FORCE PROTECTION, BOO REJECTION

I live on a military installation. Have I mentioned that before? I believe I have.

For years, I have witnessed the delightful Halloween tradition of booing in military housing. My kids love it and harass me from the first day of October on as to when I think we might get booed ourselves. 

Booing consists of placing (under the cloak of darkness) a fun treat on a neighbor’s porch. There is always a note with instructions on how to pay the fun forward. In turn, neighbors post on the neighborhood Facebook page their surprises as well as a thank-you or two. Newly PCS’d families get to know the current residents and a natural neighborhood bond begins to form.

While exciting and fun, booing has its downside. One year it may be my children, frozen with fear, refusing to get out of the car as we approach our targeted house. Because it is late, I’m in pajamas (my Mother says that is pedestrian) and I’m forced to run onto a neighbor’s porch so as not to ruin the moment. The next year, it’s me driving away too quickly thinking I have all the children but in fact I do not. Before you judge, imagine seven children jumping into a car screaming GO! GO! GO! It all gets very confusing. I quickly glance in my rearview mirror and see child #5 frantically running after the car. In an instant she is gone having flipped over a hedge hidden in the October darkness. 

Childhood memories my children.  You are welcome.

Where are the MPs when all this is going on? I ask myself that very same question every single year.

With each boo after-action and a newly presented game plan, I convince myself and the children it will be different, but it never is. I’m a glutton for punishment and the shattered dreams that only a made up Hallmark holiday can bring.  

There was however, one year that still remains our most memorable for the most unlikely of reasons.

The month of September was coming to a close and the boo harassment package, compliments of my children had begun. We chose our families, mapped out our game plan and went shopping. Some years we choose new families whose children might appreciate feeling welcomed after yet another military move; but this particular year, we chose the best friends of two of my children. Because of this, I went a little overboard. I purchased above and beyond what I should have and was happy to do it. Candy, toys, a small piece of clothing…all shoved into the boo buckets.

Proud was an understatement. Dressed in black, I piled six ninja children into my  15 passenger van and began the slow creep through housing. My kids were phenomenal. No crying, no falling, no freezing in fear, no forgetting part of the team. 

Mission accomplished.

The next morning I went over to one of the homes and let the mom know it was our family that had booed them. We were (and still are) good friends and in a prideful moment I wanted to hear how truly awesome her family thought our boo bucket was.

“Oh, it was you?” she asked with eyes downcast.

“Yes! What did you think?”

“Well,” She began sheepishly. “My husband refused to allow the children to have it and he threw it all away.”

“What? Why?”

“Anthrax.”

Wait. What? Wait.

“Anthrax?”

I live on a military installation. Have I mentioned that before? I think I have.

Level intensity. High. All day, every day.

I walked away and while disappointed, understood the mindset of her husband. What I know to be true is that every man and woman that wears the uniform in this great country of ours is a shepherd at heart. They are always watching, always observing, always ready to protect.  In that moment, I realized that our military professionals cannot separate who they are moment to moment. A protection mentality is at the very core of their being.

Having never donned the uniform, I cannot fully appreciate nor understand why anthrax contaminated candy immediately came to my neighbor’s mind. I will say with confidence though, as an American citizen with Marines as neighbors, I will sleep soundly this Halloween night.

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

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

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!

 

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