The Mocha Manual to Military Life: Q&A With Author Pamela McBride

Dating and ultimately marrying a member of the military is not easy, especially if you are not in the armed forces as well. They have their own set of unique rules and standards that should be followed not only by the service members, but their families as well. Of course you hope your spouse will be able teach you how to navigate through this new world and they will as best they can, but sometimes duty calls. Luckily, Pamela McBride recognized a need and filled it; together with Kimberly Seals-Allers they have created The Mocha Manual to Military Life: A Savvy Guide for Wives, Girlfriends, and Female Service Members.   This book has EVERYTHING you need to start learning the basics and more about military life.  I’ve been an Army wife for 5 years and I’ve been with my husband for 8 and you would think I knew a lot about the military lifestyle, but there is still a lot I do not know. The Mocha Manual to Military Life is definitely helping me to become a more informed spouse!

Recently I was able to ask Pamela, a seasoned military spouse, a few questions submitted by military wives and girlfriends and she has offered her expert advice.

1.  What is the best way to be supportive of a military spouse or significant other?

 

I think this really requires being supportive to each other. And so, both of you should:

√  Understand and accept the military for what it is…there is much hierarchy and tradition, and therefore it has lots of potential for bureaucracy. However, it is also a source of pride and we should always maintain our composure not matter how frustrating it becomes. (pg. 26)

√  Understand the rank and structure of the military. But, know that it isn’t the end of the world if you make a mistake. Page 24 has the funniest story about a big faux pas I made early in our career, a REALLY big one. Other spouses shared theirs throughout the book and believe me, you’ll probably have one too.

√  Understand each other and communicate openly. Successfully marriages, military or not, require love, patience, understanding, and hard work from both parties. Check out my recent blog post for Making Military Love Work. These same things are what make it possible to get through even the worst times, like trying to resolve conflicts while you’re away from your honey.

√  Finally, allow growth as individuals and as a couple. “One of my favorite and most vivid memories of our wedding ceremony was when we raised two lit candles that represented each one of us and used those candles to light the flame of a bigger candle. That symbolizes one of the ways we have made love work for the past 21 years. We have been committed to nurturing who we are as individuals and who we are as a couple.”

2.  What is the most difficult part of being a military spouse and how do you deal with it?

 

I don’t think there is one most difficult thing to deal with, but there are some specific situations that will present challenges. They are: separation and deployment; understanding the structure and tradition of the military; navigating the social landscape; frequent relocation (which leads to other challenges like establishing and maintaining a career or moving our children from school to school, for example).

However, regardless of the challenges that come or when they come, there are some strategies for dealing with them.

√  Make important decisions as a couple. (pgs 17-21)

√  Build support systems around you rather than going it alone. (pgs 277-285)

√  Know where to find help instead trying to learn everything about everything (the whole darn book!)

√  When the challenges arise, make a plan and address them immediately.

3. What are we really entitled to when it comes to PCS entitlements? I get so many conflicting stories for stateside and overseas.  People say there are certain things that you can get but if you don’t know to ask then they won’t offer.

While I am certainly not the expert on moving entitlements, I would consider myself an expert on moving since I moved about 6 times in the first 14 years. Chapter five discusses the ins and outs of mastering the military move. My general tips would be:

√  Understand the big picture by sitting down with someone in the housing office to learn about the entitlements and to help you compare the different kinds of moves available to you.

√  Get a list of moving terms and what they mean, to include the types of allowances available. Start with the charts on pages. 143, 156 and refer to the Guide to Military Acronyms in the appendix to get a sampling. But remember, entitlements and allowances will vary based on so many situations, so anyone who insists they have THE answer, is misleading you. Every move is likely to be different and the information is constantly updated.

√  Once you determine the type of move you will do, hone in on exactly what process, paperwork, and help is needed. A little planning and preparation will go a long way to getting close to everything you deserve, but a lot of attention to details and follow-up will get you even closer. Check out the invaluable advice about

  • Deciding to live on- or off-post (pg. 139)
  • Planning your move (pg. 141)
  • Watching your [moving] weight (pgs. 141-144 and 150-151)
  • Protecting your belongings (pgs. 149-150)

 

4. What is the “correct” attire for balls?

The short answer: Think: prom wear and then adjust based on the locality.

The longer explanation follows. Most invitations for any military event will have the attire noted in the bottom right-hand corner. You can avoid the stress of preparing for it and of embarrassing moments by using the guidelines listed on pg. 133. For example, it notes

Semiformal indicates service dress for the military member. Non-military men would wear a dark suit and tie and women would wear an evening gown with heels or flats.

Formal means military personnel wear service dress uniform or a military tuxedo. Civilian men wear tuxedos and women wear evening gowns with comfortable heels or flats.

