The choices we make

I am a wife. This one fact does not totally define me, but in a sense it does. My husband is in the Army and he has been for 13 years. We’ve been together 9 years and married for 6. In our six years as a “legal” couple we’ve moved twice, which I think is pretty good in terms of Army life. As an Army wife I had to decide early on if I was going to be the wife that accepted my husband’s orders as my own and relocate with him OR if I was going to move to one place and stay there seeing my husband when he could get away for weekends or long holidays. I can’t say I thought long and hard about it because I didn’t. We’ve lived through 3 deployments and countless out-of-state trainings that separated our family so making the decision to pack up my life when he did seemed like a no-brainer. There are several military families that choose to settle down and find their “home” while the military spouse travels from place to place and they are able to make it work quite successfully, but at this time I don’t think it is the move for us. In a few years when the kids are older we are definitely considering finding a home base and staying there while he finishes up his last few years of service.

Growing up I watched my dad travel constantly for work and although he and my mom weren’t together we used to see each other quite often until he was promoted. After he started moving up he began to travel almost weekly even now when I call him I never know where he will be.  As I got older I started to consider his wife and I wondered how she felt with her husband being gone all the time and  I thought I wouldn’t want to live like that… funny how life turns out though.

Probably the most difficult part of being an Army wife (besides the obvious things like deployments, etc) is job hunting  when we move. I realize when I decided to move with my husband I also made the decision to put his career first.  I can’t say that was a conscious decision, but clearly I made a choice. Unfortunately, I do not have a “portable career’ so pretty much it has been back to square one. I have a Masters in Public Health and my heart is definitely in the field so at times it is hard to find just the right job. It took some time, but eventually I found a position in Columbia and I am hoping to do the same here in El Paso.

Recently, a Soror and fellow Army Wife told me about the Priority Placement Program with the federal government which helps military spouses find federal employment IF they had to leave their previous job due to a PCS move. All this time I’d been thinking checking the military spouse box on the USAJobs applications was enough!!!! HR specialists review your resume and determine which job codes (up to 5) you qualify for and they notify you of job openings on post. Not only will they notify you of the position your name is also placed on a list of candidates to consider which is sent to the hiring officials. It sounds simple enough, but believe me there is a lot more to it and the rules are very strict. One mistake and you are out of the program. On the bright side it  looks promising, because they have already contacted me about a job they wanted me to submit my application packet for and of course I did so immediately.

So while unintentionally that’s how being a wife took precedence over my career. I don’t regret the choices I’ve made thus far and I am looking forward to seeing more of the world at my husband’s side.

 

Time flies when you’re having fun…

So I wrote this last week and forgot to post it… since a little birdie told me I haven’t blogged in a long time I thought I would publish this draft. I should also say umm… ma’am you haven’t blogged either…

Last week The Girl and the Hubs both had birthdays and since it was a holiday weekend he was able to fly home to spend a little time with us. Of course the kids were ecstatic to see their dad and I was not short on smiles either!

The weekend seemed to be a nonstop flurry of activity, but in reality we didn’t do a whole lot. Saturday we took family pictures which is something we haven’t done since the boy was 2 months old and now he’s two and a half! I must say the pictures turned out quite well and I was so glad that the kids cooperated long enough for us to get some great shots.

Later that evening we went out for dinner at this little Hibachi restaurant not far from where we live. We thought the kids would get a kick out of seeing their food cooked in front of them and we were right. After dinner we had to rush home so a certain someone could watch the UGA game… I won’t even comment on the outcome.

Sunday was a pretty lazy day until late in the afternoon when we decided to take the kids to the park and to Baskin Robbins for ice cream!  After we got home it seemed  as if the evening began to progress at the speed of light because before I knew it, it was time for bed.

Monday morning was upon us before we knew what hit us and soon we were on the road to take the hubs back to the airport. This was the first time the kids have gone with me to drop him off so needless to say it wasn’t a pretty picture. The Boy cried in spurts and The Girl silently cried into her tissue. At one point while we were driving she turned to look out the back window and was reaching back towards the airport. She nearly broke my heart. I was acutely aware of her pain because at that age too I was a daddy’s girl. My daddy was larger than life and something like a super hero who I loved to be around and I definitely see that in her. Eventually she calmed down and was pretty much back to normal, you know talking me to death!

This week is the halfway mark in the hubs training class so we have 9 more weeks to go… I hope and pray they go fast!

Tangled in Red Tape

 

I was scheduled to have an outpatient procedure on Tuesday. Monday morning I received a phone call from my physician’s office and I was informed that I would not be able to have the surgery because my insurance would not approve the procedure because the hospital on post has first right of refusal and APPARENTLY they decided THEY could so I was basically S-O-L.  After finishing my conversation with the surgeon’s office I began calling around to find out what happened and why was I just finding out this information the day before my scheduled procedure.  According to the reps on post the claim they attempted to contact me 3 times in a 28 day period I don’t want to call anyone an outright liar, but I definitely do not recall receiving any phone calls. Maybe it is just me, but it seems like the logical thing to do would have been to contact me as well as the physician’s office to pass along this information.

