SEPARATION APPRECIATION: THE ART OF CELEBRATING WHILE APART

     Someone once told me that USMC stands for U Suckers Miss Christmas.

     I believe our spouses’ squadron was on its third back-to-back UDP and we were used to being apart – separation was nothing new. However, the powers that be had spun the magic wheel of deployment and on that particular cycle our loved ones would be missing the trifecta of holidays to include Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

     As much as we girls may have wanted to curl up in a corner and cry, we knew doing so would be the deployment kiss of death.  Remain positive and stay the course, we thought, before you know it, they will be on their way home.

     The wife of both the CO and XO rallied, quickly procuring a suite at the Navy Lodge on-board NAS North Island and a call went out for an old school potluck on the beach. Kids welcomed, attire of your choice, and no complaining allowed. As an East Coast girl, I longed for the crisp November air and the smell of my mother’s cooking. Instead, that Thanksgiving Day I found myself swimming in the surf with my babies on one of the loveliest beaches in America, and for a moment sharing a difficult situation with women who understood.  No one could have convinced me that I would ever enjoy a holiday alone away from family. I was wrong. So wrong. And had I stood my ground and fought the situation, I would have missed out on a truly memorable squadron life experience.

     As we approach another holiday season, there are countless military families apart from one another, and all of them wondering what they will do to make it through. Well, it’s time to create new memories and new traditions incorporating what we know into the reality we now live.

     There are so many productive ways for spouses of deployed military to stay engaged, remain positive, and make the most of what can sometimes be an unpalatable situation.  Seek out other spouses in your unit. Create groups for whatever interests you and pursue other like-minded spouses to join in. If deployment occurs over a holiday then YOU take the initiative to plan an event. It does not have to be expensive or extravagant. Grab the best cook in the group and have them host a cooking lesson specifically geared to the holiday at hand then feast together on your creation. Check with the spouses in leadership positions and ask how you may be of assistance in organizing a deployed spouses’ ball. Rally the forward deployed to create a group video message for the event. Perhaps your unit family members can volunteer as a team at a local shelter or food bank. Make suggestions and take the lead. Your military base has so many options for venues, meeting spaces, and entertainment! Are you aware that many installations allow family and civilian DOD employees to attend holiday meals at the chow hall? What fun! Check with the base community services office as to what they have planned. The options are endless.

     Keep in mind that when families on the home front are doing well, our spouses are better able to successfully complete the mission at hand. If there is trouble at home, our active duty become distracted and that can be dangerous.

     Someday you will fondly recall these life moments and know that you overcame, you succeeded and you won the deployment challenge. Once you have a few deployment holidays under your belt, you too will find yourself making statements that go a little something like this:

“ For our 10th Christmas my husband was on his 9th deployment and  I went into labor with our 5th child driving myself to the Naval hospital while timing contractions, confirming en-route via Facetime the base fun-run for our sister squadron wives, then posting my status on Facebook, and cancelling base soccer carpool, while going through the drive-thru to grab my kids dinner (mistakenly ordering from the trash can, which I had to post that on Instagram of course), yet pushing through and buying an extra meal to feed the corpsman who would possibly deliver my baby, and voice texting the entire spouse’s group to let them know I was in labor and would follow up with them upon baby’s arrival. Then after that we had newborn portraits done at the Exchange, and right after I requested a Red Cross call to my husband while setting a date for the banner making party and ordering farewell gifts online, while simultaneously coordinating next year’s ball date with the Sgt Maj.”

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

MARINE ARROGANCE 

In honor of our Corps’ 242nd birthday I attempted to write a heartfelt tribute only to stumble upon this outstanding explanation of “Marine arrogance.” 