However, please know that this can vary based on where you are in the world. Some places are very formal and others are more relaxed. It is always a good idea to check around with people whose advice you trust.

5. Do you recommend joining the FRG especially when moving to a new post?

 

Yes. The Family Readiness Group is a critical tool for commanders to communicate with family members about important information, especially during the deployment cycle. Also, it is a great way to meet new people and learn about the local area when you arrive at a new post. Even Guard and Reserve Family members have Virtual FRG since they don’t live on an installation.

However, like any other group, there can be complications simply because it is made up of people, for example cliquish environments or more drama than you are willing to bear. And if that is the case, avoid getting involved beyond the important stuff. Whatever you do, don’t make assumptions that they are all the same.  Some FRG thrive, provide great social outlets and meet the intent of providing critical information and help. Some don’t, and it really is just that simple.

6. My husband would like for me and our children to find a place to live and settle there instead of continuing to move especially since he’s close to retirement. Any suggestions on how to handle a prolonged long-distance marriage?

 

First, let me say that I personally think this is very feasible! And, in some ways this can be easier than separation due to training or deployment because the stress of knowing your honey is in danger can be ‘a bear”. I believe that both parties need to be 100% onboard with the idea.

Come up with all the challenges this could bring, big and small, and discuss how you will address them. For example, how often is feasible and acceptable for getting the family together (the more often, the better, but understanding that depends upon how far apart you live).

Then, ask other couples who are doing the same. I know for a fact that this strategy has really grown in the past few years.  Create a list of questions to ask different people and use the responses to create a situation that works for your family instead of replicating someone else’s.

Also, leverage technology. Email, cell phones, Skype, FaceTime, FaceBook, and other countless tools can keep you completely connected. Pages 239-241 in the chapter that discusses Parenting in the Military Lifestyle has great tips for keeping the family connected during deployment and they can certainly apply in this situation, too.

Finally, there will be some things you won’t think of and they will catch you off guard, but so what, that’s what military life has been about all along, right? You can do it and do it well.

7. What is one piece of advice you would give to a new military wife?

Well, I have two pieces of advice…

First, pay attention to all the wonderful things military life has to offer instead of dwelling on the difficulties that are bound to come along. I am not saying you have to ignore the difficult things, just approach them with a positive attitude, as a team, and knowing where to get help if you need it. Every single experience I have had has made me who I am today. Good or bad, all experiences help us grow. In fact, as has become a pretty common mantra among military spouses these days, I would say: Bloom where you are planted!

Then, let’s do this together! You can reach me through my Work-Life Diva blog (please subscribe), Twitter: @PamelaMMcBride, Facebook: WorkingItMilitaryLifeStyle, or email pamela@pamelamcbride.net and together, we can become the Work-Life Divas we were meant to be!

Both of my books, The Mocha Manual to Military Life and Work It, Girl (a guide for professional success) are available on Amazon.com. And, don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on my Virtual Book Tour.

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Stay Tuned…….

I am extremely excited to announce on Saturday April 9th I will be posting a Q&A session with author and 21+ year military spouse Pamela McBride. Pamela is the author of The Mocha Manual to Military Life which is a must have for any military spouse, girlfriend, or new female service member. Pamela will be sharing her vast knowledge about navigating through the maze that is military life.

BIO:

Pamela McBride, the creator of The Work-Life Diva Blog (http://pamelamcbride.net/blog)  and author of Work It, Girl! (http://pamelamcbride.net/workitgirl.htm)

and The Mocha Manual to Military Life, (http://pamelamcbride.net/mochamanual.htm) is passionate about coaching people to use their talents, skills, and abilities to get what they want. With more than 20 years experience as a career and personal development expert and a military family life expert, this 21+ year military wife knows the difference between working and working it.  She provides timely advice and a fresh approach to every audience, every time, and on many topics, including: self-assessment, career planning, job search techniques, networking & interview coaching, resume & cover letter writing, and workplace effectiveness.

Pamela shares her insight and advice through personal coaching, nationwide guest speaking engagements, seminars, extensive freelance writing online and in print, and television and radio appearances. She has written extensively for Operation Homefront Online, Essence Magazine, The Black Collegian, Upscale, Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps Times and has several other advice columns. She is the owner of P.M. McBride Enterpises, LLC and the Military Spouse Job Search Expert at for Job-Hunt.org.

