the dust is the one we have with ourselves. Carve out a few minutes to connect to the dreams or vision you have for your life. In 2002, when I began my work for military families, people thought I was crazy. After all, we hadn’t yet entered into the conflict with Afghanistan, so none of my friends saw a need for what I wanted to do. Then a business partner told me this: “Don’t give up on your dreams, just because someone else doesn’t share the same vision.” That changed things for me. I moved toward what I wanted to do with my life at this moment, and how it would help both me, and others around me.
From the very first time I did a presentation on an Air Force base, I’ve always dreamed of getting a chance to see what it would be like to fly in one of those jets like the ones in the movie Top Gun! That was about the most far fetched vision I could imagine. After all, I’m only a civilian with no flight experience. But I kept pictures on my wall and thoughts of flight in my head. One day, 6 years later, my office phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “I’m with the National Guard Bureau and I’m here to make the arrangements for your F-16 flight.” I couldn’t believe it! Thus began a lot of preparation, arrangements, and training, but every minute was more than worth it. It was the ride of a lifetime, and the culmination of a very big dream.
So the first thing to do is connect with your inner “self”. Think about what you’d like to do in the next day, week or even years. Maybe you’ve wanted to write a story or article. Maybe it’s signing up for a class to get that promotion at work. Maybe it’s just telling yourself that you’re going to find 20 minutes every day to read. Don’t let anyone tell you that your vision isn’t good enough, big enough, or important enough! It’s your vision…and your dream. Appreciate and cherish it.
By elaine | October 17, 2013
The dictionary defines it as; “to join, link or fasten together; to establish communication between; to have as an accompanying feature.” My job is to help people connect with each other, no matter the distance that lies between them. If I was asked for my own word that defines connection, I’d pick “strength.” I think of the strength of the bond we have with those we love, and the strength of our conviction to prevent bad things from getting in the way of that bond like arguments, growing apart, and physical distance. Today we begin a journey of posts to renew the strength of all our connections.
In each post I’ll pick one or two of our relationships and share insights and strategies for enhancing that connection, and most importantly, having fun with it. The first is the relationship you have with your kids. In my book “I’m Already Home…Again” we talk about over 100 ways for a deployed parent to foster a stronger connection with their child while separated. We’ll roll out a few of those later on.
But what about the parent left at home? When your day is consumed with work, problems and all the stuff that happens every day, what can you do to prevent your relationship from beginning to drift away? One of the most popular ideas I’ve heard for a parent returning from a deployment, is to reconnect with each child by taking them individually on their own “date night.” That’s great. But what about you and your children when you’re the parent at home? YOU go on a date night with each child! Find a time when it can be just the two of you, get a babysitter for the rest of the kids, and the two of you do something special. One key: remember to make the activity something that is special to that particular child. Yes, that may mean sitting front row center in the movie theatre on a Saturday afternoon for a showing of the latest animated feature, or shopping with your teenager. Just know that this is your time together…to connect. You can print cute coupons like these pictured by visiting http://lets-explore.net/blog/2011/12/a-year-of-dates/
By elaine | August 13, 2013
When you’ve let something go from your life for a while, it’s difficult to go back and write about it. But I’m going to do it anyway. Since military funding has taken a nose dive over the last 18 months, my message of support for military spouses hasn’t been reaching as many as it used to. Yesterday something came in my email that I knew had to be shared. It was from an Army wife who cared enough to share a family connection idea they use when her husband is deployed. She shared it so that others could learn about it too, and maybe let it find a way into more families. When you’re separated by deployments, you must fight for the strength of your family! Sharing ideas is a great way to show this. I’ve always been a good avenue for sharing those ideas, so I’m stepping back into the light to let you know about this one, and hopefully many more as time goes forward. This idea is from Jamie and here it is in her words:
Instead of doing the deployment chain as you suggested in your book which we actually did for deployment #2, we are doing a deployment tree. Especially since we’re starting in the summer with this, we’ve got green leaves that get pulled off first. Then as fall arrives, we’ll take the colored leaves that I purposely taped under the green leaves off, and of course lastly the brown leaves will get pulled off as winter arrives. One leaf gets pulled off each day that my twin daughters daddy is gone to again help them be able to visually see how much more time they have to wait until their daddy comes home. The white bag is what they put the leaves in. This way too, if I’m off a day or two I can ‘sneak’ hanging up a couple and I can save to recycle these if I ever want to do this idea again. We just made one pattern or two and traced and then cut a bunch out.
Thanks, Jamie, and it’s our hope that this idea and many more like it will become part of other military family routines.