In December 2013, a Marine Sergeant wrote this in response to a comment posted on the Marine Corps’ website complaining of “Marine arrogance”.
The Sergeant responds,
“I think that’s what makes Marines special, if only in our own minds, is that elusive Quality of Esprit D’Corps. It’s the fact that we, as individual Marines, don’t feel that we are individual Marines. When we wear our uniform, when we hear our Hymn, when we go into battle, we are going with every other Marine who ever wore the uniform.
Standing behind us are the Marines who fought during the birth of our nation. We’re standing with the Marines who fought in WWI and gave birth to the legend of the “Tueful Hunden”, or “Devil Dogs”. We are standing with the Marines who took Iwo and Tarawa and countless other blood soaked islands throughout the Pacific.
We are standing with the “Frozen Chosin” and our beloved Chesty Puller. We are standing with the Marines who battled at Hue City and Khe Sanh and the muddy rice paddies of South East Asia. We are standing with the Marines who fought in Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom and now, are fighting in Afghanistan.
Like real brothers, their blood courses through our veins, and when we go into battle, we would rather lay down our lives than be a disappointment to them. We carry on our backs, their legacy, their deaths and their honor. We carry that for the rest of our lives.
The Marines Corps uniform doesn’t come off when our active duty is over. We wear it daily in our attitude, and our love of Corps and country. We wear it on our tattoos and our bumper stickers. We wear it in our hearts.
It’s why, no matter where we are in the world, on November 10th, every Marine celebrates the Marine Corps birthday. It’s why we’ll never be an army of 1. It’s why we never stop being Marines. It’s why, for most of us, being a Marine isn’t something we were. It’s something we are.
It’s the most important part of who and what we are. Some say we’re arrogant. We say we’re proud. We have a right to be proud. We are the United States Marines the most feared and ferocious group of warriors to walk the face of this earth.
When Americas’ enemies formulate their battle plans, they plan on going around Marine units, because they know Damn well that they can’t go through them. We are what other branches wish they were.
We are the modern day Spartans. This isn’t bragging. It’s written in the battle history of our country. When there’s a parade and the Marines march by, everyone pays a little more attention. Some say “arrogance”. We call it “pride”. It’s why, in a crowd of service men, you can always spot the Marine. Why are Marines special? I don’t know. We just are.”
If that doesn’t make you want a giant slice of birthday cake, nothing will! Happy Birthday Marines!
Entertainingly Yours,
Cassie

YOU DON’T RATE MULCH

Truer words never spoken. The problem was, I had no idea what those words meant.

My Marine and I were stationed on the West Coast and loving life. We were settling into our base housing bungalow and getting started at our new duty station. One day I was out gardening my little spot of heaven with birds chirping, barefoot children running and jets flying overhead. Glorious. Pausing for a moment I noticed a landscaper throwing mulch into garden beds. He was up the street at one of the senior leader’s quarters not more than a half block away. Oh, I thought- free mulch! I scooped up what children were within arm’s reach and confidently approached the hard-working man.

“Excuse me, sir,” I politely interrupted, “Can you explain to me how I go about having mulch delivered to my quarters?”

He paused briefly and shifted not unlike a sports car flying down the freeway, suddenly coming upon a traffic jam.

He turned, looked at me and asked, “Where do you live?”

“Right there,” I pointed.

He squinted as the morning sun glared in his eyes, paused for a moment and said,

“You don’t rate mulch.”

Seeing the look of confusion on my face, the kind man went on to explain. You see, just a few doors up were higher ranking active duty who were afforded more perks and benefits within the realm of military housing than those of a lesser rank. Fascinating I thought.

“Well,” I asked. “What do I rate?”

He looked at my yard and replied, “Fertilizer.”

Score.

That day I came to understand yet another piece of the military lifestyle puzzle. Everything is worked for and earned even down to the minutia of base housing. There are so many “understoods” that go along with being a military spouse. For example, I personally understand that I cannot and should not park in the E-9 parking spot at the Exchange. I did not earn that spot and would be in a state of total disrespect to those who did. I cannot and should not park in any of the designated spots at any base activities to include clubs, office buildings, Commissary and the like. I conducted exactly one minute of research on your behalf (a phone call) and confirmed that these “cannots” are not actual base orders but courtesies and part of our military culture. Don’t embarrass yourself or your active duty spouse by participating in the slow chipping away of our customs and courtesies. Embrace them and have within yourself the desire to carry them on long after you are gone.

This “understood” also applies in base housing.
Ask any military spouse and the majority will tell you that yes, indeed they have driven through the housing neighborhoods of higher ranks in a motivating moment of aspiration. Someday honey…
It’s a wonderful thing to have collective goals and dreams with your husband or wife. It is a bond that ties when there is so much pulling you apart. Deployments, training, work ups and every day duty.

Nobody likes being told no, or coming to the realization that your neighbor on base rates something that you cannot have. Even something as simple as mulch. 
As I work in my garden here in base housing prepping for the oncoming winter, I get a chuckle from my mulch experience.
I thought you might appreciate an update. I recently called housing to see if my husband rates mulch yet.
Yes, I was told, but only once a year, in the spring, and I don’t get to pick the color.
Score again.
Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

At the Point of Cookie

A good life is a disciplined life!

I write as an undisciplined person attempting to work this concept out.

But thankfully, I was blessed with a husband who has been instrumental in honing my self-discipline. Imagine being married to a drill instructor, wrapped in a life coach, wrapped in a dietitian, wrapped in a founding father, wrapped in a voracious reader, wrapped in a man. Throw in Mr. Miyagi and you’ve basically got him worked out!

