THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

“The wind began to switch – the house to pitch and suddenly the hinges started to unhitch.

Just then the Witch – to satisfy an itch went flying on her broomstick, thumbing for a hitch.

And oh, what happened then was rich.

The house began to pitch. The kitchen took a slitch.

It landed on the Wicked Witch in the middle of a ditch,

Which was not a healthy situation for the Wicked Witch.”

-The Wizard of Oz

As I sit on my porch sipping coffee and pondering my military life I hear it.

 

You know what it is. That hauntingly familiar sound of gears grinding, sticks shifting and plumes of exhaust pluming. It slowly rounds the corner wanting nothing more than to engulf everything I hold dear in life and once, having satisfied its bloodlust, simply drives away.

It is the dreaded moving van.

 

If only for a moment my skin becomes clammy and a slow dizziness overtakes me.

Then, I suddenly remember we are not due to move this summer.

Well that was an uncomfortable moment. More coffee?

Our turn will be here before we know it so I’m always mentally preparing myself.

Part of my mental preparedness comes in the form of motivational sayings from my active duty husband. Lucky for all of us, many of the quotes come from his highly respected and motivating Marine boot camp Drill Instructor. The man had a way with words. Such a wordsmith was he that were I to post them, women would blush, gentleman would yell, “here, here now!”  and my blog would be removed from the interwebs all-together. I give you a palatable family favorite…

“If you ain’t cheatin,’ then you ain’t tryin’.”

He was right you know. With verbal judo as his weapon of choice, the DI impressed upon my then 18 year-old husband a powerful life lesson. While in no way implying nor suggesting unethical behavior, he was simply teaching think outside of the box and get creative with the task at hand. Though a situation may appear difficult or even unsurpassable, you must make it work for you. You mold the situation into a desirable option often, not always, with a positive outcome.

It was just last year that we moved and the year before and two years before that. So, the tale I tell is still so very fresh in my mind.

A cross-country move for many is a life goal on the very top of one’s bucket list. But, for military families, it can be an annual necessity of life whether by planes, trains or automobiles. When we hear the words cross-country, thoughts of car sick children vomiting, less than savory motel rooms, wrong turns taken (even with a GPS) and radiators exploding in the desert all come to mind.

Not for me. I embrace the words of wisdom delivered so many years ago by that warrior god walking the grounds of Perris Island.

I made a decision then and there to make our 7th cross-country the experience of a lifetime.

The house was packed out, the moving van had pulled away and the kids were ready to go. We hopped in our two vehicles and set a goal of 8 hours without stopping. Oceanside, California to wherever 8 hours with too many kids and animals to count would take us that day. Slow and easy was the mantra for our upcoming adventure.

Around hour 4 we reached Yuma, Arizona and small dark clouds began to swirl in the distance. A few lightening strikes, nothing I hadn’t seen before.  Fascinating and frightening all at the same time.  I love a good desert lightening show, I thought.  This trip is going to be epic.

Suddenly the clouds became dark and ominous. Dust Devils began to form with jack rabbits darting to and fro. Something was afoot! In an instant a wall of sand, rain and cloud came barreling down upon us.  I immediately lost sight of my husband and our 6 other children. (Side note – I am capable of riding with only one child at a time.  Apparently, that is my limit. I chose child #5 thinking I had chosen well only to learn later that I had not). As the storm surrounded us, we lost complete visibility.

Blackout.

Tumbleweed, small rocks and debris were all striking the windshield with bands of rain, then sand then rain again. In this kind of situation, one must make the decision to either maintain speed and risk hitting someone who has stopped ahead of you or slow down and risk being hit from behind. I was tailing my husband closely and watched as my 5-year old’s chubby little hand thrust the dog dish out the window and in a gust of wind he lost his grip. The metal dish bounced on the interstate creating sparks then shot up and hit my windshield. I hit my brakes just in time to see a desert antelope springboard off my car hood, then to my left there was a desert tortoise laying on his back laughing at me. To my right stood a frontier Army ghost brigade at Parade Rest and just as I thought things couldn’t get any worse, my sweet Auntie was directly above my car riding a bicycle waving at me. With the mercy of sudden distraction, I frantically waved back. It was at that moment Auntie slowly morphed into my husband’s former DI. He was riding atop a tank and called out to me, “If you aint  cheaten,’ then you ain’t tryin!”