Although Pamela doesn’t consider herself a social media maven, she interacts with her readers, event participants, and clients, through Twitter (@PamelaMMcBride), on her Facebook Work It Girl Fan Page (http://www.facebook.com/workitgril) and her Working It Military Life Style Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/WorkingItMilitaryLifeStyle)  Pamela’s website is at www.pamelamcbride.net

The Choir Director: A Review

Carl Weber is back and so are the members of First Jamaica Ministries…..

via Kensingtonbooks.com

New York Times bestselling author Carl Weber takes readers back to church, where preaching isn’t always enough, nothing goes better with the Word than a song—and it’s time for some hard-earned lessons in love, brotherhood, and betrayal.Bishop T.K. Wilson has done all he can to make First Jamaica Ministries a success. But with his last choir director getting caught in a scandal, attendance and cash flow are down. To fill the pews and collection plates, Bishop is counting on a new choir director, the charismatic Aaron Mackie, to revive the church.

Aaron Mackie had been waiting his entire life for the opportunity to prove that he has what it takes to be a big-time choir director like Kirk Franklin. But while Aaron is more than up to the challenge, his ways around women, both past and present, could cost him more than his job.

Simone Wilcox is just one of the women who’s caught Aaron’s attention. She’s smart, beautiful and sexy, along with being a highly respected church trustee. She’s got her eye on the new choir director with the intention of having a lot more on him and she doesn’t plan on letting anyone get in her way.

First Lady Monique Wilson is far from being the typical first lady. She does and says what she wants, and doesn’t subscribe to church politics. Despite her shortcomings and a past rumored to include a long list of men, she’s willing to do just about anything to protect the Bishop.

The members of First Jamaica Ministries are also keeping the Bishop busy with choir in-fighting, romantic jealousies, and personal vendettas. You’d think the Bishop was being tested enough, but a final piece of the puzzle has yet to be revealed: Someone has been robbing the church blind. Someone whose connection to the Bishop is far too close for comfort. . .

I just finished Carl Weber’s The Choir Director and I keep asking myself how much drama is too much??? I am a Weber fan and I have been for several years. He never fails to deliver a tale that is intriguing and entertaining. His latest novel, The Choir Director, while not short on action, left me feeling a little conflicted when I finished. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something felt off this time around. For the most part I enjoyed The Choir Director, it was a quick and easy read, but at times it was very predictable. The newest member of First Jamaica Ministries, Aaron Mackie, was an interesting addition to his usual cast of characters in the church series and I must admit I would like to see more of him and also to find out how his new relationship blossoms with a certain someone.

I figured out early on who the “villain” was in the story, although the reason behind his great deception seemed a tad improbable in my opinion, likewise about the choir director’s so-called secret. There were a few too many secrets in this story when I think about it.  I was a bit bothered at how far removed the Bishop was from all that was going on in his church and right under his nose I might add. Although the Bishop is a major character he seemed to only have a small role in this novel while everyone else were center stage even though the controversy was largely about him.

Overall I enjoyed The Choir Director and I look forward to catching up with the members of First Jamaica Ministries again soon.

Sweet Little Lies: A review

Based on a review by my Twitter friend and trusted book critic Lisa from www.reads4pleasure.com I added Sweet Little Lies to my to-be-read shelf on Shelfari. Friday as luck would have it, I had a few minutes to spend strolling through the stacks at the library and what did I see, but one of the very books I’d been meaning to read.

Description via amazon.com

Christina Brinsley is that girl.You know the one: a little bougie, a little opinionated, knows it all, has it all, and is a total perfectionist. But Christina’s perfectly crafted world isn’t really so perfect. Her third engagement fizzled three days before the wedding, her family expects her to solve their problems, and her friends are more than a little bit out of control. To keep it all together, she dedicates herself to her work, because it’s the one thing that won’t let her down. But when her latest assignment leads her to sizzling hot professor Steven Williams, the one man who sees through her efforts to outsmart and outmaneuver her way through every situation, Christina can’t believe she’s falling for a man who may be a key player in the scandal she’s investigating….

Wanting to take a break from the heavy (domestic violence, dysfunctional family) books I’ve been reading lately, this evening I plucked Sweet Little Lies out of the stack of books I borrowed. I started reading around 7pm and I did not put it down until I was done a few minutes ago at 3 am. Honestly, I do not even know where to begin other than to say I really loved this story!

Michele Grant is a genius!!! She made me care about her characters, and for me that’s no easy feat. I can say without a doubt I am totally and completely in love with Steven! He is pretty darn close to perfect.  Christina I wanted to totally strangle a few times, but I even love her. Their dialogue was so fresh. I loved how they could have intelligent conversations and every once in a while slip into silly and sometimes slang laced chats.

This story was so balanced there was just enough romance, humor,  and intrigue to keep me interested. Several times I told myself to put the book down and I could finish in the morning, but I found that I could not go to sleep until I knew how the story ended. I seriously have not been this excited about a romance novel in a LONG time!

This was definitely time well spent!

