MilSpouse Military Life

Military Spouse PCSing with Pets – OCONUS (United Kingdom) Edition

A couple of months ago, and completely out of the “wild blue yonder”, my husband learned he’d be PCSing to the United Kingdon. After we got over the initial shock (and he realized it was an accompanied PCS and not a deployment), and our elation simmered to bubbling excitement, it was time for (one of) the not-so-fun parts of PCSing – figuring out the details.

As my husband and I discussed what items should go in which shipment (There are three shipments – 1. Household goods (HHG) – the main shipment of items, 2. Unaccompanied baggage (an express shipment of essentials) and 3. Temporary storage), I quickly made it clear that there was one item I absolutely refused to leave behind – my dog (I would say “our dog”, but my husband insists he’s mine alone).

Look at that face! Isn’t he the cutest?

This Yorkie/Pom came into my life at younger than ten weeks old – before my husband and I started dating, and shortly after a split from…someone who was merely making room for my husband, quite honestly. Suffice it to say, I’ve had him (the dog, that is) for a very long time.

My husband and I don’t have any children – yet. So he’s my psuedo-child (the dog, not my husband). He’s a tiny little thing, with a huge personality. Kind of like…well, me.

On to the logistics.

Usually, transporting pets is super simple. You pay a fee and carry your pet on as excess baggage. As I researched United Kingdom specific travel, though, I quickly realized that the UK imposes a strict ban against pets traveling in-cabin and there are rare exceptions. There was no doubt about it – my pet would have to travel as cargo. If this wasn’t devastating enough, I also learned that the paperwork process and actual logistics could quite possibly be incredibly complex.

There are two primary options for shipping pets as cargo – 1. Hire a company or 2. DIY.

If you want to put everything in someone else’s hands, check out a pet shipper through IPATA. These services usually run about $3,000 or more, but is all-inclusive and can alleviate a lot of stress.

If you want to save money, as we did, and DIY, join one of the following Facebook groups:

As you peruse these groups, you’ll find an assortment of suggestions regarding the best DIY method. Some people fly into other parts of Europe, rent a vehicle and drive into the UK to avoid paying certain costs. We elected to transport our pet via a U.S. airline – American Airlines.

American Airlines offers 50 percent (50 %) off of transport services for military families. Email them at LiveAnimals.cargo@aa.com to get started. They will send you both flight and cost information. Note, however, that travel can only be confirmed within ten (10) days of travel date, and that there are temperature and kennel size restrictions. Other people have used United and British Airways.

Also note that a pet broker is mandatory in the United Kingdom. The broker will usher your pet through customs processing (which can take 3-8 hours) upon arrival in the country. Some airlines, like British Airways, include a pet broker in the price of transport. If it isn’t included, it will be a separate fee. We’ll be using PBS International (Email info@pbspettravel.co.uk), but there are tons of reputable companies out there.

In addition to the tips above, it’s also highly recommended that you apply for Transfer of Residency (ToR) relief. It was a super easy process.

To expedite your ToR relief application, mail it to the HRMC (the email address is on the form) with the subject line “URGENT – Live Animal ToR,” and make sure to include all required documentation (a copy of your PCS orders, a bill with your current address, etc.). On the form, for your UK address, use your APO mailbox address or the base address, if you do not yet know where you will be living. Note that completing the ToR application does NOT affect your residency as a US citizen, but it does help you avoid paying VAT tax on your pet. If approved, they will provide you with a ToR number that you will in turn share with your pet broker.

The military doesn’t reimburse for pet expenses, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Some groups recognize how devastating it can be when military families are forced to leave pets behind and actively work to keep military families, including pets, together.

SPCA International’s Operation Military Pets is one of those groups. They reimburse military families a portion of the expenses associated with the actual transport of the pet. The following is from their Website:

The Crisis: When military families are ordered to a new base in the U.S. or around the world, moving bills pile up. The military pays for many moving costs, but they don’t help our military families relocate the family pet. The cost for pet transportation can be hundreds or even thousands of dollars. All over the United States shelters near military bases report high surrender rates when military families can’t afford to relocate their dog or cat. Military families are being torn apart.

Our Mission: To keep military families together by providing financial assistance for pet relocation costs. All branches of the military can qualify for grants. Whether being relocated within the United States or anywhere in the world, SPCA International’s Operation Military Pets is here to keep pets with the ones they love.

What an awesome mission! And they have great follow-through. As an example, I estimate my DIY pet shipping total to be at about $1,000. SPCA has agreed to reimburse me half of that. Score! Even better? The reimbursement will come in the form of a direct deposit to my PayPal account. Score x 2!

Make sure to keep an eye on when applications open, as they are only accepted during certain periods. If you miss SPCA’s application period and are pressed for time, check out AE Pets Foundation (Email info@aepetsfoundation.org). There may also be other companies out there that award similar grants. Be forewarned, though, you probably can’t receive and combine multiple grants.

While that’s it for now, of course this article doesn’t even begin to touch on the health check ups and shots (rabies is super important) your pet has to undergo, or the paperwork you have to complete (make sure you use either the military base veterinarian or a USDA certified vet, especially for the health certificate). That’s a post for another day (or, you can just click here).