“Jesus take the wheel!,” I screamed as I slammed on the brakes throwing my right arm across Rebecca  to brace her for impact.  It was at that point I noticed she was laughing hysterically while filming me with her Iphone.

I repeat, I chose the wrong driving companion.

“Stop filming me and call Daddy right now,” I yelled.   She quickly dialed his number and my combat hardened husband dryly answered, “Hello, this is Dad, how may I help you?” In my unglued state I screamed, “I cannot drive in this!” He calmly replied, “Just follow the white line on the right until we get through the storm.” So that’s what I did. I followed that white line all the way off an exit down a service road into a zero-visibility gully not knowing if I had level ground or a 30-foot drop on either side of me. I looked up the embankment just in time to see the red tail lights of the family roadster slowly fade into the storm.

So, this is how it ends? Very disappointing I thought to myself.

I turned to my daughter (who was posting her film) and inquired, “any ideas? I’m tapped out.”

She calmly replied, “get back on the road Mom.”

And so, I did.

As if being shaken from a deep sleep, in an instant we pulled out of the bands of dust, rain and wind into a clear, starlit night.

We pulled over at a rest stop and engaged in lively discussion with another motorist only to find out we had driven through a Desert Monsoon. Raise your hand if you have ever heard of that.

Exactly, me neither.

I became a different person that evening. I am now a white-knuckled driver who pulls over at the slightest change in cloud formation. I cannot watch The Mummy and I’m still mad at my daughter. I have yet to watch the Scorsese-esque film she created that night but maybe someday.

We never did find out why sweet baby CJ threw the metal dog dish out the window, perhaps he was aiming for the desert antelope.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Semper Fido

A guide to traveling with pets during your PCS

Every summer, all across this great nation, thousands of military families receive Permanent Change of Station orders or what we refer to as PCS-ing. While many  hop a jet plane to locations far and wide, some of us engage in the great American past time of the cross-country road trip.

Orders have been cut, it’s time to move and thoughts of what to do slowly flood the mind.

Will we live on base, rent out in town or perhaps buy a new home? Are the schools desirable and will they offer the classes my child needs? What about clothes? Are we moving from flip flop central to a place that requires sub-z gear? To say there is a lot to think about is truly an understatement.

As you’re on the computer conducting searches of every kind, you feel a furry friend slowly glide by your leg. The cat! What am I going to do with the cat? Or perhaps you have a dog, or two dogs or a cat and a dog and 3 goldfish.

Your move just went next level.

Our pets are family members and for some, our fur babies. As you begin your plans for the upcoming move, do not leave pet accommodations to chance.

So, the mini van is packed, everyone has claimed their seat and the dog is perched on suitcases in the very back, ears touching the car roof. You take one last pic of your old house and jump into the running car when that familiar smell of dog-kid-sweat-feet hits you. My husband calls it stank soup. I call it my life.

It’s going to be a long ride.

Of our 15 moves thus far, 8 of them involved a pet in tow. While planning a few of those many moves, I just did not have time to think about our pet. I have always considered them part of the kid count and it was simply a matter of coercing Fido into the car. One of our dogs personally completed 5 cross country moves. The very definition of a salty dog!

In the beginning for us, most motels would allow pets in “pet only” rooms which often were pretty disgusting. There was a time where many base lodging facilities had pet accommodating rooms but I haven’t seen them lately. I sure hope that some still exist.

During one of our cross-country moves, we were chugging along and were quite fortunate to find motels and hotels that allowed our dog. On night 4 of our journey, we were in Texas and reserved a room at the base lodge. As we received our keys around midnight, the desk clerk asked, “Oh, you don’t have an animal, do you? We have a no pet policy.”