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens… a review

   OMG!!! Where do I begin? The very last book I read in 2010 happened to be one of the very best!

I was updating my shelfari list and Still Missing popped up as a suggestion, so I added to my list. Crime/thrillers/suspense novels are always enjoyable  and this one did not disappoint.

From Amazon.com

On the day she was abducted, Annie O’Sullivan, a 32-year-old realtor, had three goals—sell a house, forget about a recent argument with her mother, and be on time for dinner with her ever-patient boyfriend. The open house is slow, but when her last visitor pulls up in a van as she’s about to leave, Annie thinks it just might be her lucky day after all.

Interwoven with the story of the year Annie spent as the captive of a psychopath in a remote mountain cabin, which unfolds through sessions with her psychiatrist, is a second narrative recounting events following her escape—her struggle to piece her shattered life back together and the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor.

 

I was on the edge of my seat as I read Annie’s tale. I felt every single emotion she described. Even though I knew she’d escaped “The Freak” every time she remembered her time on the mountain with him my heart was pounding. 

Chevy’s new novel Never Knowing isn’t set to be released until July and honestly if its anything like Still Missing I cannot WAIT to get my hands on it . She is definitely a new author to watch.

Hello my name is……. and I am a bookworm

I love to read. No other hobby I’ve attempted has ever come close to the pleasure I feel when picking up a good book. Books transport me to a different time and place. The world seems to disappear when I am engrossed in a novel; in fact I seem to recall a rather embarrassing episode in 6th grade math class that involved me reading a Nancy Drew novel instead of paying attention. Since then my passion for reading has continued to grow.

My reading taste varies from chick-lit to suspense and lately I’ve thrown a few memoirs into the mix thanks to Jen Lancaster and Chelsea Handler. Nothing makes me happier than to discover an author I’ve never tried before, that I actually enjoy, because then I make it a point to devour all of their work. The most interesting thing (I think) about me when I read is that I am transported into the story… I feel as if I am in a corner watching everything unfold without being a part of the story. If the plot and the characters are particularly fascinating I find myself becoming emotionally involved in their lives, I know it sounds crazy BUT for me the more involved I am the better I like the book.

Participating in my friend’s 40 book challenge (Thanks Fran!) this year really allowed me to branch out and try new authors and genres. The number of books is small in my opinion but initially it was kind of daunting because I was in grad school until May. Normally I fly through a novel in no time but trying to finish up 2 major projects before graduation slowed my reading down tremendously. Now that I’m free I’ve been checking out books left and right. My to be read shelf on Shelfari.com is filled with all sorts of mini-vacations for myoften restless mind.

My new favorite author

I bought Jen Lancaster’s Bitter is the New Black a while back during a small book buying frenzy in Target….I am not really responsible for my actions when I enter the Red Dot Boutique….the bright lights and pretty colors make me a little crazy…but I digress…. I started reading Bitter and initially I wasn’t into it so I put it down and ended up reading a couple of my other books also purchased during the frenzy.

As I mentioned before my line sister asked me and a few other Sorors to participate in her 40 book challenge and one day while discussing the books on our list of 40 Bitter came up.  I told the girls I had the book and had even started reading it, but hadn’t gotten very far. Lucky for me one of the girls had read the book and loved it. She told me I simply HAD to finish it because Jen was so funny and she knew I’d love it. I’m not one to give up on a book so easily so I said what the hell….

I started reading again and she was right I LOVED it. Jen’s sarcasm combined with her quick wit made for an easy read. I think I loved it so much because I could relate to her struggles when she was laid off since I was only recently back at work after over a year of unemployment.  I mean this book (to me) was seriously laugh out loud funny. I kept asking myself how in the hell did I not pick up on this the first time around??? At any rate as soon as I finished Bitter I had to read the second memoir Bright Lights, Big Ass. Once again Jen did not disappoint…coincidentally I was reading Bright Lights as I traveled to her city (Chicago) for my graduation. I was literally laughing out loud on the plane….good thing my seat mates were my sister and my husband otherwise someone would have been pissed.

About a week ago I went to the library and borrowed the next installment in her set of memoirs Such a Pretty Fat. True to fashion Jen made me laugh right along with her…

There are two books left Pretty in Plaid and the newly released My Fair Lazy which is good and bad. Its good news because it means I have two more books to read which will allow me to hang out with my friend in my head a.k.a Jen but it also means once I’m done I’ll have nothing else of hers to read until she releases another book….there is always her blog and Twitter but so far she hasn’t updated Twitter much since she’s on her book tour. So it seems I have myself a small dilemma… do I devour the next two books on the list or do I read one and space them out???

Darn you Jen Lancaster for being so funny and appealing to my random and often quirky sense of humor!