Hopefully, though, the information provided here is enough to get you started. Happy PCSing (is that even a thing?) Cheerio!

Milspouse on a Mission: Beauty versus the Beast

“It’s all connected. Your gifts. Your circumstances. Your purpose. Your journey. Your destiny. It’s molding you. Embrace it.” Author Unknown

Krishanna R. Coleman-LeSane, also known as Mrs. Spotsylvania 2019, wears a lot of hats – or, to be more accurate, tiaras. Currently, she’s a manager, director, choreographer, sister, wife and daughter. She is a woman who has sought to establish her own identity, all while supporting her husband and standing amongst the silent ranks of “military wife”. This Milspouse on a Mission is more than a milspouse, though, because instead of remaining silent, she has used the platform afforded by her various titles to bridge the gap and break the stigma typically associated with being a military “dependent”.

We all know the story of Beauty and the Beast. Much like Disney’s version of Belle, there’s so much more to Coleman-LeSane than meets the eye. In this particular story, however, the beauty queen, and milspouse of more than five years, may not have quite fallen in love with the beast that is the military and the public’s perception of military spouses, but she has conquered it – with style, grace, and more than a little grit.

“I stopped asking myself ‘why me?’ and instead switched the rhetoric to ‘why not me?’ I read a powerful statement that resonated with me. It said ‘Stop speaking negatively about yourself or your life, even as a joke. Your spirit does not know the difference.’ I realized that I had spent countless hours, regardless of the accolades I had acquired, speaking negativity into my life. No one was more critical of me or my accomplishments, than me. I realized there was a calling on my life and I would not be able to successfully answer the call if I was tuning it out with negative self talk or self doubt. So, I found the courage to push past it all and go forth towards fulfilling my destiny.”

Instead of allowing work to become an issue, she found a unique route to make her career mobile. As an office manager, Director of Membership for Alpha Lambda Psi Military Spouses Sorority, Incorporated and “pageant queen” Mrs. Coleman-LeSane’s influence isn’t limited to a particular geographical area. Neither is her community service.

That doesn’t mean military life has been without its challenges. “Some challenges I have faced in pursuit of my goals are the ever changing demands and uncertainties of being a milspouse. Questions such as ‘Where will we be? Where is my husband’s next assignment? Is he due for another deployment?'”

And then, of course, there’s the “mom guilt” she experiences as she endeavors to maintain her own identity. “Am I dedicating enough time to my daughter (7) and my son (1)?” she asks.

But the skills Mrs. Coleman-LeSane has found necessary to excel as a pageant queen, have also helped her address these challenges head on. “A pageant queen is a leader and a role model. She is poised, articulate and gracious. She understands that the decisions she makes and how she carries herself publicly directly impacts those around her.” With that understanding, and with the knowledge that she is serving as an example – not only for her children, but also for the community at large – comes peace.

She engages in a lot of prayer and regularly evaluates her time management skills. “I utilize a journal and agenda that help me maximize my time. I prioritize things by due dates and necessity.”

For other military spouses hoping to connect to their dreams, Coleman-LeSane shares the following quote, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” “I would advise milspouses that the first step to achieving “impossible dreams” is believing that you can achieve the impossible,” she continues. “Set a goal. Make a plan and follow through with it. Be kind to yourself and dismiss any and all things that seek to deter you from achieving your goals…Be patient. Remain prayerful and know that when your calling isn’t basic, your battles won’t be either. Stay the course.”

Want to learn more about work/life balance or how to make your own foray into the pageantry world? Connect with Mrs. Spotsylvania via her Facebook page..

Want to be featured as More Than a Milspouse? Contact us here.

The Introvert’s Guide to Finding Your Tribe

Making friends at each of your spouse’s new duty stations is already inherently difficult. How can you possibly hope to find your tribe of military spouse friends, when you’re an introvert? The answer, my friends, is quite simple. Just wait to be adopted by an extrovert!

But seriously, for many introverts, the prospect of becoming a military spouse is a daunting thought, and not necessarily for the reasons you might think. Each inevitable PCS/move has an added complication (besides the whole packing up your life every 2-3 years thing). The added complication is that with each move you must make an entirely new group of friends (or suffer in silence when you’re partner is absent and you’re craving adult company).

While I’m a self-described ambivert (meaning that I exhibit traits of both extroverts and introverts) I came across a post, written by Facebooker Audrey McCollum, and labeled “Understanding Introverts (Part 1), that – almost – perfectly described me. Here’s her list. Do any of these resonate with you?

Introverts = Do not care for clingy people; clinginess from a child is about as much as they can take 

Introverts = Enjoy being alone

Introverts = Mean no harm in being around a group of people and not saying a word 

Introverts = Don’t often like to be around large crowds (if they don’t have to be).

Introverts = Will stay at home and watch reruns, alone, with no care in the world

Introverts = When sleepy, they get very quiet, extremely irritable and/or act really silly 

Introverts = Don’t care to go out much, but will, at times 

Introverts = Don’t really care about a lot of things they can’t change; they’re more like “Aw, ok” [as they pull the covers back over their head and snuggle deeper into their bed sheets].

I’ll also add that sometimes, for introverts, the thought of mingling with others can be just plain anxiety-inducing.