Everyone…back in the car.

Something I never stopped to consider was where do the animals go when we stop to eat? Everyone looks forward to that hour where we get out of the car, stretch our legs and catch a

breath of fresh air. What do you do with a pet?

Answer: You take turns walking him while the rest of the family stares at you through the restaurant window.

The struggle is real.

The few times we decided to leave the dog in the car, she did not react well. We made sure she was safe and comfy but like many animals, she would let us know when she was irritated. Occasionally, she has engaged in some very unsavory behavior while in the minivan alone. Occurrences that could never be discussed in polite company. She was definitely angry and she let us know it from both ends.  It was quite impressive for the short amount of time we left her. (I always try to pull the positive from a negative situation).

It is imperative that you do your homework before the moving van pulls away! While many military moves revolve around a family reunion or a famous American landmark, a pet owner’s route is often dictated by how many four-legged friends they keep company with.

Sigh. My life is not my own.

I was so excited when a friend in the unit told me that Holiday Inn Express hotels are pet friendly. (This is not an ad- just advice).  They charge a small fee per animal and it is simply added on to your total bill. Sure enough we made reservations from Southern California to Washington, D.C. and had no trouble. It really was quite remarkable to be able to simply walk the dog into the room with us.  We were shocked to see however, that our dog has mad attitude. While visiting New Mexico we worked our pet friendly hotel in with a sightseeing expedition to the Carlsbad Caverns (For many years I actually thought they were in Carlsbad, California…). We toured the caverns for several hours only to return with concerned staff politely letting us know that man’s best friend had continuously barked the entire day. I was mortified. BUT, thank goodness we were at a hotel with likeminded people!

A few tips prior to embark:

1.  Complete all of your vet visits to include vaccinations PRIOR to leaving your current base.

2. Purchase a 6 month supply of flea/tick and heartworm meds from the base vet PRIOR to leaving your current duty station. Pet meds are lost in the sauce during a pack out so it’s best to keep them close at hand.

3. Get your pet micro-chipped as soon as possible (it is a base regulation if you plan on taking military quarters) and always hand carry your pet’s records. It makes pet registration so much easier when you are attempting to move into military housing or register at pet lodging. Pet registration is one of many required steps when moving onto base. Also check into breed restrictions for the base you are relocating to. Military housing may not even be a consideration for you.

3. Pack your pet their own suitcase. To include food, extra leashes, collars, toys, food and water dishes. Don’t forget the snacks and perhaps a fancy outfit. You never know.

4. If you plan on living in temporary lodging while waiting for a rental or base house, consider kenneling your dog in a “pack” kennel. The dogs run in a pack on parcels of land. We have used them on both coasts. Very cool! There are amazing pet hotels, for cats, dogs and other species with AC, outdoor play time and swimming pools as well! They ALL require documentation of up-to-date vaccinations and medications. No exceptions!

5.  Keep in mind your pet is NOT a dependent. You cannot submit receipts for any pet costs that I am aware of to include travel, lodging and kenneling.

6. Never sneak your animal into a hotel or base lodge knowing it is against the rules. Some people have severe allergies and will possibly react to your pet long after you have checked out. The staff often recognize military families and you embarrass us all when your behavior is less than stellar! (I’m older than you, I can say that!)

If you simply cannot move both family and pet together consider looking into a pet relocation service. They will gladly guide you on how to meet up with your pet on the other side of your PCS. You can also find installation guidelines both at the base veterinary office and online.

While moving with pets can be difficult, I encourage you to work it into your PCS plans and enjoy the ensuing adventure.

Semper Fido!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

FREE VITA TAX PREP ON BASE

Yep, you heard that right!

At this very moment there are uniformed warrior-gods not only ready to engage the enemy, but prepare your taxes (which can be quite the battle too).

Many U.S. military installations across our great nation and around the world are collaborating with the IRS to offer free, in-person tax preparation services for active duty members, retirees and dependents. Through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or VITA, our active duty and their families have one less thing to worry about in a lifestyle that can often times be filled with uncertainty.

