Wife Lessons 101 (Thank you Marine Corps)

As this 238th birthday of the United States Marine Corps comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on the many lessons I’ve learned over the last 14 years.. In celebration of the many amazing Marines I’ve had the pleasure to know, the families they fight for and the countless experiences I’ve been given, I’ll do my best to share a few now.

Lesson 1. Never take a moment or a person for granted.
In the homes of many military families is a framed picture with the words “Live everyday like he deploys tomorrow.” It’s a beautiful sentiment. An idea that should be followed. However, this sentiment should not stop with your spouse.
There will be many lasts as you move through your years as a military spouse. Realistically, you will have more lasts with every other relationship in your life during your spouses career than your last day before a deployment(s) with your spouse.
You’ll have last days with your “real” family (the ones you share blood with) as you say goodbye to be with your spouse. You’ll have last days with the friends you grew up with, and last days in your home town.
Only to turn around 2 to 3 years later and have last days with your family (the ones you made at your duty station) Last days with your friends, and last days in your newest home.
Savor every day and every encounter like you will leave tomorrow.

2. NEVER miss an opportunity to learn something. 

No. I’m not talking about learning everything you can about the branch your spouse serves in. While that’s all moto-awesome, expand beyond your spouses service. Take every opportunity given to grow as an individual. Do not become “just” a military spouse or a mom. Take cooking classes, join clubs. Finish your degree. Then start another one.

And remember, you’re lucky to have the opportunity to travel the world every few years thanks to the military orders your family is assigned, (like how I twisted the words “military orders” into something positive? Hee hee!) GET OUT THERE. Experience the culture you’re surrounded by. Eat the food. Learn the language. Learn the history.

Ya know what’s worse than being “stuck in some s^&$ hole thanks to military orders? Leaving that s%^& hole and hearing people talk about the things they seen and did while they were there. “Scuba diving in Pensacola?! Whaaaaaaat?!” Yeah. You missed it because you were to busy locked away in your one bedroom apartment calling everyone you know- in other time zones- to tell them how miserable you are. That’s dumb. Don’t be dumb.

GET OUT THERE.

Lesson 3. Take LOTS of pictures. 

Seriously. Take. Lots. Of. Pictures. And when you think you’ve taken too many, reload that camera and take some more.

When will you ever see that place again? Or those faces? Your spouse will never look the way he does right now. Your friends will move away. Your kids will grow. Capture every moment while you can.

Lesson 4. Celebrate.

Celebrate. Celebrate. Celebrate everything. -and then take pictures!- Kid 1 got every word on his spelling test right? PARTY! Your friend got a new job? Let her know you’re proud of her and do something fun.

Go to the hail and farewells. Go to the unit holiday parties. Go to the Balls. Your time with these people is small. Your reasons to celebrate are limited. Make reasons of your own.

In your life as a military spouse you will see darkness. You will know horror and fear. You will know loss and pain. These “stupid little gatherings” could be the only thing that pull you through. Create them. Create them often.

Lesson 5. Put yourself out there.

Ok, it’s not always easy to make friends. Especially when you know you’ll have to say goodbye to them sooner then later. Do it anyway. Ya know what’s worse than saying goodbye to someone you care about? Not having someone to say hello to.

Lesson 6. Always have cookie dough and crock pot meals in the freezer.

Ya never know when a family in your spouses unit will have a “life situation” that a good meal or some “I’m thinking of you” cookies can help. As spouses we endure having babies, broken bones, illnesses and so much more. And  many times we will be asked to brave these things thousands of miles from our family and often our spouse. That frozen meal and your stopping in to check on them could be the one thing that pushes a “sister wife” forward. Reminding them they are not alone and are strong enough to keep going.

Besides, if you somehow find yourself surrounded by families that never need a helping hand, you have dinner and dessert for the days YOU don’t think you can get through. It’s a win-win.

Lesson 7. Share your stories and experiences. Good. Bad. And ugly.

And not just with your new friends. Share them with your family through social media. Too often we move away and lose touch with our BFF’s, cousins, aunts and uncles. Next thing you know you’re home for Christmas, surrounded by people you’ve known your entire life and you feel like an outcast. You’re lucky if they remember where you live, yet alone where you work or any interests you may have developed since the last time you seen them. This is lonely. And awkward.

