15 Minutes Early is On Time, 5 Minutes Early is Late… Oh, and Your Blouse is Completely Unbuttoned

Punctuality is a sign of respect.

When we are late to a ceremony, celebration or meeting, we are telling the host or hostess, “What I was doing was more important than what you had planned.”

As military spouses, we are constantly creating teams. We have teams of volunteers, teams for family readiness, teams for social events, teams for training and teams to train future leaders.  If you choose to volunteer or are chosen to be on a team, punctuality will be crucial to the overall mission success and your opportunity for future advancement.

For years I was chronically late. It was my modus operandi.  I actually had friends and family provide alternate arrival times for me (a polite way of saying they lied) but who could blame them? I deserved what I earned. I lament my former lack of professionalism and through many years of self-analysis and soul searching, I was able to pinpoint the source of my problem:

Babies.

Babies – the usurpers of time, body, soul and all that is sane.  Little individuals that  are so cute we actually strap them to our bodies.

We parents as, wannabe professionals, are blindsided by that sweet smile and the smell of cotton candy and diapers. They are mesmerizing indeed – but the killer of all that is professional (at least for me).

The turning point for my perpetual tardiness was one of the first times I volunteered for the unit family readiness team. I had three children, the youngest being around 9 months and still nursing. As nursing mommies often do, I planned on feeding my son at the very last minute before departure. I was in my best suit with my briefcase in the car and the babysitter in the house. I finished feeding the baby and arrived to the meeting right at 11:00 am as planned. I barreled into the conference room and in the immortal words of Britney Spears “all eyes on me.” The room was set up so that the entire group was facing the entry door and they actually started right at 11:00 am. How dare they! Where was the coffee, socializing and introductions? As I entered I heard ladies gasp and witnessed uniformed warriors casting their eyes downward. A fellow volunteer gave me that kind of acknowledgment one might receive when lipstick is on the teeth. I wish it had just been lipstick. While still standing at the entry to the conference room, I looked down and saw that my suit top was completely unbuttoned and revealing my awesome, filthy, nursing bra. The one my husband says looks like a chimney sweep wore it while cleaning out the flue.  In my rush to feed the baby and leave, I had forgotten to button up my blouse.

Nice.

I suppose if this had been the first time something like this had happened I would be mortified. But it was not and I was not. I quickly exited, buttoned up my blouse and returned with an indignant look of what on my face.

If you are reading this screaming YES – then allow me to offer a few tips.

Create a mindset within yourself that you will always be on time. Being late is not an option. There will always be traffic, babies, accidents, breakdowns and vomit. Adjust accordingly and make it happen.  The day before an event, prepare your clothes and place all bags, files, papers and supplies in your vehicle. Arrive to events 45 minutes early and while sitting in your car, catch up on email, phone calls and your instagram. Sit in the host’s driveway and ring the bell exactly at the stroke of arrival time quoted on the invite. Your host will love it and be so very impressed.

Within the realm of military life, punctuality is not to be taken lightly. Rise to the occasion, don’t make excuses. Be professional and enjoy yourself!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

And You Are….?

     I am not sure who this post is for, the host or the guest. I will leave it for you the reader to decide.
     Whether you are attending an upscale dinner party or your child’s soccer game, a proper introduction is always important, if not necessary, especially in the military lifestyle. For many of us, the need to give or receive an introduction may be an everyday occurrence. 
While researching proper introductions, I came across a brief explanation from a wonderful blog entitled The Art of Manliness.
The Big Rule:
“The overarching principle when making introductions is deference and respect. You show chivalrous deference to women by introducing the man to the woman. You show respect for your elders by introducing the younger to the older. And in a business setting, you show respect to higher-ups by introducing the person of lower rank to the person of higher position.”
Simple and I could not have written it better myself, hence the backdoor plagiarism. That was so very manly as well. 
And so dear readers, journey back with me if you will to a time and place of long ago. Picture a young Marine wife full of life but most importantly full of herself. She receives a phone call and is politely voluntold to sit on a committee. All right – it was me and I may have trouble articulating tenses so I will henceforth and here unto speak in everyday English.
A committee spot had opened up for a spouse’s organization in Washington, D.C. and a senior leader’s wife called and asked me if I would fill the void. For you civilians out there, that is what is referred to as being voluntold. A healthy fear of saying no… Of course I said yes and off I went to a place I had never heard of before… Fort Myer in Virginia. 
Picture if you will, a beautiful historic home sitting atop a grassy ridge overlooking the Potomac River. “Nice,” I thought to myself as I pulled up in the minivan. “I wonder who lives here…” I have never been accused of over preparing for anything in my life and this day was no different. I walked into the home and as with all good spouses’ meetings; we opened with food and drink. 

