OK people, it’s 8 am! I don’t care where you go but you can’t stay here…

…..said a million moms on the first day of school.

Look, I adore my children, they are my beautiful gifts I never deserved!

HOWEVER

– after a long, hot summer of camps, classes, beach trips and swim lessons, or (don’t say it) a PCS,  I am exhausted.

I know, I know, I choose to do all of those things, I can’t help myself.

I miss the kids as they walk out the door that first day, I really do, but I know in my heart of hearts it’s “me time!”  So, as our summer winds to an end and those first back to school commercials hit the airwaves, I want to plant a little entertaining seed in your brain.

A few duty stations back, I met a Marine wife who is now one of my best friends. I loved everything she did to include a back-to-school, mommy-only-party.

No kids, no dudes, just the ladies and a whole lotta time.

9am – 3pm to be exact.

Her mother had hosted back to school lady’s brunches since the time she was a child and she continued the tradition. Brilliant! Here we have an opportunity for good food, good drink and if you’re new on base, the opportunity to meet your neighborhood and possibly some other spouses in the command. Let’s not forget though, our friends that might be sending their first or last student off to school. This can be a very emotional experience and it is comforting to be around other parents who have gone through the same thing.

Call it a back to school, base housing, Bellini, Black coffee brunch.  You’re welcome.

Call it whatever you want just start planning now. According to my calendar, we have a few paydays left to order, bake and freeze a few items before the first day of school.

Always remember – proper planning is the key to a successful event!

You don’t want to be baking quiche and packing backpacks the night before the first day of school. Preposterous!

Simple instructions: At this point, everyone should have an area Facebook page specific to your housing neighborhood. Post an event and get started. Make the decision as to whether your event is kid friendly or not. There are toddlers and siblings who are still home as well as our home-schooled friends. Perhaps you only want adults.  I have done both. No children is a lady’s brunch, children included is a playgroup brunch. Both are great and it is up to you as the hostess to decide.

Create a signature drink for the day whether alcoholic or not. Will it be potluck or hosted completely by you?  Will you do a light buffet of breakfast foods or transition to a brunch? Make a dozen quiche a week before and freeze them. I love this recipe from the Food Network- http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/quiche-lorraine-recipe  Order croissants and bagels from a local bakery and grab some of the bakery’s business cards for your new neighbors to take home with them.

I believe the punch behind this event is that it is held on the first day back to school. Everyone is on an emotional high for a myriad of reasons and it creates a real sense of energetic fun!

Get creative with your decorating to include school supplies, red apples, school buses, crayons and fun preschool style name-tags.

Before your event, consider running to your respective schools and grab some bell schedules, bus schedules and year-at-a-glance calendars. Your guests can leave with a little goody bag at no cost to you!

While my post is military specific, anyone anywhere can do this…so get planning!

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

Ode to Ripped Jeans

I love you ripped jeans, you make me happy.

You look so good it ought to be illegal, but that still does not get you an invite to the home of the Sergeant Major.

You’re not welcome at the Exchange either and we will both get kicked out of the ID office.

Please understand…

We will always have the beach.

 ***

By now, you should have realized that all of my posts have a few pieces of helpful information – and a really scary backstory in support of said information (compliments of me). I have engaged in the buffoonery so you don’t have to!

Now this is not about being  judgey. It’s about digging just a little deeper into the military culture you married into. If you are reading my post then you have some sort of affiliation with the United States military and therefore need to understand what is expected of you. Yes – I said what is expected of you. Spouse, guest, aunt or uncle – it doesn’t matter. Once we step foot on a military installation, we are all bound by the base rules and walk at the behest of the Commanding General.

Believe it.

It is part of our culture that we have strict dress codes and longstanding traditions. To try and rebuff said traditions is a slap in the face to those who came before us both active duty and spouse. Are you proud of your spouse in uniform? Of course you are! So familiarize yourself with your branch’s traditions and have fun!

But back to ripped jeans… I am a lady from the 80’s and we perfected the strategically ripped clothing so when I see people wearing them today, it’s no big deal. It is a big deal however, when we as spouses try to buck the dress codes implemented on all military installations both foreign and domestic. The military has high standards and we as spouses should embrace those standards. Iron sharpens iron people.