If the shoe fits, you just may be an introvert. Claim your self-diagnosis with pride. Then, figure out how to conquer it – at least long enough to make a few friends who will understand your quirks and who may just become framily.

The Introvert’s Guide to Finding Your MilTribe

    First, define what “tribe” means to you? For me, a “tribe” doesn’t conjure up images of a huge group a people. Rather, it makes me think of a small, select group of people that I identify with in some way, want to support, genuinely enjoy being around and can see myself engaging with for years to come (or at least wanting to). Not to invoke a cliche here, but I’m an advocate for quality over quantity any day.
    Unfortunately, making new friends often necessitates that introverts engage in, horror of horrors, dreaded networking! Actually, when you’re properly armed, networking doesn’t have be as frightening (or tiring) as it seems.
    • Scour local publications, social media groups (especially those geared toward military spouses in your area), MeetUp groups, and your base’s event calendar to see what events are coming up.
    • After you’ve identified an event to attend, you’ll need to figure out where your anxiety/fear/trepidation stems from (if the thought of attending an event inspires those types of feelings in you). Understanding why you feel the way you do, then addressing that feeling in some way, can work wonders. Are you socially exhausted? Physically tired? Prepare to give yourself a mental push/pep talk.
    • Start prepping early.
      • Get plenty of rest the day before and enjoy a few moments of absolute solitude, if you can snag them.
      • Think about your goals/mission. What do you hope to gain from attending the event? Are you information gathering? Do you hope to make possible new friends? Make career connections? Just spend a couple of hours outside of your home?
      • Prepare at least five (5) questions to serve as conversation starters. Rotate your questions as you float from group to group.
      • Eat beforehand, even if refreshments will be served at the event. There’s nothing like being “hangry” and having to interact with other people. Take the edge off of your hunger first.
      • Have business cards? Make sure you take a few with you.
      • Commit to staying at the event for a certain amount of time – at least 45 minutes. Challenge yourself to stick to that timeframe, no matter how uncomfortable you feel. Your adoptive extrovert could be a conversation away.
      • Blast your favorite music or audio book on the drive/ride to the venue. Psyche yourself up with sound.
    Okay, so you may not have an event coming up, but you are trying to link up with new people. What’s the best way to tackle that?
    • Get up, get out and do something. Is there something you want to do? A castle you want to see or a restaurant you want to try? Go it alone and be your own company. You don’t have to wait for someone else and, if you allow yourself to genuinely have a good time, a new friend might approach you. If they don’t – you still had a good time and tried that new place.
    • Find opportunities to make friends as you run your daily errands. At the grocery store/commissary? As you peruse the aisles, give a stranger a random compliment. A quick “I love your shoes/hair/etc,” (without thinking too much about what you’re doing before you say it) has actually enabled me to meet some interesting people. And while we may not have exchanged numbers or developed lasting friendships, it serves as great practice, can build confidence and is an easy way to make someone else feel good. Sometimes, that type of interaction is all you need to tide you over.
    • I’ve actually seen a few military spouses do this next one: Join a milspouse social media group (a local one), then virtually introduce yourself to the members. Let them know you’re looking for an opportunity to get out/there’s a new coffeeshop you’ve been wanting to try, and ask for company. You’d be surprised at how welcoming everyone is. You may have a coffee date/play date before you know it.
    • Finally, remember, you pick your tribe. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a friendship that seemed promising at first, but ultimately isn’t. Protect your energy and space.

There are so many ways to make friends, that this list just scratches the surface. What tips and tricks do you have for someone hoping to find their own tribe?

Let’s Get Fashionable

Happy Resurrection Sunday! First fashion post here. If you know me well, you know I love fashion. Practical fashion, that is. I love to mix and match thrifted pieces with discount finds to create an ensemble that *looks* luxe. Trust me, I spend very little money.

Oddly enough, despite my fashion obsession, I spend very little time actually putting what I wear together. I know every item in my closet and can put an outfit together in my head as soon as you tell me an event is coming up. In fact, having a mental catalogue of your closet and a few go-to staple pieces are the keys to success. When I do need something new, I also love Amazon and TJMaxx. They’re my buddies. (With that said, our upcoming move to England will definitely be a lot of fun, for various reasons, including the fashion opportunities.)

Anyway, for members of the Christian church,today is Resurrection Sunday – also known to many as Easter. A friend of my husband’s (and subsequently a friend of mine) is here in Nebraska visiting us before we head overseas. This particular friend actually officiated our wedding ceremony – both times (our private ceremony before my husband left for his first duty station and our ceremony before friends and family).

We started the day at the base chapel Protestant service,followed by a play at our adopted home church and rounded out with brunch. I wanted to be comfy, and cute, and “Easter” appropriate.

I think I succeeded. What say ye? What’s your favorite staple piece?

Dress $34.99 and cardigan $18 clearance: TJMaxx, Shoes $35 (used coupons): DSW, Shades: Anne Klein (old), Lipstick $5: Colourpop

Military Spouses’ Dining In – What is it, and How do I Prepare?

Cue music * Now Iiii…had the time of my life* — I had the time of my life a few nights ago, that is (and hopefully, “Time of My Life” is now stuck in your head as it is in mine). Where was this fun had, you might ask?

