It’s Inauguration Day And, Yes, I Am Watching

the-white-house-1623005_1280
Photo Credit

I wasn’t going to watch it– the swearing in. And for my political science-loving heart, that’s saying a lot. For nearly two years, I watched with insatiable curiosity as the presidential primaries turned into an angry and bitter general election. It turned people off, I know; but not me. I lapped up nearly every moment, setting my DVR to watch every minute of every debate. I watched both conventions with eager anticipation, weighing the political cost of each speaker and misstep in my head. I digested every article on the candidates I could find, eventually finding the nerve to write my own for public consumption. And, being overseas on the day of the election, I woke at the crack of dawn so that I wouldn’t miss a single minute of election day coverage. So how could I not watch the swearing in of our next president?

Easy: It makes me sick to my stomach.

And no, this isn’t about being a sore loser. My candidate has lost before and this acute despair—melodramatic though it may sound—has never been an issue.

I feel sick to my stomach because, even though I respect our democracy and the procedures it enumerates that have brought us to this legitimate outcome, I can’t help but think that the man taking over its reigns does not. The flippancy with which he has undermined our military, discredited our intelligence agencies, and disregarded decorum has proven this. We, as a collective, are nothing more than another notch on his belt. And, sorry puritanical conservatives, he has a lot of those—baby hands and combover notwithstanding. We are nothing special.

I feel sick to my stomach because this will likely be the first president my daughter remembers— a man who brags about sexual assault and regularly objectifies women. Surely, we can’t expect a grown man who openly degrades women as fat, ugly, and dogs, to suddenly change into the sort of role model our little girls deserve. I already mourn for the day that he nonchalantly values a female world leader on the basis of her looks or sexual prowess. He won’t think twice about it. He won’t even notice. But she will, my daughter. And I will be there to pick up the pieces.

This is the first president that my son will likely remember, as well—a man who shrugs off the concept of consent as political correctness run amok. It’s just locker room talk, snowflakes. Take it easy. Except, someday, that little boy of mine will engage in locker room talk. I shudder that this man’s example will make it less likely that such talk revolves around college acceptance letters. This man is not worthy of emulation, but I will raise my son to be a true man in spite of it.

I feel sick to my stomach because I am a military spouse. My husband is about to serve at the whim of a man who tweets at the whim of his ego. No matter how many times I hear a conservative scream, “Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!” I will never be comfortable with dismissing a candidate with human flaws for a man who lacks the sober mindset of a statesman. “Blow up the establishment,” they say. “Give a businessman with literally zero understanding of geopolitics command of the greatest military on Earth!” they say. Well, cool. I’m super glad you came up with with a half-baked rationale for seating instability with power just to win an election. But you know what? Your “blow it all up” mentality has a very literal meaning for military families. Chew on that for a minute.

Yes, my stomach is sick to the core. No, I don’t want to watch this man take over the responsibilities of the highest office in the land, corrupting it with his infantile grievances and misplaced arrogance. But I will. I will watch Donald Trump become our 45th president. My heart will ache, every inch of my skin will crawl. But I will do it.

I will do it because she is doing it.

Hillary Clinton—who won the vote of the people, endured every false attack, and fought to the bitter end. Hillary Clinton will not only watch, she will be there. Good God.

If she can swallow every ounce of her undoubtedly monumental pain to be an example for our nation, then surely I can follow her example and swallow my pain, as well. I will watch because it is my civic responsibility to take interest in the handing over of power. I will watch because my patriotism demands it. And I will watch because I am still with her.

Donald Trump may not have the celebrity-filled inauguration his vanity-driven-heart desperately requires. But he will have an audience, of that he can be sure. We are all Dorothy’s daughter today. We will watch every heartbreaking moment of this presidency and, in doing so, we will take up her mantle. We will be her voice; we will take up her causes; we will follow in her footsteps.