 A lovely, older woman (we will call her Susie to protect the innocent and my husband’s career) approached me and we started to chat. I took her for a civilian guest and in my most authoritative of tones began to explain the finer points of military life to include a deep and meaningful explanation of Marine Aviation. Gosh she was so nice and easy going, whose lovely aunt, is this anyway? I wonder where she is visiting from. Our lopsided conversation was coming to a close with Susie being the obvious loser. We politely parted ways and as is the lovely dance of a women’s coffee, I came to speak with another spouse who looked to be around my age. “Wow,” she said. “What on Earth did you talk about with her?” “Who,” I asked. “The wife of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, that’s who!”  

Oh snap.

 

Now, everyone deserves politeness, kindness and the gift of your time but let us be crystal clear, when dealing with the leaders of any organization, and in my opinion, the military, as stated above, it is always about deference and respect. Do you respect your spouse, their job, their field of work? Then why would you not want to put your best foot forward and maintain the customs and courtesies of our culture regarding our leadership? Goodness, I still remember being petrified of my husband’s Staff Platoon Commander!
I was caught totally flatfooted and remained uncomfortable for the rest of the meeting. Why had she not introduced herself? Why had I not introduced myself? Why did I talk so much? Did I actually explain to her what the commissary was? Aren’t there supposed to be nametags at these events? 
The drive home was a swirling of “what did I say” thoughts and “what if I had said” ruminations. It was exhausting. 
Let’s put a bow on this. From a host/hostess perspective; someone at the door greeting, nametags and group introductions are always appropriate. From a guest perspective, do your research. When in doubt, google people, places and events. It helps in conversation prompting as well as history of the location and what to wear. If attending with friends, devise a plan to gather names. Make a game out of it. If you stay in long enough, this will be an ongoing situation for you and your spouse.

Throughout my time on the committee the spouses were all very gracious and I have come to understand that events such as these are where we turn the corner of understanding just a bit more of this military lifestyle.  

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Hostess Gift

Presenting your host or hostess with a small gift is a lovely way to say thank you. It is a token of appreciation not only for the invitation, but for the effort that undoubtedly went into planning the event.

A gift should be simple in nature.

One example is a small bouquet of flowers. A lovely gesture, but people usually forget that a beautiful, unconstrained spring bouquet to the hostess or host creates an unexpected job. They now must find a vase, water and a location for your gift.  Try and present flowers in a small jar or decorative vessel.

Perhaps you are uncertain as to the taste of your host or hostess. If so, consumables are a smart way to go. Unique candies or local wines are very fun, especially when arriving at a new location. It allows both guest and host to try the local specialties.

Often times, a guest will present their signature gift. A token of either food or artisan craft from their home state. It can be anything. Virginia salted peanuts from Virginia, a can of specialty clam chowder from New England (sold in certain Navy Exchanges) or a delicious box of salt water taffy from North Carolina.

Perhaps you are a crafter or own an embroidery machine.  It is always a motivating thrill to open a gift bag and see before you your branch’s logo. Rest assured it will be put to good use.

Occasionally, an invite will read:

“No hostess gifts please” or “in lieu of hostess gifts please bring a non-perishable item for the  base food pantry.”

Please adhere to such directives. The hostess or host has good reason for their request.

Or during the holidays you may see the following, “in lieu of a hostess gift please bring an unwrapped toy.”

A toy donation during the holidays is always a lovely gesture. Your donations are most likely going to identified families within the command or stationed on your base. Remember, this is simply a request according to your time and financial abilities.  No one will be checking for your donation at the door.

Oftentimes, a guest will arrive with a food specialty of their own making. This is a thoughtful idea however, do not bring a full platter or dish of anything unless requested to do so. Your host or hostess has painstakingly planned their menu to include dessert and beverage pairings. Never expect food or wine brought as a hostess gift to be used during the event you are attending.

Occasionally, I will come across a great deal on several of the same items. I buy them all and proceed to use them as my signature gift until they run out. Keep your eyes open for those great steals!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

PLEASE RISE FOR THE PASSING OF THE COLORS

Often times, the purpose of military entertaining is to compliment the moment.