While known for many things, he is best known for his comedic, yet truthful, motivational one-liners.   Family favorites to include, “you might be hungry, but you don’t look like you have missed any meals” or “if it was a million dollars, you would have found it by now” and of course today’s title “at the point of cookie.” Before you become disturbed on my behalf – don’t. He holds people accountable and it is very refreshing (once we’ve nursed our wounded egos).

The title of this post was a comment he delivered to a fellow service member who was trying to lose a little weight. My spouse, in a moment of encouragement, explained that if you truly are attempting to curb your dietary intake, then “at the point of cookie” (meaning the minute the cookie touches your lips) STOP EATING.

So, what is your personal point of cookie? It can be anything. It may be eating out too often,   expensive cars, travel, too much house or perhaps simply spending more than you make. It’s all just the outcome of our favorite concept of  “I want what I want, when I want it.”

We all experience this desire to consume because it feels good, even if only for a moment. In the military lifestyle (where life and death situations can be a daily occurrence) the urge to swipe the credit card, or eat the whole box of Oreos, is even more tempting with the hope to have just a moment’s solace.

A few military moves back, I believe I reached one of my own personal “points of cookie” (I have come to understand I have more than one). As I was unpacking the house, I reached my wardrobe boxes and got to what I think was box number 5 of shoes.  In college, my roommates nicknamed me Imelda – after Imelda Marcos the infamous klepto-crat and former First Lady of the Philippines. Mrs. Marcos was known for many things, but most famously noted was her collection of over 1000 pair of shoes purchased with the plunder from the citizens she swore to serve. Over thirty years later, I was still struggling.

The old saying  “if the shoe fits, wear it” struck a hard blow.

What was I doing? Why all the shoes? Some were out of style and some I had not worn in years. I did a massive purge and set a goal for myself of no new wardrobe purchases for one year. So  for 12 months I purchased nothing wardrobe related. No new dresses, socks, jeans, shoes, hair pins- NOTHING. It was liberating and so fulfilling that I extended it for an additional month just to prove to myself I could.

I know now that I could put the cookie down and walk away.

What makes someone disciplined and successful? Successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful people are not. Are you willing to suffer the pain of discipline today to avoid the pain of regret later? Your ‘no’ needs to be bigger than your ‘yes.’

I stole all of those from my husband as that is the lighthearted chit chat at our family dinners. Bonus.

The vision of what you desire needs to be bigger than the cookie in your hand. Challenge yourself today to identify your personal point of cookie and get started on the more disciplined you. You won’t regret it.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

P.S. if you’re feeling down about constantly bypassing your ‘point of cookie,’ take a look at this video and remember, everyone struggles with it! You can do it!

 

“I’m calling for another truck, they have too much stuff!”

Here we were in the midst of yet another military move and I could not believe what I was hearing.

For those of you who don’t know – all active duty are held to a weight limit according to rank. Surpass that weight limit and you pay a fee per pound with fees varying depending on the carrier and state.

I had failed to properly unload what my husband likes to call stuff.

 How could we possibly have too much?

I had purged and donated and purged and thrown away so many things – and then purged again! I heeded the advice of the moving counselor, but to no avail.

Too much stuff? I don’t think so! And guess what? I don’t want to get rid of my stuff!

Why don’t you get rid of your stuff U.S. Government?  Aren’t you the one with excess cheese to give away? What do you want me to leave behind Uncle Sam? One of our eight beds? One of our nine bicycles? My grandmother’s quilt? Or maybe a child would satisfy your blood lust?

No sooner had my thoughts of anger and dismay begun to dissipate; a smaller moving truck rounded the corner. The team filled the truck up and I thought to myself, “what’s done is done and I will deal with it on the other end”.

Standing on my lawn with a child on each hip I watched with great interest as the smaller truck circled around, backed up and made contact with the back of the 18 wheeler.  “Wait!,” I screamed throwing both children to the side as I ran towards the truck”.  “What are you doing?”  “Well Ma’am, we can’t seem to get the door closed on the big truck so we are going to back up the little truck until they make contact and then throw the latch down.”  While distracted by our conversation I heard what can only be described as a hideous melding of metal, steel, china and furniture.  I suspect it may be similar to what the sad souls heard that night on the ill fated Titanic as the iceberg made contact with the ship’s hull.

Again, what’s done is done. The trucks pulled away and I prepared for what would be one of our 7 cross country trips.

On that particular trip, we planned a stop in Truckee, California to visit the location of the Donner Party at Donner Memorial State Park located in the beautiful yet unforgiving Sierra Nevada.  Between 1846 and 1847 a group of pioneers set off on a journey from Illinois to California and unwittingly became players in a tragic tale of American Pioneer history.