Oh, there will be an audience watching today, Donald Trump. And we will keep watching. Our eyes are on you. We are coming for you. With our voices, our strength, our determination, and yes, our femininity, we are coming for you. We are watching you today, Mr. President; but, from here on out, you had better keep your eyes on us.

  • C
Advertisements

For the MilSpouse: Making Your House Feel Like A Home

The military lifestyle can certainly be chaotic. With PCS’s often happening every couple years, and sometimes sooner, the idea of putting time and energy into personalizing your home can be overwhelming. What’s the point when the next set of orders is always around the corner, right?

With the vast majority of housing opportunities relegated to rentals and on-post living, there are often strict rules regarding tenancy, meaning painting and other major changes are often off limits. Even if you are fortunate enough to own your own home, chances are someone else will be renting it until your time in the military has ended. It’s no wonder I so often hear spouses resign themselves to feeling like they are living in someone else’s home.

It’s a struggle we all face in the military community; but after 7 years and 5 moves, I have come to embrace the idea that home is not a place, but a feeling. It’s crucial to this ever-changing life of ours and has helped me focus on the little ways in which I can cultivate that feeling in each and every place we live. Here are a few of the tricks I have learned along the way:

1.) Decorate for Every Holiday

Most of our PCS’s have occurred in late fall, meaning Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas have sometimes been blurred over. I mean, who has time to decorate when you don’t even have cable yet?!

The thing is though, even a couple simple decorations go a long way toward making a cold, new space feel warm and inviting. No need to go bananas. A little goes a long way! Ask the movers to pull a box into the living room instead of shoving it into a corner of the garage. Better yet, take an extra moment to pull a box of decor aside before you move and then ask that it be loaded last onto the truck. That way it can be easily found on the other end.

This is something that has become increasingly important to me as our kids get older. It’s easy to forget that their world is thrown into chaos during a PCS, too. Making sure that simple traditions continue helps them feel safe and calm – in other words, like they are home.

And if you’ve never experienced the simple elegance of a little Christmas tree lighting up an empty room of boxes, well, you’re missing out on some magic.

2.) Use Wall Decals in Place of Paint

One of the biggest bummers about renting or living on post is that you are often stuck with boring walls. It can definitely be frustrating to see pictures of family and friends decking out nurseries and other living spaces in colorful hues while you stare at your Eggshell Beige blahness.

Life doesn’t have to be so bland. I have found wall decals to be a super easy and inexpensive way to liven up a new house. We have used both Fatheads and Room Mates brand, and had great success with both. The latter tends to be a bit more budget friendly but they both score high marks for staying power and ease of use. Neither seems to have issues with stripping paint upon removal. The good news is that the market for wall decals continues to grow so there are plenty of options for every budget!

readingroom
Storage closet turned colorful reading nook – thanks decals!

 

IMG_6783
Dr. Seuss also thinks you should keep reading Loud Is Ladylike!
IMG_7685
Some Curious George for curious little minds!

3.) Collect at Least One Distinctive Item in Each Location

One of the most exciting things about moving so often is getting to discover new cultures and environments. Always make it a point to explore your surroundings and make the best of each duty station. Along the way, pick up something special to display in each future home. Whether it’s a painting, a piece of furniture, or decor, try to find at least one item from each duty station that carries the distinctive flare of the region.

Perhaps your home will never have an integrated style worthy of a spread in Better Homes and Gardens, but it will certainly be filled with warm memories and plenty of conversation starters. And what is a home if not surrounded with reminders of fun, love, and adventure?

DSC_0151
Doesn’t everyone talk about Korean wedding ducks and soju with their dinner guests?

4.) Make Your Bedroom a Priority

As a parent, I know that we often put our own needs behind those of our kids. It’s part of the job description. But when you feel like your sanity is in question (please tell me I’m not the only one…) it’s important to have a sanctuary of your own in which to hide and pray the kids don’t find you for at least 3 minutes.

By virtue of being a military spouse, your life is a topsy-turvy crash course in chaos. You have so little control over everything else, it’s important to invest in a single relaxing space that almost makes up for the 50 half unpacked boxes littered throughout your house.

I advise going all out on this one, folks. Get the bedspread of your dreams with all the matching shams and decorative pillows. Those suckers aren’t cheap so budget your way to your goal. Add coordinating drapes if your finances allow. Remember, this is stuff that will follow you from place to place and isn’t likely to get damaged the way furniture does.

It may take some time to fully assemble all the pieces of your own personal zen den but, when you do, you definitely won’t regret it!

5.) Get a “Home Is Where the (Army, Navy, etc – pick your poison) Sends Us” Sign

I realize some people find these things cheesy and maybe they are. But can’t the same be said for a lot of your mom’s decor that now makes you nostalgic for home? Oh, wherever did you go, rolling pleather kitchen chairs? I almost, sort of miss you! Either way, I love them because they are a beautiful reminder of all the places you have been on this crazy journey. Embrace the cheesiness, friends. It’s worth it!

These can be found in a variety of shops on Etsy but can also often be found locally. Before making a decision, be sure the seller includes his or her information on the back so that future duty stations can be added later!

il_570xN.750264889_euen
I especially love this design by LittlePaintedThings. Check it out here!

6.) Invest in Simple Fixtures

Ditch the plastic curtain rod and install something nicer that isn’t prone to falling off the wall mid-shower. Ok, maybe don’t ditch it entirely – you’ll need it for move out. Ours was about $30 from Home Depot and matches the rest of our bathroom decor, which instantly made things feel more homey – more ours.

The same can be said of other small fixtures like light switch covers, towel rings, and even door handles. Most of these can easily be replaced with the originals upon move out without much fuss, making them ideal for providing a bit of continuity as you move from place to place. Make sure to organize the hardware into separate bags ahead of moving day so that pieces don’t get lost. With just a little bit of work, this is a one-time investment that can make all the difference as you get settled into a new place.

Whether you end up living somewhere for 6 months or 6 years, your house is an integral part of your experience at each duty station. Make it a priority. Make it yours. Make it a home.

 

  • C

 

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**

Photo Credit

Don’t Just Survive Deployments, Embrace Them

DSC_0081

As military spouses, it’s something we all face sooner or later – as inevitable as the constant moves and unpredictable hours. Its presence is always on the horizon, shadowing every decision, every moment in between. It’s the inescapable reality of this life: deployment.

We all know it’s hard- damn hard. It’s not something any of us want. And it always requires great sacrifice from both the soldier and those back home. But just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s without value. In fact, it’s often those truly difficult seasons of life that help us to grow the most. So I say, let’s embrace its advantages – yes, advantages.

Ok, ok, let’s just get the elephant out of the room here and acknowledge the one definite, tangible, advantage that deployment affords our families: money. Situations vary widely but when both tax-free benefits and hazardous duty pay are added to monthly income, you may be looking at a good chunk of change. If you absolutely must endure a separation, this perk can definitely ease a difficult situation. Use the opportunity to get your finances in order or work toward a specific financial goal.

But, really, if you are a military spouse, you already know that; and it’s not the kind of advantage I’m getting after…

What I mean is this: Military life is going to be one tragedy after another if you don’t look for the positives and genuinely embrace them. Real tragedy, the kind the exacts a toll on human life is a reality in our world. We owe it to those who have given everything to give as much as we can, too. That doesn’t mean throwing in the towel every time the Army disrupts our plans or constantly complaining that this life is too hard. We all need a boost sometimes – I get it! But if you aren’t ready to face the realities of this lifestyle with the kind of optimism that it requires, you simply aren’t ready for it at all.

Those of you who endured the long, arduous, and recurring deployments of the Iraq and Afghanistan surges are welcome to throw a quick sucker punch  my way and take me down a notch. My comparatively blissful military life over the last seven years is 100% worthy of your derision. To you strong ladies, I tip my hat.