That moment may be a retirement, a post and relief, or a change of command and you can be sure that all will likely have a reception or party that follows.

A successful ceremony should easily transition into a successful reception. It’s the natural flow, and has been for years. But how do we personally achieve this? First and foremost: by understanding our detailed roles – whether as a guest in the bandstand, or a VIP in the front row.

To help you understand I’d like to offer you a quick tutorial on our beloved flag.

One question I hear most often pertains to flag etiquette.

“What are the responsibilities of a spouse, or guest, not in uniform during an important event as the flag passes by?”

This may seem like a minor issue, but in reality, it is of utmost importance that you know what to do as you stand among the active duty  men and woman within the command.

To give you a specific example, let’s use a change of command ceremony:

Congratulations! Your spouse has slated for command and more than a million questions are swirling through your mind. Everything from important dates to people to meet, even potential deployments. You’ll find that throughout command, flexibility, fluidity and adaptability will be called for.

However, when it comes to the U.S. Flag Code – none of that applies. The rules are strict and time honored.

For anyone to deviate from the U.S. Flag Code whether knowingly or unknowingly is unacceptable and disrespects our fallen. During the actual ceremony of taking command, there will be a color guard and if you are fortunate enough, a military marching band in full regalia. As the spouse of the incoming commander, you traditionally are seated in the front, left row, second seat in and facing the troops in formation. All eyes will be on you, your fellow spouse, and both the incoming and outgoing commanding officers. As new arrivals to the military, we are all taught to watch the spouse of the senior leader for our cue – when to stand, when to sit, when to place our hand on our heart. The burning question is, who do you watch as the senior leader’s spouse? You can watch your spouse as he or she rises but at this stage of the game, you need to know the rules of etiquette pertaining to the flag so let’s begin!

The United States Flag Code was published by Congress in a joint resolution on June 22, 1942. The Code offers guidance for any and all uses of the American flag. I have provided below the conduct called for during the hoisting, lowering or passing of Old Glory.

Title 4, Chapter 1, Article 9:

§9. Conduct during hoisting, lowering or passing of flag

During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present in uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.

Clear and straightforward – though missed by so many.

Here is a helpful tip: as the flag comes into your periphery, stand and place your right hand over your heart. As the flag leaves your periphery you may lower your hand and take your seat. Be bold and committed in your actions. Lead with confidence.

The customs and courtesies of the Armed Forces are like nothing else in society. When you take time to learn and embrace them, you honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

How to Read an Invitation 

Realizing that all of us know how to read an invitation, (the who, the what, the when, the where and the attire), I would like to offer guidance on how to “read” an invitation.

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The Who: Invitations are never open for interpretation. Upon receipt of said invite, the invited guest’s name or names should be stated clearly. If the invite, Evite or e-mail states, “Mary” for example, then only Mary is invited. Not Mary’s spouse, not her child who had a day off and will quietly sit in the corner and read- she promises. Not Mary’s adorable baby who she also promises will sleep quietly in their car seat. When we force the situation by bringing an un-invited spouse, child or baby, the dynamic of the event is changed and potentially ruined. You may even create a resentment from the other guests who took the time and spent the money for a babysitter. Often, unit events might be the one time someone has been able to get out for a friend’s night or date night in a long time.

The What: Whatever the event is, it is most certainly articulated in the invite. To the best of your ability, fully engage in the theme of the event whether it be costume, potluck, charitable, family oriented (bringing children) and the like. Your host or hostess is making the effort and you will have more fun if you fully participate. Keep in mind, this is never an opportunity to pass out catalogs, hold impromptu meetings or go over business as you may disrupt the flow of the event. There is a time and place so please be respectful.

 The When: The invitation will state a specific time, an open house or a staggered time slot perhaps according to your last name. If there is a specific start and ending then by all means arrive at the stated start time and always leave at the stated ending time. For example, an event that begins at 5pm and ends at 7pm requires you to arrive at 5pm and depart at 7pm. An open house is an event with a beginning time and an ending time. As a guest, you may arrive at any time and depart at any time during the open house. This is especially helpful when you have more than one event on the same evening. Lastly, a staggered event is usually for larger commands where, for example, lasts names with A-M arrive the first two hours and N-Z arrives the final two hours. It allows the host or hostess to manage their guests in a more organized manner. Unless previously discussed with the host or hostess, please do not show up early. It really is as rude as being late. If they require help, and sometimes they do- you will know far in advance. Try not to be late. It is disrespectful of the host or hostess as well as their time and you might disrupt a series of time sensitive events. Children become ill, cars breakdown and rush hour can be a beast. Simply plan ahead and if you happen to be late, enter quietly and join in.