The next time you go shopping at the exchange, take a look at the dress code posters near the entrance doors. They are hysterical. Think a cross between The Jersey Shore and a thug weightlifting contest attended by super-hot NASCAR girls.  The posters exist out of necessity.

As new military spouses, we receive so much information all at once it’s as if we are drinking water from a firehouse.

Here is the problem – you don’t know what you don’t know.

Case in point:

It’s 1989 and a young Marine wife who has obtained vertical lift with her bangs and ripped her acid washed jeans to perfection is entering the Navy Exchange in Pensacola, Florida. She is met by the ID checker (yes that was a thing) checking…you guessed it… identification cards. She is also inspecting clothing. She took one look at the young wife (ok it was me) and pulled a stapler from behind her podium. She handed me the stapler and said, “you have two choices.  Staple every hole in your jeans shut or go home and change.” I immediately took the stapler and stapled every single rip shut, tears stinging my eyes and obscenity laden thoughts running through my brain. How could this be? I thought I looked fine!

Well I did not and the dress code is the dress code like it or not. I considered myself schooled that day.

(On a side note, what did I need so badly that I would subject myself to such humiliation?  It had to be a Coach sale).

I encourage newer spouses to remove emotion from some of the rules and regulations you encounter on your military-life journey. Take them for what they are: part of the greater equation that makes the American fighting forces the undisputed power house they are – dress codes and all.

On that note, will someone please pass the stapler?

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Under-Cooked Dough and Other Things You Should Know

This is about mistakes – entertaining mistakes.

We all experience them; some small, some epic.

But, we recover and we learn from the experience. However, there was a time when I neither recovered, nor learned.

When planning I would create in my mind the party to end all parties, but when the inevitable happened (burnt food, forgotten ingredients or children vomiting on me moments before a guest’s arrival) I became unglued.

I would often think, “Maybe I’m not cut out for this military lifestyle. Maybe I should focus my efforts on other ways to support the command.”

But that competitive, over-achieving military spouse inside of me would raise her fist like Scarlett O’Hara and shout back, “No! I will not be defeated!”

I have not yet lost the war, but there have been a few battles where I threw up the white flag.

Example #1: My Less-Than-Thankful Thanksgiving

After a few years of marriage and countless military functions, I agreed to host my first large Thanksgiving meal.

My husband Joe was attached to a Marine squadron that had a few squadron mates of the Royal Air Force on exchange from England. It was all very intriguing – the accent, their wives, the culture they offered.

One evening Joe came home and announced that we were hosting Thanksgiving dinner for three exchange pilots, their wives, and their children. They had expressed interest in a true American Thanksgiving feast and that’s what they were going to get. Who cares that I had never hosted one before? Or that I had three children under four and my appliance of choice was the equivalent of an Easy Bake oven (compliments of the U.S. government)?

“Yes,” I thought. “I’ve got this!”

I had cooked a turkey before (I think?), I had cooked rolls before (maybe?), and I had even prepared gravy, but for some reason I went into panic mode.

I went against my better judgement and started to take shortcuts. Between caring for my babies, preparing the house and trying to create an unforgettable feast, I panicked and started to change things up in my mind.

“I know!,” I thought, “I’ll use one of those cooking bags to insure done-ness. Oh! And I’ll use rolls in a tin so I have enough bread. And how about packaged gravy to supplement my own…” As you can see, I mentally spiraled out of control. To this day, I still do not know why I did the things I did that holiday weekend.

The big day arrived and no kidding, the kitchen sink backed up and there was no one from housing maintenance available to come out. My dear husband tried to clear it, but it just would not give. The water backed up to the top and the entire sink was unusable. I actually rinsed and peeled potatoes in my bathtub! Throughout the day of prepping and preparing, all of the dirty dishes went into the bathtub as well.  The best part though (ssshhhh don’t tell the British) I had to rinse the turkey under the spigot in the tub. It never touched anything, I promise. There is nothing like a Marine holding out a fresh white towel as if to say, “come to Daddy.”  I handed him the bird as a doctor might present a newborn son.  It was complete insanity.