No, the good time wasn’t had at a sleepy resort in the Catskills and didn’t involve me being put in a corner. I’m referencing Offutt Air Force Base’s first annual Military Spouse’s Dining In, dubbed “Night at the Offys.” *Scroll down to play the video of our dance performance (the 55th Wing Chaplain Spouses).*

A “dining in” event is basically a huge dinner party, where each squadron (milspouses) chooses a movie and decorates their table based upon their selected movie theme. We all then dressed as characters from the movie.

Our movie of choice (obviously) was Oceans 8. I was 9 Ball (played by Rihanna in the movie).

The planning team went above and beyond for this one and gave us a most impressive rendition of the cast of Hunger Games.

There were some AMAZING tables, guys – Ghostbusters, Grease, SWOT, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter (wait until I post this photo of Voldemort, who also happens to be a friend), Snow White, CONEHEADS, The Great Gasby, the Navy spouses did Top Gun, and so on. It really demonstrated just how resourceful military spouses are. I’ll include some photos of the tables at the end of this post.

Decorations/Dress

Here’s your opportunity to go all out. Basically, follow your imagination wherever it takes you (to the extent reality allows for). Our movie was Oceans 8, with a focus on the heist at the Met Gala. So our table was full of jewelry, diamond and martini glasses and we emulated the ladies’ costumes the best we could.

The Army table went with Forest Gump. They went with various items recognizable from the movie and dressed as Forest at various stages. There was also a Lieutenant Dan, complete with wheel chair.

Another table – Grease – dressed as the Pink Ladies. Their table was old-fashioned Coca Cola, checkered table cloths and juke boxes.

The Coneheads wore…well cones on their heads and so on and so forth.

Everyone made a contribution to the grog. More on that directly below.

Grog

The grog is much like the grog offered at some active duty events. Start with an alcoholic base (there was also a non-alcoholic version for ladies like myself) and then add the nastiest food items you can think of. In keeping with our theme, we upturned martini glasses full of seltzer water and olives (because, chaplains wives). A table repressing the movie “Bad Moms” added hot dogs, hot dog water, spaghettios and Cheerios. You get the picture. Grossness.

The Rules

Rules vary and are generally silly and meant to advance the fun. Failure to abide by the rules means you get to drink from the grog.

Awards

Dinner was catered, by Hyvee in our case. It was followed by various awards – best table decorations (Snow White won ours), best costume, most spirit, etc.

Skits/Talent Show

We didn’t have a lot of people participate in this part, sadly. The head table did a dance, we presented our skit/dance (see below) and someone from the Wizard of Oz table sang a solo. Hopefully, more groups will participate next year, now that they know what to expect.

I was surprised more male spouses weren’t in attendance, but my hubby crashed the party to capture video of our skit (which he later posted to the chapel page) and to take this dashing couple’s photo.

Also, SO many compliments on this dress from Amazon! $13 bucks. Stole – also an amazon find AND it’s the same one I wore with my wedding dress. I look fancy, but I’m not. #thatsmystoryandimsticking with it.

Anyway, phenomenal group of women. We worked together as a team to pull our table decorations and Oceans 8 skit/dance number off. It’s funny how, even though I’m now miles away from MS and NE, AND A CHAPLAIN’S WIFE my dance and choreo skills still come in handy. Footage of our skit is below. The video is also available on the Offutt AFB Chapel Facebook page.

I will miss these ladies dearly. But, with the way of the military, and the small size of the Chaplain’s Corp., I’m sure we’ll see each other again!

This is for – England?!

As a non-mil life friend so eloquently put it recently, now I’ll REALLY have something to blog about. That’s right – More Than a Mrs. is taking its talents to the United Kingdom (prayerfully for at least the next two years)! More specifically, 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 we’re headed to England for our first overseas PCS.


While I’ve visited various parts of the U.K. over the years, living there will certainly be a novel (and very welcome) experience. I also expect it will present quite the change from Nebraska. Can you shout “Yes!” for change? Because I sure can. Particularly because this past winter has been absolutely horrid compared to last year’s inaugural winter and I can’t wait to leave the harsh climate behind (and neither can my skin).

When my husband first told me, it was via text and I was sitting in my office at work. Initially, I thought he was pulling my leg. When I realized he was serious, I sat at my desk for an hour or so, in a stunned, completely unproductive silence.

Since then, our days have been filled with a flurry of prep-activities (international licenses, check) and decision-making and, quite frankly, it’s been a tad overwhelming (what PCS isn’t – amirite?). However, it has been the BEST kind of overwhelming. I’ve YouTubed and read fellow Milspouse blogs to my heart’s content, hoping to glean some wisdom from the pieces of information I parceled together.

But, honestly, there has also been a downside to this experience. One, we know the way of the military and that things can change. And how, similar to when I first left Georgia for Nebraska, and the genuineness of the situation finally hit my friends and co-workers, I was astounded by some of the responses I received.

Upon leaving Georgia, so many people were happy for me, but one friend/co-worker (a paralegal and receptionist at the law firm I was senior attorney at, and had grown close to) in particular broke my heart. She’d been one of a few people to brave a “snow storm” to attend my bridal shower, then went completely off the reservation when I gave my official notice. Eventually, I was able to chalk her actions up to a combination of shock among other things. I’m feeling something similar now, which is hard when your community is small.