According to Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, the Executive Director of the Armed Forces Tax Council, “Taxes for military members are complicated, noting frequent moves, deployments and the fact that tax laws change every year. The VITA preparers receive extensive training through the Defense Department and the IRS on the situations faced in the military community, such as combat zone tax benefits, extensions to file and pay, and special rules for the earned income tax credit.”

Have I had my taxes prepared by VITA? You bet your sweet return I have! (Full disclosure: a few years back I went to the dark side and had my taxes prepared by a national chain. In fact, I paid the fees to have 4 years of VITA returns checked. Not a single mistake was found. Very impressive to say the least.)

Gather your tax information for the past year (and an up-to-date power of attorney if your spouse is deployed) and head on over to your local VITA offices. Make sure to bring along your bank information that include routing numbers, as well as original social security cards of all dependent family members.

You will find professional, uniformed personnel under the guidance of an expert overseer that are able to file both federal and state returns. The entire process is free, all you have to do is make that appointment!

The deadline to file this year is April 17 with military members serving outside the United States receiving an automatic two-month extension.

VITA is a wonderful way our country gives back to our service members and their families who sacrifice so much.

So get going!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Irish Soda Bread

You will never find a group of individuals quite as diverse as the United States military. So celebrate it!

Every year, wherever we are stationed, I share my cultural upbringing by hosting a St. Patrick’s Day meal. Whether potluck at the unit spaces or in our home on base, it’s always a joy to bring people together to experience a foreign tradition.

With that, I thought I would share my Irish Soda Bread recipe with you. Enjoy!
Irish Soda Bread
4-41/2 cups all purpose flour
1-4 Tbsp sugar (depending on your desired level of sweetness)
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp cold butter
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk
1 XL egg
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk lightly. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry cutter or fork. You want the butter to be pea-sized. Whisk lightly.
3. In a liquid measuring cup measure out the buttermilk and add the egg. Lightly beat together and set aside.
4. With your hand, make a small well in the center of the dry mixture. Slowly begin pouring the egg/buttermilk into the well while mixing the mixture with your free hand. You may use a wooden spoon if preferred. It will be very sticky.
5. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and begin kneading while shaping into a loaf. Score the top with a sharp knife creating an X. This allows the heat to reach the center of the loaf.
6. Bake on your parchment covered cookie sheet for 40-55 minutes. After 30 minutes test doneness with a sharp knife directly in the center of the loaf. If it comes out clean the bread is done.
7. Serve warm or room temperature with fresh butter.
Notes: I made 3 loaves last night and one this morning. Less sugar creates a more rustic flavor while more sugar creates almost a dessert like bread. Sometimes I add raisins (1 cup), currants (1 cup) or caraway seeds (2 tsp). These must be added during the wet mix process.
When baking for a large unit event, I will cook up to two days prior and wrap tightly with multiple layers of plastic wrap. You can also bake and freeze for up to two months in advance!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Welcome Home Commitment

The year: 2005

The place: El Centro, California

The temperature: a balmy 115 degrees

If you have never heard of El Centro, think the desert scene in Star Wars, Return of the Jedi (it was filmed there) – and we’re talking surface-of-the-sun hot. We were on the tail end of our 5th cross-country Permanent Change of Station (PCS) from Virginia to California with our (then) 5 children and one dog. A proper Saharan caravan on its last leg.

It was then that our minivan tires began to give. I remember looking behind from the front-seat of our car with concern, and seeing five red-faced children staring nervously back. They were dripping with sweat in our vehicle-turned-sauna. Our panting dog sat atop a stack of suitcases, like some busted-up driveway lion, guarding nothing in particular. We had turned off the air conditioner, as it was serving no purpose other than raising our engine temperature. Outside, it was simply too hot, and the system could not keep up.

But suddenly, on the horizon – an oasis! Wait a minute…is it a mirage? No! A Walmart Super Center!