I felt a bit of relief when the turkey was actually in the oven cooking. Remember I told you I used a cooking bag for the first time? Well, I did not mentally process that the cooking time is literally cut in half when using an oven bag but friends – I cooked it for the full five hours according to the turkey instructions.  – I can still taste it now, it was like tree bark.

On to prepping the stuffing. Dear old Mom’s sausage and nut stuffing. I had made it the week before and… oh my goodness had forgotten to thaw it! “No problem,” I confidently thought. I’ll just pop it in a pan and slowly heat it up. No sooner had I done so then I smelled the acrid scent of scorching food. Sausage stuffing, please report to the trashcan. What would my guests know? They are not even American so how would they know what is in a traditional American Thanksgiving?

Growing up, my mother taught my sisters and I the most amazing yeast roll recipe…why I did not make them, I have no idea. I used the Pillsbury brand in the tin and while tasty – they have directions that MUST be followed.

As dinner was underway, I noticed no one was taking a second helping of rolls. In a moment of true insanity, I grabbed one and ran across the street to my friend’s house (a lovely Navy wife who was unflappable).

I shoved a roll in her hand and said, “Taste this and tell me what’s wrong with it.” As she took a bite and pulled the roll away from her mouth, there appeared to be mozzarella cheese oozing out. She asked me, “did you make cheese stuffed croissants?”

“Uncooked dough!,”  I screamed and ran across the street back into my home. I immediately removed the rolls and watched in horror as no one tried a second helping of the turkey. Riddle me this: what is the actually cooking time of a twenty pound bird if you cook according to the directions PLUS toss it in an oven bag? Ten hours? I don’t know, but imagine my guests chewing with only their front teeth and downing copious amounts of water.

Course three – dessert. What could go wrong? I was a pro at pumpkin pie and had taken no shortcuts. I even prepared homemade whipped cream. I triumphantly paraded my pie to the table. No takers. “Oh we’re sorry love; we don’t eat veg in our dessert.” I could not believe my ears but then thought, “yeah, I guess that is pretty gross.”

 Suddenly, out came the lovely English trifle that was brought as a hostess gift. Have you ever seen rabid dogs fight over a bone? You get where I am going with this. The trifle dish was licked clean and I mean clean.

I guess I cannot blame them. It was a pretty terrible meal.

While so much went wrong that evening, I did do a few things right. I absolutely hid from my guests even the hint of a problem and kept the evening moving with good drink and good conversation. Never allow your guests to see or hear of a problem if you can at all help it. It makes everyone uncomfortable, which is the exact opposite of what a host or hostess desires.

My biggest failure that evening was trying new things. Never, ever try anything for the first time the night of your event. You are inviting disaster.  My husband and I still get a good laugh out of this experience, but I sure wish I could have a redo! And I promise, I have never rinsed meat in the bathtub since.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

MILITARY SPOUSE APPRECIATION DAY

 

Happy MILSO Day!

Each May on the Friday before Mother’s Day, we as a nation, celebrate and appreciate the sacrifices our military spouses make every day.We honor their commitment and dedication to the moment at hand. Whether volunteering in a position of leadership during a deployment or birthing your child alone, this day is set aside for you.

Designated by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, Military Spouse Appreciation Day coincides with Military Appreciation Month and Memorial Day, the last Monday in May. I have included a link to some fabulous military and mil-spouse discounts as seen on military.com:

If you are currently a spouse in a deployed unit, host an impromptu dinner or buy a few dozen roses to place on each fellow spouse’s doorstep in housing.  Deliver a single cigar with a message of thanks or hand written notes letting them know just how special they are and what an integral part they play in the fight.

In true entertaining fashion, today is the day you start planning next year’s celebration to properly honor the military spouses in your unit. Coordinate a luncheon in your quarters or a garden party at the community center on base. The unit spaces are also a motivating location to entertain. No excuses, I just gave you next year’s date. Get creative and remember, it’s a military spouse thing!

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

Buffet ANT-ics

Here in lies the woeful tale of two hostesses. The one I aspire to be and the one I really am.