However, one monkey doesn’t stop the show, nor does it dampen our spirits! I’m incredibly grateful to God for the opportunity that has been placed before us, and am trusting in Him to provide us with all things! What an apt application of my all-time favorite Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11. Looking forward to prospering and continuing the ministry overseas!

Any tips you can share for an overseas PCS?

Any tips for living in England or about Mildenhall AFB?

Hit me with your best shot (resources)!

Btw, have you checked out our store yet? Visit www.etsy.com/shop/MoreThanAMrs now for some cool stuff. We’ll be going on hiatus for the move!

Living on Auto Pilot

Well, I made it to work this morning. On the other hand – I. Have. No. Earthly. Idea. How. I. Got. Here.

I have no clue. I can’t remember the hour-long drive. Not a bit of it until I made it downtown and was parking. So basically, I made it here but the grace of God and autopilot. I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I didn’t CONSCIOUSLY drive here. Lucky for me, my body and brain took over. Which leads to this question…

HOW OFTEN DO WE LIVE OUR LIVES ON AUTOPILOT?

That is –

How often do we find ourselves just living from one day to the next? Making ends meet? Making sure children are fed, beds are made, dinner is cooked, work is completed? But are we really living? No matter what you spend your days doing, you are serving a purpose. But are you being intentional about it? Are you making sure to keep yourself “fed” and satisfied while you do much for others?

The old adage is true – you can’t pour from an empty cup. Or rather, you can pour, but what comes out will be watery, tasteless, ineffective. We’ll be pouring out water instead of the wine God has given us the potential to manifest (if this sounds like a crazy analogy, read John 2:1-11).

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to pour out something a little more vigorous.

So, take care of you. Get off of autopilot and be a little more intentional about your choices and how you invest your time. And, if you’re still on autopilot, the good thing is that God in all of his infinite wisdom and grace will ensure that you reach your destination (relatively) unharmed.

Check out my favorite verse and His promise to do us no harm – Jeremiah 29:11. Things may not be easy, but the hardships we encounter on the journey serve only to strengthen us. So grateful He never gives us more than we can bear.

Milspouse on a Mission: From Introvert to Indisputable Boss

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From introvert to networking queen! Learn how one Milspouse mama, Tameka McGee, made the transition to independence.

Article by Tameka McGee, More Than a Mrs. Contributor

You could easily say that being a military spouse is a job in itself. Not only do we support our spouses but we also take on the challenge of supporting other military spouses and their spouses, in our community, as well.

It can be tough, I love it-but I knew I was more than that!

Hi, I’m Tameka McGee. I’ve been a military spouse for 11.5 yrs and 2 yrs ago I decided to start my own business and become more than just a Mrs.

Being a wife and mother wasn’t something that I envisioned for myself when I was mapping out what and who I wanted to be. I saw myself as a “Boss” living in a no children allowed penthouse. So when I stepped into those roles I wasn’t sure if I would be any good. Turns out, God knew more about what my heart wanted than I did.

Two boys later, lots of marital growth and a PCS overseas I was still completely in love with my life but something was missing. I didn’t want to say it out loud, because I knew what it would sound like to others, but being a wife and mom just wasn’t enough. I loved being those things, but I still wanted to be a “Boss”. A big part of who I am is serving others and being a stay-at- home mom made me feel like I was giving that up.

During the last year of our tour in England, I found a way to get back into the community by serving on my son’s elementary school’s PTO board as the President. The board was other mom’s just like me. We shared our struggles and our strengths and it was one of those moms who introduced me to Young Living.

I’d heard of essential oils before and even did some research because we’d recently started living a more natural, cleaner lifestyle but it never went past the research.

Soon though, I jumped on the oil train, looking for some sleep support. Cause you know babies don’t exactly like you to get real sleep. I never intended for them to change my life in the way they did.

Not only did Young Living give me and my family the tools to take control of our health and wellness, they also gave me the opportunity to get back to me-to the things I loved. I’m now able to help and serve others the way I want to and I’m able to work the way I want to, without feeling guilty because of the needs and sacrifices that come with being military spouse.

Network Marketing wasn’t something I’d ever considered before. I’m an introvert so I thought there’s no way this could be successful for me but I was wrong. I get to meet new people on a daily basis and connect with them in away that I didn’t think possible.

I know that network marketing gets a bad rap, but I think it’s because it’s misunderstood. For military spouses it allows us to support our husbands, add to our financial stability, raise our babies and become the “Boss” we always wanted to be our way.

It isn’t easy, but nothing worth having is.

Growing my own business from home never crossed my mind and I think it’s definitely something you should consider, if normal doesn’t work for you. When it gets hard “Rest, Don’t Quit”! That is an option you have when you are the “Boss”.

I’d love to chat with you. You can find me on Instagram at @tamekajmcgee or at mcgeefamily1024@yaho.com.

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Interested in learning more about how Tameka grabbed the reins to her life? Visit: yldist.com/tmcgee.

Curious about products? Visit: https://www.youngliving.com/vo/#/signup/new-start?.

Dealing with the stress? Tameka absolutely recommends StressAway and/or Valor for dealing with all things deployment and PCS moves.