To us wayward travelers, it was as if we had stumbled upon the Fountain of Youth. We limped into the auto bay, handed over the keys and apologized to the mechanic for the yet-to-be identified smell of the interior. I considered pulling the food off the dash board and then thought hmmm – warm lunch for later. I walked away not caring if I ever got back into the van again.

As I watched my children frolicking in the freezer section, I pondered our current situation. We had prepared for the move and traveled so far only to be caught off guard. Again. We were stuck in the moment, with a most unlikely sanctuary suddenly appearing.

For many Veterans, transition may be like a desert experience. After years of forward progress, professional success and reliable constants, they come to a sudden stop where there appears to be no help in sight.  An abrupt halt they thought they were prepared for but perhaps were not.

Our military and their families acknowledge there are certain constants in this lifestyle of choice. We know a deployment is always in our near future, as well as moves, multiple school changes for our children, and an ‘interesting’ housing choice at each station. Let’s not forget the most important constant of all: separation and retirement. You might be Captain America right now, but at some point, the military is going to break up with you. It is a reality.

While meeting sudden, emergency needs like ours in 2005, Walmart also recognizes the long-lasting constants. They recognize that life can get hard, and they recognize the connection between their company and Veteran hiring needs.

In 2013 the Veterans Welcome Home Commitment was started in an effort to identify and hire Veterans. Leaving the military can be one of the most difficult transitions a Veteran will face, and Walmart guarantees a job for all eligible, honorably discharged U.S. Veterans separated from active duty since Memorial Day of 2013. The company has a goal of hiring 250,000 Veterans by the end of 2020 and have already reached over 75% of that goal.

According to the Department of Defense, more than 1,300 new Veterans and their family members return to civilian life every day. 1,300! The transition from active duty to civilian life can be difficult at times, and for some, debilitating. Walmart is attempting to bridge the gap understanding the elite nature and capabilities of our Veterans and their spouses. They recognize the honorably discharged Veteran is a highly-trained, expertly skilled leader with a desire to achieve, long after separation from the military.  The company has recognized the need and recently announced that it has hired more than 194,000 Veterans and promoted more than 28,000 to positions of greater responsibility nationwide since 2013.

But wait…there’s more…Walmart is not done yet.

In a first-of-its-kind event, Walmart co-sponsored Veteran EDGE, a three-day conference and training summit dedicated to Veteran-owned businesses.  The corporation is passionate in their desire to assist Veterans and their spouses in search of meaningful careers not just through their hiring programs but also through entrepreneurial efforts. An all-in for Veterans not simply to find them a job but to assist them throughout their entire career journey.

Through a partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, Veteran EDGE was held February 16-18 in Austin, Texas.  The conference targeted Veteran and military spouse small business owners from across the country by providing opportunities for networking and the sharing of business ideas.

More than 5 million Americans are employed by the more than 2.5 million Veteran owned businesses in the U.S. generating more than 1.1 trillion in sales annually. Needless to say, Veteran owned businesses play a vital role in our nation’s economy.

And I should point out that fewer than 1% of our country’s citizens currently serve in the armed forces.

For Veterans and their families, transition can be a very unstable and constantly shifting environment. But, Walmart recognizes the value in supporting and hiring this superior group as employees and potential leaders of their corporation. And just as they worked to get us back on the road to our new duty station, so Walmart works to get our Veterans on their way to a bright future.

Consider the Veterans Welcome Home Commitment an anchor and a new constant in your time of transition.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

To learn more about Walmart’s Veterans Welcome Home Commitment and overall support to veterans, service members and their families, visit www.walmartcareerwithamission.com

To learn more about the first-of-its-kind Veteran EDGE event, visit https://ivmf.syracuse.edu/veteranedge/

Galentine’s Day

You’ve heard about it, you’ve read about it and now you are personally experiencing it.

Another holiday alone.

I guess it would be ok if it were Groundhog Day (did he see his shadow?) or Bastille Day (bonjour and ooh la la!) but it’s Valentine’s Day. A day representing love, romance and companionship. The problem is, your spouse is deployed and you’re not feeling loved or romantic – just irritation and a bit of remorse for shoving down one too many chocolate hearts.