Your hosts will be thrilled you made it!

The Where: Make sure you read the invite carefully as to the location. I once showed up to the wrong Chuckie E. Cheese a week early. True story.

The What: There are so many fabulously themed events…White Party, Harlem Renaissance, Martinis and Mistletoe, Little Black Dress, Flight Suit Formal, Potluck, Salad by Proxy and the lists goes on. Whatever it is, as stated before fully engage! If the event is a potluck (this is an opportunity  for you to really shine) make an attempt to see if there is a theme to the meal. If you bring your favorite Indian dish and the theme is Mexican Fiesta, you run the risk of disrupting the flow of the meal and the beverage pairings.

Also, refrain from bringing food unless the host or hostess has requested it. I have seen beautiful dishes and desserts brought by guests with the best of intentions only to be quickly placed in the refrigerator or pantry! Again, unless discussed previously, an additional food item is not necessary. Take the night off and enjoy yourself.

Host/Hostess Gifts: A hostess gift is a small opportunity to thank the party giver for having you as a guest at their event. It can be as simple as a plant or chocolates, a nice bottle of wine or a lovely pastry. A really wonderful idea is that of a signature gift. Perhaps your favorite artist makes a beautiful Christmas ball or your hometown is famous for a nut or jam. Flowers are always lovely but keep in mind as you hand a hostess a garden stand bouquet, she must now find a vase, fill it with water and arrange it all while trying to welcome guests. A small potted flower or plant is best in those situations. Keep in mind this is not in place of a thank you note! Occasionally you may see a request to NOT bring a hostess gift. Please abide by the request as there is a reason important enough for your hostess to place it on the invite. You may also see the words “in lieu of a hostess gift…” and a request for a toy during the holidays or a donation of food for the local food bank may be requested. Please feel free to regard or disregard at your discretion and financial ability. No one will be checking at the door!

Children Welcomed: This is very simple, if nothing is stated about children then they are most likely not included. Sometimes an invite will read Adults Only. Please take this seriously as the host/hostess may have candles lit, a fireplace, alcohol or perhaps pets that are threatening to little ones. If the children are welcome to the event, the invite will most definitely state “children welcomed.”

Commands make very concerted efforts to have both kid friendly and non-kid friendly events throughout the year. It never hurts to call ahead of time and receive clarity on the situation.

RSVP: Repondez S’il Vous Plait which, according to Merriam Webster, is a simple French phrase meaning “please reply”. How ridiculously easy is that? It is impossible for a host or hostess to properly plan a party when the number of attendees is unknown! It is not about being fancy or ostentatious. It can be as simple as how much beer should I buy and how much chili should I make? Perhaps the hostess is creating a party favor and you did not respond. It is embarrassing for both the hostess and guest when something like that occurs. When in doubt, always put yourself in the shoes of the hostess and proceed accordingly.

The Attire: Almost every invitation sent within the realm of the military will have guidance as to what you should and should not wear. Your active duty member will always have a clear and proper dress code and uniform requirement for every event he or she attends. This, however is for you. There was a time when dress codes were simple- formal, semi-formal, cocktail and casual. The Marines called jeans “the forbidden fabric” and it was rare to see active duty of any rank out in public donning Levis!
Things change and dress codes do too. Depending on where you are stationed, you may see suggestions such as California casual, Hawaiian casual, open collar no tie, no jeans or just plain casual. While everyone in SoCal may be in fancy flip flops, your East Coast counterparts may be wearing heels with the same outfits. Observe your current duty station and adjust accordingly. Make the decision to honor the dress code to the best of your ability. Whether formal or casual, the event you are attending is not the time for you to make a personal statement or personal stand. Have fun with the attire request and perhaps you will learn something new while in the process. I have included a link to a wonderful attire guide.
http://emilypost.com/advice/attire-guide-dress-codes-from-casual-to-white-tie
Dress code tradition is yet another piece of the military puzzle that makes our culture unique!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie