While our 10th wedding anniversary isn’t until August, E and I broke the decade mark on our relationship last year. He’s been in the Navy the entire time I’ve known him. That’s 10 years of planning everything from vacations to oil changes to babies around someone else’s not-s0-flexible schedule.
I planned our wedding from the East Coast while he was deployed in the Pacific. We moved one week after the wedding to a city I had never seen. If you check the mortgage documents for our current house, you’ll only find my signature – a change in his boat’s schedule meant he was at sea we when bought it and I did the whole thing with a power of attorney. Right at this very moment, E is supposed to be gone (he is not). He was also supposed to be gone for Christmas (he was not). And we planned this next baby’s birth to fall in the “safe” summer window, where he was supposed to be done with sea trials (nope) and home (it is looking more and more likely he will be gone).
But I’m not thinking too much about that right now, because it could change again in the next breath. If there was one word to describe what it takes to be a military spouse – without giving yourself an ulcer – that word would be FLEXIBLE.
May 9th, 2014 has been officially designated as Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Since I’ve been a milspouse for 10 years now – and part of a military family my entire life – it’s nice to know we get a specific day to be appreciated. At any given time only 1% of Americans are serving in the military so you might not have a lot of military spouses in your life or social circle. (That seems crazy to me, since it’s always been such a HUGE part of my world, but I am the exception not the norm.) If you do know a milspouse, here are 5 ways to celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Although you could start with a hug and a “thank you for your sacrifice”. That always makes me cry.
1. Watch the kids. Or the dog. Or volunteer to water the plants. Whatever thing she (or he) is responsible for, take it off their hands for a few hours. There’s a lot of life-juggling involved in being a milspouse and having just ONE less ball in the air can make a huge difference. Plus during deployments or separations there’s one grown up managing 2+ lives, so a couple of hours to get a haircut or visit the dentist can be a total sanity-saver. (While we were engaged, I got a call from E’s San Diego apartment complex saying his rent check hadn’t gone through and they were going to pack up his stuff and evict him. He was unreachable under the ocean. While I was trying to straighten it all out it would have been AWESOME to have someone come and feed my cat so I could focus. For real, one of the most stressful weeks of my life.)
2. Provide a meal. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be healthy. When E is gone we eat more fast food or hummus-for-dinner meals than I like to admit. But just like doing some free babysitting, feeding someone is the ultimate in kindness and one less thing they have to worry about.
3. Take care of some yard work. In the winter you can shovel their walk, in the summer you can mow the lawn. I assure you that it’s not a matter of “poor milspouse doesn’t even know how to start the lawn mower” but a case of “do I dare leave the kids in the house alone for 45 minutes while I do the yard work or will I find them swinging from the ceiling fan again?”
4. Learn about organizations that provide support. There’s a great website called Military OneSource that provides everything from legal and tax advice to confidential crisis counseling. For members of the Navy or Marine Corps, the Relief Society can provide emergency loans or financial support (would you believe I didn’t even know they existed until a few weeks ago?). The Army has a version too. Check out Joining Forces and the USO to learn about volunteer opportunities and ways you can help. If you know a military family that is struggling, having a website or phone number to access real, tangible help can be the lifeline they need.
5. Listen to them. Some days I just really, really need to complain about all the ways military life makes me crazy. I am very lucky to have plenty of people in my life to go to when I need to vent without having to start with a ton of qualifiers. There are a million ways my life could be worse, a billion ways we are very blessed, a zillion things that could go wrong and we could experience real tragedy. But dammit, some days I just want to whine about how I’m supposed to be going out of town NEXT WEEKEND and E’s job STILL can’t tell him whether or not he can have the days off to watch the kids. Or the whole maybe-giving-birth-while-he’s-on-a-submarine thing. Which I am still not thinking about. Nope, not thinking.
You know what else makes me feel appreciated? Presents. Who doesn’t like presents? To celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day, AT&T has very generously given me two gift bags – one to keep and one to give away to a reader. It has a hat, a t-shirt and -oh yeah!- an iPad mini! To enter, just use the Rafflecopter widget below.
AT&T reached out because they wanted to do something nice for me and my readers as a #milspouse blogger. You can learn more about what AT&T does to support our troops and their families here. No monetary compensation was provided for my participation. I have the iPad mini for the giveaway in my possession RIGHT NOW and will send it to the randomly drawn winner.