By elaine | May 29, 2013
I just finished being a guest of Semper Feisty Radio with the amazing hosts, Kristine and Jackie! What a great time. These are two wonderful women here to share and talk about issues facing Marine families in all phases of deployment. Among other topics, we discussed my book The Road Home which is on Mrs. Amos’s First Lady of the Marine Corps Recommended Reading list and some of the ideas in it for families looking for ways to make their homecoming more fun and meaningful. Of course all that is still based on the idea that you stay connected with each other while you are separated by that deployment. You can’t expect a relationship to pick up exactly where it left off if you’ve done nothing to keep it strong while apart. There’s a lot to think about when working on a smooth reunion and reintegration. In the book we talk about money, returning as a single Marine, and changes – even subtle ones – that occur.
On the show we had a great discussion about sex and intimacy upon return. First, you are not alone in thinking that maybe you gained a few pounds or what if we don’t “connect” like we did before. Trust me, they are universal feelings. My advice is to not be so hard on yourself…he or she is going to love you just the way you are, and for that first “connection”, whatever happens…it’s OK! If it’s your first deployment, don’t work yourself up too much about it. Sometimes all the plans in the world fall through, and the reconnection “just happens” in the way it’s supposed to. Maybe it turns out to be a stop at a motel on the way home rather than the candles and flowers ready to go in your bedroom at home. It will be fine! Here are a couple more ideas for intimacy directly from the chapter “How the heck did my butt get so big” in the book The Road Home:
1. Have a love affair – by dating again. Make a list of fun “date” things to do together during those first few weeks at home. Find things that are free or inexpensive, things that you can do “on a whim” and even places that you can save up for that will take you away for more time.
2. Chat with the kids to help them understand that “mom and dad just need some alone time together” and that it doesn’t affect your relationship with them at all. If you know THEY will be ok with it, it will take some of the stress off of you both. Consider a sitter for a couple of days away.
3. One returning husband wrote a love letter to his wife, put it in a clear plastic bottle and floated it in her bathtub when he got back! Yep, it got the fires going.
4. Finally, based on responses I heard in a session I was facilitating at t family conference, page 97 in the book lists 15 quick easy ways to “set the mood” for lovemaking. I’m sure you’ll find a few that will work for you.
Thanks to Kristine and Jackie for letting me share these and other great ideas with you. Look for the book in your exchange, on Amazon or at www.ImAlreadyHome.com. I hope you find lots of ideas to enhance your relationships with each other and those around you. Thank you for your service!
By elaine | January 16, 2013
Take a look at this picture. What are the people doing? If you said something as simple as meeting and talking to each other, you’re right. What’s so unique? No one’s texting, or plugged into an iPod. In this post, I want to talk about talking. Recently I had a huge email problem and discovered that for almost two weeks no one had been receiving any of my emails…and I didn’t even know it! I never received any notifications. The emails were going off into the clouds somewhere. As the email issues were being worked on, I was left to utilize an avenue of communication we used to use all the time. The telephone. Honestly, I don’t like talking on the phone. Like most people, I’ve gotten used to shooting off an email and waiting for a reply. I was uncomfortable getting back on the phone, but I did. I called and talked to people…almost as good as “face-to-face.” Most of the conversations were casual and comfortable even though they were focused on business. My loss of email forced me to pick up the phone; something that has, over time, been relegated as the “last line of defense” in making business contacts.
In this world of technology, you see people relying on impersonal devices to make personal connections and build trust. I believe that genuine trust is built through personal connections. There’s an app on your phone for almost everything from music to books to games to doing your banking. Those are what apps are for. When it comes to creating trust with another person or deciding who you feel good about doing business with, my philosophy is simple. Trust – there’s NOT an app for that! (The name of a new program, too) Directed towards both my military families, and business contacts, the next posts will look at specific ways to make and maintain connections, focus your communication and cement trust between people. I’m pretty practical and down to earth, so the ideas I share will be the same. In the meantime, take this challenge: The next time you sit down to write an email, consider picking up the phone instead.
By elaine | January 10, 2013
Often during the early part of January, I read posts and thoughts from families – military and others – about how challenging it is when things just go wrong around them. Christmas bills are coming in, the kids are finally back in school (ok, that’s a good thing), and often the weather is dreary. If a spouse had been deployed over the holidays, it made it even more difficult to be grateful. I noticed that I was always looking at what went wrong, rather than looking beyond it. That recently changed.
I read a quote from Carol Kuykendall in Daily Guideposts that I love. Here it is: “While not necessarily thankful FOR all circumstances, I can be thankful WITHIN all circumstances.” I was not particularly thankful when the water heater broke flooding our finished basement and causing a huge mess and stress. BUT I can be thankful that Healthy Home Carpet Cleaning was there within the hour to begin cleaning, that we had insurance to cover most of it and that my stepson is a contractor and guided us through the process of buying and installing a new water heater! You know those Christmas bills that are coming in this month and messing with my budget? Well, now I’m grateful that I’m lucky enough to have the money to pay them even though I won’t be going out to dinner or a movie very often. It’s about choices.