The plaque on the rear of the Pioneer Statue reads:

NEAR THIS SPOT STOOD THE BREEN CABIN OF THE PARTY OF EMIGRANTS WHO STARTED FOR CALIFORNIA FROM SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, IN APRIL 1846, UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF CAPTAIN GEORGE DONNER. DELAYS OCCURRED AND WHEN THE PARTY REACHED THIS LOCALITY, ON OCTOBER 29, THE TRUCKEE PASS EMIGRANT ROAD WAS CONCEALED BY SNOW. THE HEIGHT OF THE SHAFT OF THE MONUMENT INDICATES THE DEPTH OF THE SNOW, WHICH WAS TWENTY-TWO FEET. AFTER FUTILE EFFORTS TO CROSS THE SUMMIT THE PARTY WAS COMPELLED TO ENCAMP FOR THE WINTER. THE GRAVES CABIN WAS SITUATED ABOUT THREE-QUARTERS OF A MILE TO THE EASTWARD, THE MURPHY CABIN ABOUT TWO HUNDRED YARDS SOUTHWEST OF THE MONUMENT, AND THE DONNER TENTS WERE AT THE HEAD OF ALDER CREEK. NINETY PEOPLE WERE IN THE PARTY AND FORTY-TWO PERISHED, MOST OF THEM FROM STARVATION AND EXPOSURE.
IN COMMEMORATION OF THE PIONEERS WHO CROSSED THE PLAINS TO SETTLE IN CALIFORNIA. MONUMENT ERECTED UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THE NATIVE SONS AND THE NATIVE DAUGHTERS OF THE GOLDEN WEST. MONUMENT DEDICATED JUNE 6, 1918.

While the site is both moving and emotionally charged, as a military wife I was touched by the story of Mrs. Donner a military spouse in her own right being married to Captain Donner. She started her journey in Illinois with a full wagon of china, fine clothing a piano and many other household items she felt dear to her. By the time they became stranded, all that was left were the clothes on their backs and their very lives. Patty Reed, one of the young daughters of the Reed family, in an act of youthful defiance, hid a very tiny porcelain doll in the folds of her dress and hand carried it all the way to California. It is on display at Sutter’s Fort in California.

I had a true moment of clarity that day. The stuff doesn’t matter. A wise man once said, “for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” Family matters. Your Sailor, Soldier, Airman and Marine coming home matters.

As we throw ourselves into yet another PCS season, stay calm, do your best to prepare and remember that you really don’t need all that stuff.

But with that, let’s end on a high note! Tell me your moves over years ( I have 16 moves in 28 years – 16/28) and let’s see who wins the title of worst moving experience!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

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

That Moment

There are seminal moments in everyone’s life. The birth of a child, receiving that much desired promotion, the loss of a loved one, a long-term goal seen to fruition and of course the moment you meet “the one.”

They all seem to change us, good or bad, forever.

I remember meeting my Corporal and experiencing that feeling. You know the butterflies in the pit of your stomach type feeling that cannot be pushed aside. As our relationship progressed my interests became his and his interest became mine. He talked about the Marine Corps – a truly foreign entity to me. I wanted to impress him and checked out an obscure book on military operations. Almost thirty years later the only thing I recall is why the “scrambled egg” embellishment is on the white Officer’s cover – we will save that for another entry.

I remember to this day my first social event. A beautiful tea hosted by the Commander’s wife in her historic home on base. My then fiancé received special permission from his company commander for me to attend, as I was not an official Military ID holder! I had no idea what to wear, I had no idea what to expect. What struck me immediately upon entering the event was that this group was different, different from any other group I had ever seen. Well coiffed women, sharing polite conversation, discussing training and deployments, acronyms flying. That entertaining moment was one of my seminal moments. It wasn’t about a party or decorations, it was about the leaders and their spouses taking time to mentor new military families- the future leaders if you will. An age old tradition of customs and courtesies that if lost could prove tragic.

Upon leaving, I vowed I would become a subject matter expert on everything military spouse related! I accepted every invitation and opportunity to volunteer, assist, host or participate in general. It was on-the-job training if you will and I loved it.

Whether newly engaged or married for decades, we are all quick to testify to the unique challenges and ever changing landscape of the military lifestyle. I honestly believe it is the duty of every seasoned spouse to impart their experiences and wisdom upon the upcoming generations. That is why I am penning my decades of experience into words. Through a meal shared and a toast made, bonds are created, relationships grown and the preparation to send our loved ones into harm’s way begins.

Entertainingly yours,
Cassie