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Would you like to be featured as More Than a Mrs. (or Mr.)? Learn more and/or submit a post here.

New Year, Same Story, Better Version

One of the first questions I ask spouses to be featured in our Milspouse on a Mission segment is “What’s your story?” In the “About” section of this Website, I briefly delve into my own story and the importance of developing your own narrative. Since we’ve now launched head first into a new year, dear readers, I now want to post that same question to you. What’s your story and what will your storyboard for 2019 look like?

storyboard
A storyboard is a panel or panels on which a sequence of sketches depict the significant changes of action and scene in a planned film, as for a movie, television show, or advertisement.

A couple of years ago, I participated in a leadership summit for young, female lawyers. One day, During a breakout session, we were tasked with coming up with our ”elevator pitch.” The term elevator pitch” may or may not be a familiar term to you. According to the ever-trusty Wikipedia:

An elevator pitch’, ‘elevator speech’, or ‘elevator statement’ is a short description of an idea, product or company that explains the concept in a way such that any listener can understand it in a short period of time (20 to 30 seconds). This description typically explains who the product/company is for, what it does, why it is needed, and how it will get done. Finally, when explaining an individual person, the description generally explains one’s skills and goals, and why they would be a productive and beneficial person to have on a team or within a company/project. An elevator pitch does not have to include all of these components, but it usually does at least explain what the idea, product, company, or person is and why it/they are valuable.

The name—elevator pitch—reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.

In sum, an elevator pitch is your story.

Interestingly enough, an elevator pitch isn’t only applicable to the business world – it also has an important application to your daily life.  As military spouses, we are afforded the rare opportunity to essentially rebrand ourselves with every permanent change of station (PCS). Each time you encounter someone new (and this will happen often), you’re selling them on the product that is you.

As we enter 2019, and what for many will be a new season, I find myself returning to this concept and rethinking my own narrative. What do I want others to know of me? What is my truth and how will I walk in it in such a way that it edifies my own life, the Lord and my husband? How can I take the best portions of who I am and share it with the world in a meaningful way.

Did you know you have the power to decide who you are? It’s as easy as substituting a positive descriptor for a negative one. No one else holds that power.

What pieces of you will you pack to take with you into 2019? What pieces will you leave behind? What will you add? And how will you (or have you) melded the pieces together to form your story? It’s something worth thinking about.

Missing You Before You’re Gone: Preparing for Deployment (Guest Post)

No matter how you try, or how many times you endure it, you can never truly prepare for a deployment. And indeed military spouses have to prepare. While your service member prepares to leave, you have to prepare for his/her absence – for getting kids ready alone, coming home to an empty house, managing the household and for serving as your spouse’s constant (albeit distant) support system. As one military spouse packs away Christmas decorations, she can’t help but think how different things will be next year – when her service member is deployed. 

Read on for the thoughts she so kindly shared with More than a Mrs. You just may identify with her.

The Government Shutdown and Your Small Business

The impact of the partial government shutdown has far-reaching effects that many are just realizing. In addition to lack of paychecks for federal workers, did you know your small business might be affected?

If you are a milspouse with your own business, know that the Small Business Association (SBA) cannot respond during the shutdown, meaning many small business won’t have access to small business loans to tide them over.

If you fall into this category, make sure to ask your bank about alternative options, including small business development centers, women’s business centers, veteran’s business centers, minority development centers and so forth. Even after business is resumed “as usual”, it could take months to recover.

Know your options!

Domestic Abuse and the Military

[Trigger warning: post is related to domestic violence, but as a chaplain’s wife, I must share. Someone might benefit from sharing their story or from reading the stories shared. You are strong. You are enough. You can walk away. 💕]

A freelance journalist (and military wife), Amanda Kippert, would like to talk to current or past military spouses who experienced domestic abuse (while the servicemember abuser was active duty) and who reported it to the military (the commander, MPs, FAP, etc.). She’d like to hear about whether or not military personnel were helpful in their response. If you’re that person or know someone who is and are willing to share your story with me for an investigative piece in a national pub (staying anonymous is OK), please email her at amandakippert@gmail.com.

(If you’re still with the abuser, please keep staying safe in mind and email Ms. Kippert from a device that the abuser does not have access to, such as a work or library computer on a secure/private/made up/friend’s email address.)

Monday Man-Crush, and a Praise Break

Greetings, readers! More than a Mrs. founder, Jennifer, here. This post will be a quick one (yes, I know the blog is overdue. Alas, life happens). As the title suggests, I’d like to convert a private victory into a public moment of praise.

If you’ve read the brief biography that accompanies the More Than a Mrs. blog, you may be aware that I’m a chaplain’s wife. Confession time and side bar: Being a chaplain’s wife does not always translate into indelible, unquestionable faith! Faith is a characteristic I continuously strive to improve, and likely will struggle with for the rest of my life, to be quite honest. Everyone has their moment and if they say otherwise, they’re either not being honest with themselves, or with you. *insert Kanye shrug*

Back to the subject at hand:

If you’ve read previous posts authored by me, you may have also been waiting on the edge of your seat for me to fulfill a promise I’ve made, at various times, to share more of my personal story (or, you may have forgotten, which is totally fine because, again, life happens). Either way, here’s the partial fulfillment of that promise.