But, to clarify, the deployment schedules of today are significantly more relaxed and soldiers are generally not subject to the type of quick succession deployments that were the norm during the height of the wars.

So when we look at today’s military and its omnipresent realities, I think it’s important to remember the following:

Deployments can afford us a unique perspective on a whole host of important issues. 

It’s often said that hindsight is 20/20 and, usually, the insight that comes from such reflection ends up being too little, too late. But in the case of deployment, when the long months have finally come to an end it is possible to apply those insights in order to positively change one’s daily actions and outlook on life.

Unlike your civilian counterparts, you are forced to contemplate what life would look like without your spouse. The fear, the stress, the uncertainty – they are your constant companions for the duration of a deployment, along with the knowledge that your entire world could change in an instant. You jump when the doorbell unexpectedly rings, fearing the sight of uniformed soldiers bearing unimaginable news. You panic when a Skype conversation abruptly ends or when blackouts prevent you from contacting your spouse altogether.

When you finally wrap your arms around him upon his return, relief exhaled in every deep breath, you suddenly understand with an uncomfortable degree of clarity that not every spouse will get that opportunity. It’s a stark realization in a beautiful moment – but an important one.

The profound sense of appreciation for every facet of one’s life is undoubtedly a benefit to us and our families; but it’s up to us to recognize and cultivate it in a positive manner.

Deployments dig up wellsprings of strength.

Suddenly you find yourself alone, reliant on no one. No matter how independent you consider yourself, it can be quite unsettling to feel the weight of responsibility that settles in at the start of a deployment. But you roll up those sleeves and get to work changing tires, taking care of sick children, assembling furniture, and mowing the lawn because you must. And it’s not long before you do each of those things simply because you can.

Each chore may seem trivial in isolation but, taken together, they constitute a kind of general life competency that can sometimes get lost in marriage; and that’s essential because, as we know all too well, nothing is guaranteed in this military life. Should the unthinkable happen, it is important to carry the knowledge that you are tough, capable, and prepared – that you will be ok.

Deployments can bring you closer together as a couple.

Now we all know stories of couples who collapsed under the pressure of a deployment and spiraled rapidly toward divorce. It happens. But deployment certainly doesn’t have to ring the death knell for your relationship; and, in fact, can oftentimes solidify your bond if you resolve to work toward that goal.

The key is being prepared for the difficulties and acknowledging your shortcomings ahead of time. Do you hate small talk and spending hours on the phone? Do you tend to lash out at your partner when your stress level rises? Do you need time to decompress at the end of the day before engaging in real conversation? Hash all this out with your partner before he leaves and then keep one another accountable when issues arise.

It’s inevitable; you will argue at some point but there’s an interesting twist to fights during deployment as opposed to fights at home: there is always that sudden realization that a chunk of your heart is physically absent. When the reality of life without your partner stares you in the face, petty arguments tend to fizzle out a bit faster. It’s one of the great double edged swords that come with this lifestyle.

Of course, there’s also the deep appreciation you acquire for your spouse when his absence suddenly highlights all the ways in which he really makes your life easier. It’s hard to see in the muddle of everyday life, so much so that spouses inevitably find themselves bickering over who works the hardest and who isn’t pulling their weight. It can be so easy to find fault with our partner when he’s around to be taken for granted. But as soon as his every day contributions to your home life are taken out of the equation, it quickly becomes clear that perhaps your partnership isn’t quite as one sided as you once thought.

It’s the simple realizations, really; those quick, almost imperceptible recognitions we make each day of a deployment that sharpen our character and strengthen our marriages. It doesn’t make the separation any easier but it certainly can make the separation worthwhile if only we resolve to peek through the lens of positivity. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Surely you ladies know that better than anyone else. And, in that truth, we have a unique advantage over our civilian counterparts. So use it. Make it work for  your marriage and your family. Make deployments work for you.

 

  • C

 

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**