Thanks to social media you don’t have to experience this anymore. Tell your stories. Share your pictures. Let them celebrate with you, or share in your bad day. Reach out to them. And ALWAYS return the favor. Let them know you’re happy for them when they have something to celebrate. Laugh with them. Cry with them. Encourage them.

Share your lives. You’ll be glad you did on your next visit home.

Lesson 8. Make traditions.

Especially if you’re raising “military brats”. They may never know what it’s like to celebrate 4th of July with BBQs with their cousins. Or witness a Christmas Pageant at the church they’ve gone to since the day they were created. Find a way to make this up to them. Give them traditions.

On the off chance you made it through the military life without children, make traditions anyway. Everyone needs a feeling of home that can only be created through traditions.

Lesson 9. Listen to your predecessors.  

Sure, you may think you have nothing in common with the 70 year old woman going on and on about how easy you have it thanks to computers. -After all you can talk to your deployed spouse often thanks to technology. Hell, you can even see them! *Gasp!*

While it might seem worthless to listen to that woman rattle on and on about how hard it was to wash her clothes in the kitchen sink because the luxury of washing machines wasn’t a birth rite in her time, you’ll be grateful for her recollections when you discover TMO “lost” your washing machine. She is wise. Listen to her. Learn from her. Appreciate her.

Lastly, Lesson 9. NEVER miss the opportunity to tell someone they’re wonderful. 

Whether it’s your best friend or some random person on the corner. If you are gifted the opportunity to compliment them for their awesomeness-whatever it may be- do it. It will make their day, and yours. Try it. You’ll see 🙂

Mama Raised A Serial Killer

I am a photo taking whore. If it’s happening, I am taking pictures. That’s just the way I am. While I would love to say it’s because I’m artistic, I’m not. Like not even a little bit. Taking pictures is just my way of showing the world the way I see things. And since I’m being honest here, I might as well confess, my vision of things isn’t normal.

So, when I stumbled across a “Photo A Day Challenge” on FaceBook I was all “OOOOOOOOOO at last! A purpose that isn’t just me taking pictures to take pictures!” and I started taking pictures. I’ve been doing the challenge since January. Some days are harder than others, but for the most part, it’s really, really fun.

This week one of my picture challenges was to get a picture of my favorite word. This one took me a few days longer than I expected. I really had to think about this one! I stumbled a few times trying to really find the word that represented me. A word that stuck out, made me feel good and screamed to the world “THIS IS ME!” Then I realized it wasn’t asking for the word that screamed “this is me”, it was asking what word I use the most.

I set off looking around the house for a word that I used often enough to be claimed as my favorite word. That’s when it hit me. The 2 words most often used in our house are “Love” -and not in like that stupid overly done way where you’re like “Oh my gosh I LOOOOOOVVVE this pizza”, but in the real, heartfelt way. “I love you”

“No. I love you”

“Well I love you more.”

“Nope. I love you more”

“Well I love you thiiiiiiiiiiiis much” (stretching their arms out as far as they can go) “Which is A LOT, cuz I’m this tall”

Yes. Love is a word used at least 20 times a day in our home. It just barely misses the #1 word slot for words used by me the most by like I dunno….3?  The other word used often and on a daily basis is “Fuck”- and not like “I just saw them fucking” but like “What the FUCK were you thinking?!”

That. Hardly. Seems. Appropriate to announce in front of all of my family and friends. Seriously, I’m pretty sure my Grandma would cry if I proclaimed to all of the interweb that my favorite word in the world is Fuck. (Sorry Grandma)

Besides, the word “Fuck” is not in written format on anything in my home. I checked.-even dug through some books!- It’s not there.Which is weird. But expected I suppose. ****note to self, make a piece of wall art with the word Fuck in it.****

So I announced to the interweb my favorite word, the word most often used in my home is Love.

I wasn’t lying. I just wasn’t telling the whole truth. Which got me thinking about Motherhood and all it’s glory. Why? Well, I suppose partly because Mothers Day is around the corner. But  if we’re being brutally honest, that’s all Motherhood really is. A bunch of half truths told to save face in the eyes of others because we’re all secretly pretty sure if anyone actually knew what was going on behind closed doors, they’d have us committed.

I have this theory that moms don’t admit their “dark and twisty” to anyone who isn’t indicted in the “Mom Club”. Once you get pregnant though, don’t you dare get caught in an elevator alone with an overtired mom reeling from her day. Or sit down at a table of experienced moms at a birthday party. Or go to dinner alone with your lifelong best friend who happens to also be a mom. The things that come from those conversations will leave you looking for a scrub brush for your ears.