Precisely one year ago, last week, I sold my home and moved from Atlanta, Georgia, where I had an office with a view and a “senior attorney” title, to work for the State of Nebraska…in a cubicle. I was doing good work, including assisting the governor, but the move came with a significant pay cut and an hour-long commute.

Everyone on base, it seems, knows about my commute and God has been faithful in sending tangible words of encouragement to me in the form of the angels that walk in the military community.

He also spoke to me directly in his silence, and told me to wait. God told me to wait because He always has something better in store for his faithful children. I did as he asked but, as my husband will attest, I did not do so without struggle.

Fast forward one year.

Since that time, I’ve seen a real promotion and title award above and beyond that which I had in Georgia, I’m due for an office in January, on the receiving end of “Senior Leadership” emails and, although I still have a long commute, I actually ENJOY what I’m doing.

To clarify: I’m not bragging. First, none of this came about as a result of my solo efforts. Cue “God’s Plan” (I’ve never heard the song, but the title seems appropriate).

Second, due to the nature of the military spouse life, I could literally be unemployed next year – for the next 3-5 years, or more.

That’s because milspouses often sacrifice their careers, dreams, etc., to be with the one they love and, NO we didn’t know what we were getting into. And YES, it is totally worth it. No, this isn’t a brag post. What this is, is public thank you and a reminder to myself regarding what God can do. It’s a reminder to watch Him move the next time I find myself in what seems to be an insurmountable situation, or, you know, complaining about my commute. I love my husband but today God is my #mcm.

Now, it’s your turn.

What has God done for you lately? Have you given him the praise He deserves? Take a moment where you are to make sure you’ve given Him His due. Then, feel free to share. I’d love to hear from you!

The Holidays are Coming, the Holidays are Coming: Reflections on Holidays Past (and Also, Gift Guides are Here)

The Holidays are Coming, the Holidays are Coming! Yes, this was said in my Paul Revere voice (i.e. “The British are coming, the British are coming,” in case you missed the reference). And no, “Holidays” doesn’t refer to some super cool new family PCSing to our neighborhood — although that would be an AWESOME last name to have, amirite? (*Briefly considers name change and how to get the husband on board*).

Anyway, this year flew by like a flash. Is it just me, or does time seem to speed up as we age? I had a similar conversation with a co-worker this week over lunch and arrived at the conclusion that time hasn’t developed a superpower, but rather that, as we age, we become more cognizant of time and just how precious it is. We watch classmates mature and start families (via social media, of course), our children grown up, our military spouses near retirement age, and we realize time simply slows down for no man.

I suppose retailers are picking up on this too, because they appear to be targeting customers earlier every year. I was briefly confused, for example, in October when the first Christmas commercial aired on our local television station. To be honest, the commercialism does rob the holidays of their magic. This can be especially true for military families who often face the very real reality of celebrating without one or both parents or in a foreign place. So, how do you bring back the magic?

Growing up, my mother always filled shoe boxes with goodies, instead of stockings, in a tradition carried on from her mother. She’d also wake us up early Christmas morning to listen to her read the Bible and share with us the story of Jesus’ birth. We would then head over to my grandparents’ house (grandad is a pastor) to commune with my father’s side of the family before concluding the day with a visit to our cousins and a dance off in my aunt’s living room.

Now, as the wife of a chaplain, far removed from my birth home of Mississippi, those traditions have changed. In addition to attending  Christmas Even and Christmas Day chapel services and families of the deployed events, I’m trying to find ways to create traditions for our own little family.

Does your family have special traditions you adhere to no matter where you are? Do you prearrange Skype time on Christmas day or even go so far as to bring your spouse on stick with you to all of the holiday parties? I’d love to hear the unique ways you  celebrate!

To close, let us be the first to wish you “Happy Holidays!” (in whatever form the holidays may take for you). Thanksgiving is in less than two weeks, so the timing may be okay for me to say that now. In that vein, More than a Mrs. is featured in this year’s holiday gift guide from the wonderful ladies over at Milspouse Coffeehouse. Check out their guide, as well as the products offered by a wealth of other fantastic milspouses, and find the perfect gift for the special someone in your life. Click the hyperlink above to view.

Six Flags Military Appreciation Days in November

Fall is here! Or, if you’re stationed in the Midwest like we are, Fall/Winter/Summer/Winter is here. Either way, cooler weather heralds the perfect time to visit (drum roll, please) theme parks! Personally, I’m trying to talk my husband into a trip to Disney, since the theme park giant recently released 2019 discounted prices for military personnel.

In the meantime, parks like Six Flags are gearing up to host their annual FREE military days. Yes, you read that right! FREE. If you didn’t know before, now you do. And it you already knew, this will serve as your reminder. 🤷‍♀️

According to Six Flags websites:

Six Flags is proud of the men and women of the military who protect our freedom.

In honor of the service military personnel provide, the parks will be hosting Military Appreciation Days on Veterans Day Weekend, November 10 and 11. During this weekend, there will be complimentary admission to the theme park with a valid U.S. military I.D. A special military discount will be available at the Main Gate for the active duty member’s family and friends at $36.99 + tax each.

All admission tickets must be purchased at the front gate to receive these special military discounts and a valid military ID card is required. All Active Duty, National Guard, Reservists and Retired Military will receive complimentary admission to the theme park with a valid U.S. military I.D.