If I stop and think about it I (like many milspouses), have spent half of my adult Valentine’s Days with my husband, and half with my military sisters. But while it was not ideal, you can be sure we women made the most of it – and so should you!

Military spouses are sharp cookies, a lot of fun to be around and very creative – especially when our hands are forced.

So, if you are finding yourself a-lone, a-gain, gather your unit spouses and plan something! Host a “Whine and Cheese” at your home and encourage everyone to bring their wedding albums. They are beautiful to look at, make people feel good and when old enough are hysterical to flip through. Or, if it’s not just married but fiancés and girlfriends, have everyone bring their favorite couple’s picture. Request that they be brought framed and make them the focal point of your table.

I do recall once where Valentine’s Day fell right in the middle of the deployment cycle. We had one exceptionally bold wife who brought not one, not two, but all three of her wedding albums from her three marriages to include both Officer and Enlisted. Totally next level. (Now see- that is a twist in entertaining that NO ONE sees coming. If you’re the hostess in a situation like that, you just push through and be polite – but you already knew that.)

If you are stationed in a city that has a vibrant nightlife, then make reservations at the hottest restaurant, have everyone pay their own way and host a classy ladies’ “Pin Up” night out.

Trust me your group will make quite the impression.

Host a flight suit formal or a diamonds and denim night. A few weeks beforehand have the Commanding Officers Spouse schedule a live FaceTime feed where the forward deployed are able to give a quick shout out to their spouses. You will need to coordinate the attendees and their active duty spouses. We don’t want anyone to be left out.  Never a dry eye in the room when this is done!

The possibilities for your alternative Galentine’s Day are endless. The worst thing you can do is sit at home alone lamenting your current situation so get up and do something about it! Rally your gal pals and host an epic event.

Remember when the spouses and families are content at home, our active duty can focus on the mission at hand. Even if it means throwing a party.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

PACK IT UP, PACK IT IN – LET ME BEGIN

Thank you, House of Pain, for those sweet lyrics – so inappropriately appropriate.

Your spouse just walked in the door and announced orders have been cut and you are moving yet again. No problem… You’ve done this so many times that it is now second nature, right?

Maybe.

There are lots of different ways to approach the pack-out looming overhead and they all depend on the season of life you are currently in. With so many scenarios, let’s discuss a few.

  • Your spouse is deployed and will arrive home  the same week as the pack out. You both hope it won’t be the same day.
  • Your baby is due a month before the truck arrives and you just don’t have time to sort your belongings.
  • Maybe your oldest is graduating from high school.  College, not moving, is on your mind. Better yet, you are graduating from college, a milestone that far outweighs the burden that can often times be a household move.
  • Or, maybe you just don’t want to prep at all.  The packers will pack, the loaders will load, the movers will move and you will figure it out on the other end.

(I have done them all and the last example is a family favorite with interesting consequences on the tail end.)

Ask any military spouse and they will gladly regale you with sick tales of moves gone by. It is with disturbing pride and bold saltiness that we retell the times where the packers packed up the trash from the McDonald’s lunch we so graciously bought them, leftover fries and all. Or during one move, a neighbor, upon answering the door, came face to face with a disturbing situation. There before her stood a man, probably in his 60’s, proudly sporting a Naval Academy Lacrosse Team t-shirt with her husband’s name on the back. Not knowing what else to do, she dropped a few classmate’s names in the hopes that perhaps they had played with the same people.

It was worth a try.

There are so many things to think about during the pack out and it goes to PCS 5.0 when small children are part of the mix. Seriously, consider setting up your move during school hours, or swap with a neighbor for childcare needs. You must remain focused on the way your belongings are packed up, how they are numbered and inventoried, and what makes it to the truck and what does not.

Did you catch that?

Yes, sadly sometimes our precious belongings do not make it all the way to the truck. You may end up on the other side of your move minus a few items. Be smart about what you choose to pack up and what you choose to hand carry in your vehicles. Human temptation is great and sometimes people rationalize their theft with the notion that as military-on-the-move, we won’t catch the hit and we will be reimbursed for the loss. This is partially true. We do get reimbursed, but it requires an arduous claim process where we rarely see the full replacement value.