After making SEVERAL phone calls ultimately I found out there was really no way around canceling the surgery.   I requested time off from work and made arrangements for my dad to come with me since the hubs is away training all for nothing! Now my options are to have my primary care doctor resubmit the referral and see what happens OR I can make an appointment for a consult on post and have the procedure performed there. The easiest thing to do would be to go ahead and let them do it BUT I will NOT! This is the second time this has happened to me with this hospital and I refuse to give them the satisfaction.

The day before I was scheduled for my 6 week check up (after the boy was born) my OB/GYN’s office called and told me that the hospital on post would not approve my doctor inserting my Mirena because they had the staff who could do it on post. Somehow they that was a good idea even though my care had been provided by another physician who I might add delivered my son AND would be giving me a pap smear the very next day. I spent half the day calling everyone I could think of trying to appeal to them and practically begging not to be subjected to TWO invasive vaginal exams to no avail. I thought that I was going to get the Mirena the very next day on post at the hospital; however when I arrived I was very rudely informed by the nurse practitioner that I would not be getting the birth control method my doctor and I had carefully decided upon a month prior to my son’s birth BUT watching a video about Mirena. She also very snidely asked if I knew that there was a chance of perforation of the uterus.  It is not often that I am so stunned that I am silent, but this was one of those times!  I am not sure what this woman saw when she looked at me, but obviously she did NOT see the 31 year old Master of Public Health candidate that I was!  Needless to say it was this encounter that made me decide that I would not receive my care on post so I submitted a request for a civilian primary care physician. I was granted permission to see an off post provider and I promptly made an appointment to see her and asked her to refer me to my OB/GYN which she did and 6 months later I FINALLY got my Mirena!

So if it takes another 6 months then I am willing to wait. I understand not everyone is like this woman and while they should not necessarily be punished for her behavior, the fact remains she is a hospital employee and therefore the face (representative) of the hospital. This one bad experience has colored my opinion of the staff and their ability to treat me as a person/patient deserving respect.

Some people just don’t get it

I sit here watching CNN and the headline reads OSAMA BIN LADEN IS DEAD. I don’t want to celebrate the death of another human being, but just thinking about the people who have died because of his orders  and the enormity/significance of this announcement is just…….WHOA

Yes, people we know there is still work to be done….

Yes, we know the war is not over….

BUT how about you stop with your comments. Its rude and disrespectful to those people who lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks.  Allow those husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers this one moment before you start telling them that there will be retaliation and there is someone else waiting in the wings.

As the wife of a soldier who has been deployed 3 times and as the sister of a soldier who has been deployed once and is preparing to leave again in less than 90 days…. if you’ve NEVER waited by the phone, watched CNN constantly, explained to your children why Daddy is not home… please just for once in your life be silent.

To the members of the military I salute you.  President Obama I salute you. Thank you for your efforts.

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.

In the words of Mike Tyson “This is ludicrous.” Somebody cue Cee-Lo Green!

I am sitting here thinking it is utterly fascinating how members of congress have vowed not to take their paychecks in the event of a government shut down as if that will make one bit of difference to the people who will be involuntarily be giving up theirs.  What is even more interesting is how the GOP and now the Tea Party has managed to make a platform issue a budgetary concern.  A large part of me is hoping that the Democrats don’t give in to this extortion while the other wants some sort of an agreement to be reached.

I would like to say more but right now I am just too pissed to even articulate my feelings properly.

Here Today….. Y’all Know The Rest

Time flies when you’re having fun…. Truer words have never been spoken. The hubs came home on 3/16 and now he’s gone again, this time to Ft. Leonard Wood for more training. It seems as if time was dragging while he was gone, but once he got home the days zipped by at lightning speed.  Unfortunately, this separation will be much longer than the first, because he won’t be home until early August.  Luckily The Girl and The Boy are at my mom’s for the week so I don’t have to deal with the issues that come from missing daddy just yet.  I think The Girl will be easier to deal with because she is old enough to have some sort of understanding but The Boy is going to be a different story all together.  He turned two right before The Hubs came home so with that birthday seemed to come more awareness of his surroundings. For him it was an out of sight out of mind type of situation, but now that he’s seen his dad I don’t know how that is going to work when he gets home this weekend and daddy isn’t there.

Well there’s no time for moping and complaining! Summer’s around the corner I guess I need to start planning some fun activities for the kiddos to keep their minds off daddy not being home.  I probably should also start being a bit more hardcore with my workouts just in case we hit the beach AND so I’ll have enough energy to keep up with those two!