I understand the difference now, and will watch how it changes my attitude on GRATITUDE, and be more aware of the “gifts” WITHIN bad circumstances. Thank you, Carol.
By elaine | October 15, 2012
Being early in a marriage and early to the military is quite a daunting experience. We’ll smooth out some of the speed bumps you might incur along the way by bringing you helpful tips, information and advice right from those who have lived through exactly what you’re feeling now. You just might find yourself saying, “I needed to hear that!”
Advice on Your Role in the Military from those who know!
“Get involved, learn about your role and let your voice be heard. Do not be the silent partner. Learn more about the military so you have a say in the decisions your family makes.”
“The military is a very special and unique organization. Your involvement in the military depends on your motivation and self comfort. Understand that this career involves you whether you are active or passive.”
“Remember that you’re working around the military schedule and may not always get to celebrate things on the very day they happen.”
“Make sure you truly know the meaning of unconditional love”
“I wish someone would have told me that when you marry a service member you marry the service as well. As a new military spouse you need to understand and believe that your soldier’s love for the military has nothing to do with the love he has for you. He does not love you less because he is a soldier. If you wait, you may learn that he is a better man because of his love for the military and will then in turn, love you better as well.”
“Don’t be judgmental of other spouse’s choices.”
You’re More than just “The Spouse”
Carving out a life for yourself can seem hard once you realize the important role you play in your spouse’s military career. A happy military spouse is a strong military spouse, so be sure to have an interest that is yours.
Stay Busy. Your own interests and career can help you build strong relationships.
Find a job you like.
- If you don’t need the money or can’t find a portable career, consider volunteering.
- By finding a job, you’ll create a support system…and get paid for it!
Stay in touch with friends and family “back home”.
- If you can afford to visit while your serviceperson is gone to training or on deployment, do so. But having a life of your own at your new home is important too.
Take a class or learn something new!
- Whether it’s a law degree or a cake decorating course, find something you’d like to learn and make it a priority for yourself.
- Online classes work well for military spouses. Investigate those opportunities through the education center on your post or base.
Your Attitude Makes a Difference
Transition to life as a military spouse is never easy. It will provide challenges that you never anticipated and require you to be tougher than you thought possible. In many situations, attitude can make or break you and your relationship.
“It is what you make it! If you have the I-hate-the-military attitude, you will be miserable.” All military spouses have had days where they’ve uttered those words. Make them the exception not the rule.
- Recognize the things that are out of your (or your spouse’s) control.
- Don’t take it out on your spouse when plans change
- Be flexible and have realistic expectations.
“There really is power in positive thinking.”
- All military spouses have days where it is difficult to choose to be happy but it is possible so remind yourself what you are capable of.
- You will have your bad days, but keeping a positive attitude will make a huge difference.
Embrace the military lifestyle, and enjoy its benefits- Whether it is a chance to live overseas or a great deal on a vacation rental, your military lifestyle is filled with opportunities and benefits for service members and families.
“I decided this was going to be an opportunity for all of us, not a punishment for falling in love with a soldier”
- Utilize the services and discounts you are entitled to. ASK, everyplace you go, if they offer a discount.
Shop at the commissary and the BX or PX. You could save about 30% on all purchases.
Be a strong advocate for your family. It’s up to you to dig in with both feet and get it done.
- Whether it is a broken water heater or an issue with in-laws be tenacious on behalf of your family.
- Rather than wondering how to do it, just get to work. Use the energy you would have spent wondering or worrying to get a productive start on the task at hand.
Remember that others are following your lead
- If you have children, keep in mind that they are watching you for cues on how to handle separation and reunion.
- How you handle yourself in emotional or frustrating situations may come back to haunt you. Be conscious of how you may be perceived so that you can avoid embarrassment later.
Avoid Peer Pressure- Whether you feel like everyone else is having babies, getting new cars or complaining about their spouses, don’t do it just because Mrs. Jones is.
By elaine | October 2, 2012
When your family is getting ready for a deployment or an extended TDY, it can seem overwhelming to remember everything that needs to be done. Over the years, we’ve found that there are some specific topics that your family should sit and discuss together before you leave. If you talk about these up front, then when something arises, it’s easier and quicker to make a decision or take an action based on your discussion. Over these next blog posts, we’ll look at 6 of these discussions – some at more length than others. Some discussion topics contain special information specifically for our service members.