As a military family, you also want to be aware of your household weight limit. You are held to a weight limit according to rank NOT family size. I speak from experience. The U.S. government does not care how many kids, cars, toys or books you have. The higher the rank you are, the harder they may laugh at your claim for exemptions because “you should know better.”  It’s all on you and you are expected to know the rules. You do have the option to notate professional gear and the packing team should be familiar with the process. Professional gear notation allows both you and your active duty spouse to receive extra weight allowances that are on top of your current household weight allowances. The active duty allowance is far higher than the spouses. I will not post any numbers here because they change often and I do not want to mislead you. Don’t cause undue burden for yourself or your family by going over your weight limits. If you do, you will be charged per pound and bound to the weight regulations of the state you are entering.

Check with TMO (Transportation Management Office) and your move counselor. Do your homework!

As the Military Wife that Entertains, I occasionally find myself in a belongings pickle with my great entertaining finds. While I am able to claim some items as “pro gear,” most often my entertaining cache is my problem. I encourage you to be very selective as to what you accumulate over your years “in” as a military family. Leave grandma’s china and rocking chair in your home state with a relative. This will create room for that amazing German wardrobe find and also alleviate undue stress on your family heirlooms.

 If you are moving this summer, now is the time to start a slow inventory of needs, wants and giveaways. The base thrift shop will gladly accept your offerings and in return give you a tax receipt.

Proper planning will allow you to execute a near flawless move.  

If you prepare well enough ahead, perhaps you will avoid opening a box labeled ‘baby’s room’ and find a used diaper changed during the last pack-out. Accurate and horrifying all at once.

Feel free to top that….

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

WHERE’S MY JAM AT?

Upon arriving to work one cold, December morning, a young Marine took stock of her workplace associates’ cubicles and noticed something terribly awry…

On every desktop, as far as the eye could see, there was a small jar of Christmas Jam neatly placed, as if to say, “good morning, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!” What was this sweet concoction? Was it left the night before by some magical military elf with a CAC card? Perhaps Santa flew down on his F-18 and left an early holiday treat?

As a veteran Marine, the Sergeant had seen this before, but upon looking down was perplexed and possibly  hurt to see that her desk had been passed by. What happened? Was there a run on Christmas Jam this year? Had she been mistakenly placed on the unit naughty list? Absolutely not! This servicewoman had made sure she was always on the nice list!

So, with holiday boldness, and a jam mission in mind – the Marine stood, straightened her uniform and walked down the hallway towards my husband’s office. The hallways in all units are lined with photos of the current leadership (my children swear that as they walk by Dad’s photo his eyes follow you. I believe it but I also digress).

In a very Dickensian way she appeared, much like Bob Cratchit with his query for an early departure on Christmas Eve. Taking a breath and with slight hesitation, she knocked on Ebenezer’s –  I mean my husband’s – door and inquired,

 “Sir, where’s my jam at?”

Before you cast judgement on what may appear to be a very Millennial moment, allow me to explain the situation a bit further. It is tradition for anyone in a position of leadership no matter the rank – whether from shop, group, company or battalion – to hand out a holiday gift of some sort. Nothing extravagant, and certainly not a mandatory thing, but quite rewarding for all involved. Cookies, candy or cake – a token of appreciation for a job well done. The worst thing when doing this however, is to mistakenly forget someone, anyone! We consider each and every person in the unit both civilian and active duty as family. To forget even one person hurts! And that Christmas, we forgot someone.

In short time, I was out grabbing a few more jars of Christmas Jam. I delivered them to the office beribboned and labeled in an attempt to make things right.

The holidays, for both civilian and military, offer a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge your staff or coworkers. A brief moment to build stronger relationship bonds with your brothers and sisters in arms. So please, don’t forget the jam.

                     “No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused.”

                     -Charles Dickens

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

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