A little melodramatic – but accurate.

I am so dedicated to the art of detail that more than once I have planned an event a year in advance. Attention to detail is the military mantra that we live by (and we like it that way). But, the truth is, when entertaining one can never truly prepare for everything.

Case in point – each duty station we move to is known for things. Those things can be good or bad. Things that are pretty and ugly. Things that frankly,  you don’t know about until you get there and experience it firsthand.

Enter stage right – sunny Southern California, an American paradise.

One finds the happy locals in their athleisure wear, strolling from Starbucks, yoga mat in hand. There is sea, surf, blue skies… and ants.

Wait, what?

Now, not all of my homes in SoCal had an ant problem, but one in particular did. And when I say problem – think full-scale ant invasion.

I noticed right away that a speck of cheese or a crumb of cookie would bring on the following morning an army of indescribable proportions. My dining room looked like an arthropod convention on the Discovery Channel. I addressed the problem immediately (borax, Raid, napalm) and thought nothing else of it.

Time to plan the next party, and plan I did.

Our Marines were on deployment. In true military spouse fashion; our squadron wives were hosting a Pity Party for the squadron wives whose Marines were replacing ours. Side note – a Pity Party is an opportunity to basically say, “ha ha we are done, and now you it is your turn to suffer. Enjoy”. We also eat our young in case you were wondering…

The invites were launched, the house was ready, and the spouses brought an amazing array of potluck items including the piece de resistance: a delicious ham. Spiral cut, studded with cloves and dripping with a sugary glaze. If it weren’t early May I would have guessed it to be December 25.

With the evening well under way, I poured a cocktail with an air of smug satisfaction. “Yes” I thought, “another successful event.”

In an unguarded moment, I felt a sharp tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see one of our go to spouses (you know the one – she can be counted on for anything and everything) with a look of fear on her face.  I immediately stood up. She leaned forward and quietly whispered, “We have a code red meat emergency.”

Like any good senior leader’s spouse I confidently said, “Take me to the meat.”

As a host or hostess, we should never allow our guests to see us ruffled. In the worst situations, we remain calm, polite and patient. As my husband says, “never let them see you sweat.” But, I must say, what I saw next almost put me over the edge.

My ever vigilant friend had her arm outstretched with a pointed finger much like the ghost of Christmas future as he eerily points to Scrooge’s tombstone. I followed the length of her arm and my eyes landed on the ham.

Is the glaze moving?

ANTS. ANTS EVERYWHERE.

Is that one carrying a clove on his back? Why ants? Does the Ritz get ants? Does Ina Garten invite ants to dinner with Jeffrey? This isn’t supposed to happen – I did not plan for ants!

 I like to think I am cool under pressure, but I am not. I immediately grabbed the ham and ran like a wide receiver crossing the goal line quickly spiking the ham into the kitchen trashcan.  In a flash, amazing spouses were scurrying for any remnant of insect. It was an ant-killing Seal Team 6.

The determination was made that the ants were meat eaters and had confined themselves only to the gammon. Thankfully, the food service had been going for a while and it appeared that we had simply removed a few things. The buffet was spotless and open for business.

I stood there for a moment and became rather frustrated. What made me think the ants were going to self-relegate? Why did I assume that they had come together prior to my event and agreed to not transgress the buffet table? The ants were truly an ongoing problem and I should have planned the placement of my food better.

Let’s put a bow on this sad tale with some entertaining tie-ins.

  1. Know the problem areas in your house whether it is in military quarters or a rental.
  2. Don’t fight the issues, just adjust accordingly.
  3. Always have your power team of spouses. The ones you can rely on to help. In turn make sure you are there for them as well when they host an event.
  4. Don’t become emotional or excited in front of your guests and if something is amiss with your food simply remove it.  Due to the fact that there were so many wonderful offerings on the buffet, the removal of the ham was not a huge issue.
  5. Be in the habit of having a few easily prepared items in your freezer just in case of a culinary emergency. It is always a wonderful thing when we can prepare a fresh, homemade menu but sometimes you need a little back up.

But always, always remember: you can fix any situation – even arthropod WWIII.

Entertainingly yours,

Cassie