1. The Importance of Operations Security
Operations Security (OPSEC) is the process of identifying and controlling critical information that is not, and should not, be generally considered as common knowledge. As a military family member, you’re part of the OPSEC team and play a crucial role in ensuring your loved ones’ safety. Understanding and following OPSEC ensures your safety at home too. For example, use common sense when hanging yellow ribbons on trees, sticking magnets on cars, or wearing clothing that advertises your deployment status. These may be seen as opportunities for others to recognize your vulnerabilities. Help your service member feel confident about your safety and security while he or she is deployed by protecting yourself.
Conversations: Most likely you’ve never had to censor your own conversations before, but now it’s different.
- Discuss how your family will agree to share information with others.
- Understand the risk involved by having conversations about the troops.
- Avoid talking about information on the phone, in public, or with the media.
- Remember: You’re under no obligation to share details about where your service member is and what he or she is doing there with extended family members, friends, or neighbors.
Responding to questions: Most people who ask questions about your service member are doing so out of natural curiosity and concern. However, for safety’s sake, less information is better. Learn to respond in a way that lets them know that it’s something you can’t talk about or don’t feel comfortable talking about. Don’t be afraid to take a stand and stop answering questions. Some ideas for responding are:
- “Yes I am proud of him. He is doing his job over there.”
- “I’m not exactly sure what her day-to-day responsibilities are but I know she is working hard.”
- To end a persistent conversationalist try, “It’s really a matter of national security.”
Gossip is hurtful to everyone: You may be aware of personal information at home that soldiers in theater aren’t, and sometimes it’s best kept that way.
- If someone at home confides in you, honor that confidentiality.
- Be a trusted friend – unconfirmed information can be hurtful or damage a relationship.
- Don’t talk about other people to your service member.
- Gossip takes its toll on people. Be part of the solution by not perpetuating it.
- If you’d rather someone not confide in you, please be honest and tell them you’d rather not get involved. You might refer them to theirFRG Leader or other professional.
Social networking: Status updates, countdown calendars, and other online displays can jeopardize your safety as well as the safety of your service member. The military is constantly making decisions on how to manage social networking in a way that allows a continued line of communication between service members and their families without jeopardizing security.
- Watch constantly for military updates and restrictions on the use of these sites.
- Consider using communication sites that are set up in partnership with military requirements. www.websitesforheros.com provides a password-protected, secure website for a military family. Set this up before you leave.
- Remember that your information is never 100% secure.
For the Serviceperson: You have responsibilities when it comes to OPSEC when you’re in theater. Here are some things to consider and discuss:
- Be very careful not to leak information from where you are. Monitor your conversations.
- As a service member, don’t put your family in situations where they know something they shouldn’t know.
- Follow protocol. If something tragic happens in theater that involves your unit, don’t talk to your family members about it until you know for certain that all appropriate notifications have been made. Think about this; if you were the injured party, how would you want your family members to be notified of your injury?
- Remember that if a family member tells you something that might not be appropriate for public knowledge, don’t repeat it even to your closest friends. Your family needs to know they can trust you.
You can breathe easier now that you’ve taken steps to ensure everyone is safe and following security protocol. Some of the upcoming topic discussions will include: Block Leave and R&R, Coping with Personality Changes, Your Family Connection Plan, Trust and your Relationship, and Dealing with Burnout, Stress and Isolation.
By elaine | August 21, 2012
Like so many others, I got busy this summer. But you know what? It’s no excuse! I went back and reviewed some comments that came in and a couple asked why I wasn’t more consistent with my blogging? Was I busy? Occupied elsewhere? It got me to thinking that they were right in calling me on it. I’ve been spending time this year writing FRG articles that have been going out to my list every other week, but haven’t taken time to put those articles into blog posts! That was a no-brainer and it’s going to be remedied right now. I took each subject and made it into a series of 3 articles. The very first series was about Stress Management for military families and service members. Below is that first installment. Thank you for kick in the butt to get writing again.
Recognize stress before it kills you! We all know that “good” stress can peak your adrenaline and actually help increase your performance and abilities in getting a job done. This kind of stress is critical on the battlefield. It’s when stress begins to control us, instead of us being in control of it, that it turns into “bad” stress. This decreases our ability to react and respond properly in situations and can be damaging to ourselves and others. Stress, much like high blood pressure, can be a “silent killer.
What is stress? Stress is the response your body makes to outside anxieties and stimuli that may seem out of your control. Most stress is normal and necessary to our overall physical and mental health. “Good” triggers a lifesaving “flight or fight” response. When does stress cross the line and become harmful? When it has a negative and prolonged affect on your moods, physical health, aggression and the people around you.
Become aware of stress symptoms. Always be aware of your own body and when it’s acting in a way that’s not normal. Stress shows up in many different ways and can often be overlooked or interpreted as something different. ALL of these symptoms don’t have to be present, just a few at a time. Look for: Read the rest of this entry »
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