And your brain. Who am I kidding? When the mom club shares with you the horror that is your future, you’ll want to scrub your whole body to get rid of those stories.

I’m pretty sure the reason no one hears the horror stories before they have children is because if they knew what really happens when you become a parent, people would opt not to breed. Game Over. The world would end. So instead of ending the world as we know it, women follow “Unspoken Rule # 367” in the “Woman Code Book”

That rule is “Don’t talk about poo, blood, puke or how many nights you stayed up crying because you were certain that because the reason your kid had a bad day at school is because you didn’t kiss them goodbye before they left. And now they’re going to fail 3rd grade, drop out of high school and hitchhike across the country on a killing spree unless you’re in the company of other moms.”

The only exception is pregnant women. Because, well…..It’s too late. They can’t take it back now. Might as well share the horror!-er I mean fun.

Someone out there is reading this right now and thinking “HA! That’s not true! Parenthood is the most wonderful experience a person could ever have! It’s all rainbows and butterflies and shit.”

To that person, I say…… You’re probably the one that actually WILL raise the serial killer. Way to go champ!

The truth of it all is though, that in spite of the long nights camped out in an ER covered in your childs vomit. The irreplaceable remnants of your life that were once displayed and are now missing pieces or flat out broken, or the long nights sitting beside them in a steam filled bathroom praying for their fever to break. Even when you’re missing your special date nights and moments of interacting with other adults, the whole mom thing….It’s pretty freakin amazing.

And NO ONE is doing it right.

The Sock Basket

Growing up, I was surrounded by perfectionists. Our days were spent cleaning and organizing. Perfecting our living space so that it could be admired by any guest or random stranger that might find their way into our home. As I became a young adult, this habit stuck with me. And when I became a parent, it only intensified.

When I was pregnant with my second child I began working for a photography company. My days were spent in the studio, my nights were spent cleaning and organizing as I prepared for the birth of my son. This is how I came to meet a woman that would quickly influence my role as a parent, a friend and wife.

I met my boss for the first time during the busiest season of the year. The Christmas season. Our studio was full of families from open to close, waiting to have their faces captured just right so they could share their year in greeting cards to be sent all over the world. And she was just the person to do it. Despite the chaos of the studio, the cramped quarters and fussy infants she was happy, energetic and ready to meet the demands of each family with an energy that was loving and contagious. We quickly became work friends. Falling in sync with each others styles and depending on each other to keep a flow in the studio that was productive and creative. Allowing greatness to shine in every moment we captured on film.

On the rare occasion I had to run something to her home after work, I would find her snuggled up on the couch with her children, (2 young adults and 1 middle schooler) laughing, sharing and genuinely enjoying each others company. A love so obvious, a bystander couldn’t help but reconsider their relationships and the interactions they had with their loved ones.

Late for work one morning, I stumbled into the studio flustered and overwhelmed. Feeling like I’d let my coworkers down and afraid of the repercussion. ” I couldn’t find a matching pair of socks” I offered up as an explanation. ” I was doing the laundry yesterday and just threw all our socks into a basket. I forgot to match them up” I half hardheartedly laughed both embarrassed and frustrated.

“Good” she responded. “You have better things to do than spend your time matching up socks!”

Those simple words had a profound effect on me. One that has stayed with me everyday since.

She was right. I did have better things to do than match up socks. I had little fingers to kiss. Tummies to tickle. Stories to read, and memories to build. I had two beautiful infants that wanted to explore and learn. And they wanted to do this with me. Matching socks were nothing in the grand scheme of what actually mattered in my life.

Ten years later, those little fingers are now bigger than my own. We’ve moved across the country, graduated from elementary school, gone to  first school dances, had first crushes, and felt the loss of important people in our lives.  Moments have flown by so fast, but thanks to those simple words, memories have been made. And strong, loving relationships with my children have been built.

They never needed perfect. They never cared that they drawers weren’t organized. Or that sometimes when they needed to brush their hair, they’d have to dig through a drawer to find the comb. They never asked-not once!- for an easy to find pair of socks.

What they needed was me. Clumsy, scatterbrained, me. And that’s what they got. In all my glory. We’ve laughed together, cried together, yelled at each other, told stories and became something so much more important than a pair of matching socks.

We became a family.