Check your local Six Flags website to confirm whether this offer is available to you. Make sure to take plenty of pictures!

Community Pool: Friendships, the Milspouse and the Military

closeup photo of person s fist bump
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

It’s normal to desire to “belong”.

Transparent moment, here – when I’m having a bad day, it’s easy to convince myself that most of my pre-military “friendships” were superficial, with my “friends” having forgotten about me as soon as I was out of sight (aka uprooted in a PCS move).

A little background: I was a fairly introverted child/teen/young adult, even though I was heavily involved in various activities like cheerleading, Student Council, and even the yearbook staff. As a result, during my school years, I experienced occasional bouts of loneliness, often initiated when I compared my social life to [my perception of] other people’s. This, by the way, this is a big no-no. NEVER compare your life to the facade someone else is proffering as reality.

As a single adult, I attributed my bouts of loneliness to the fact that I was busy with work, and then, to fact that I purchased a house outside of the perimeter area in Atlanta, Georgia, where the bulk of my friends resided, and no one wanted to visit me (because, duh, better price for a brand new home! Who could pass that up??). Yet, somehow I still managed to meet up with friends often enough that I still felt connected.

My husband’s career with the Air Force sometimes amplifies this feeling of “loneliness”. In my darker (like, light grey dark is as dark as I get) moments, I convince myself that I can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve been contacted by my friends to see how I’m faring.  I convince myself that my text message feelers are being met with short, disinterested replies because my friends are no longer interested in my life or with sharing theirs. Of course, I reason with myself, we’re all adults and life gets in the way, but then again…we make time for what matters – right?

I think about social media and the part it plays in this weird “how do I maintain these friendships” dance. Even with family, I find that because they can essentially “check in” via Facebook or Instagram, phone calls are deemed unnecessary and texts are few and far between. My phone rarely rings these days, I think, when my husband’s phone rings. Acknowledging the part I play in this – yes, I also find myself picking up the phone less and less on my end, but that knowledge doesn’t do much to diminish the hurt that creeps up if I let it.

Worst of all – how, I wonder, will my husband and I ever properly celebrate the most important milestones – birthdays, the birth of our first child, etc. – without community?

The answer, I realize, isn’t a difficult one. 1. We have each other. 2. We take advantage of the season in which we have been planted and we build it.

As I write this on my hour-long commute to work (I know, I know), I realize that while this military life has made my “lack of friends” more evident, it’s also made it clear that the frequent moves and ever-evolving growth required by milspouse life might suit me just fine.

I’m no longer a full-blown introvert, but a blooming ambivert (Check out this Forbes article: 9 Signs You’re an Ambivert) who enjoys moments of solitude, while simultaneously caring immensely for the people I encounter. (As an aside: in light of the admission of my introvert/ambivert status, isn’t it interesting that I found myself thriving in two fields that extroverts are more readily attracted to (attorney and public relations and dance studio owner)? I see you, God!)

I’m learning to lean more on God and to relish the moments solitude. I’m also learning to be eternally grateful for the friends I do have – the ones I can count on no matter how much time passes. And, the prospect of travel aside, one of the biggest excitements I had about the military stemmed from the large community pool that results from military life and the 2-3 year uprooting that accompanies it. The pool will change over the years, the characters in it will change, repeat, change, repeat…and I must  navigate it with courage and to the best of my ability.

I know there are other military spouses who share these sentiments. That’s why, for me, “More than a Mrs.” is more than a blog. It’s a way of connection. It’s a tool to build up others and, soon, I’ll be partnering with some phenomenal people to host a variety of in-person and online community events for that very purpose. Make sure to subscribe for updates. You don’t want to miss the evolution of “More than a Mrs.”

Finally, as a chaplain’s wife, I feel compelled to throw in a plug for YOUR local base chapel. Servicemembers and their spouses often fail to realize what great resources at your disposal – in the form of your chaplains. They’re great listeners and counselors and, even more importantly, information shared with them is 100 percent confidential. If you or your spouse struggles with pervasive thoughts of loneliness or depression, make your base chapel one of your first stops. In addition to offering a listening ear, they also host a variety of free events for families of the deployed. Check your home base for more information.

Anyone else out there experience feelings similar to mine? If so, I want you to think about the strategies you use to cope and then strategize how you can do more than cope. How can you FLOURISH? 🌸🌼

Until next time!

Kicking Deployment and Taking Names: Jar of Gratefulness

“You’re in here,” I said to my husband. I held up the clear jar and shook it, rattling the pieces of paper inside around so that they plinked softly against the glass. He looked at me blankly, blinking his eyes, head cocked to the side, looking every bit the skeptic. So I explained.

I started my first jar of gratefulness approximately three years ago. It took another six months for me to become semi-serious about what was to essentially become an exercise in faith. It could be that I came across the idea in one of the many books I read that summer or it could have been the product of a quick, but very valid bout of loneliness (or it very well could have come from Oprah *insert Kanye shrug*.

Military Promotion Ceremonies: Expectation vs. Reality

My husband was promoted to Captain this past week. I could not have been more proud:

What’s interesting is that our promotions actually happened around the same time. In fact, mine came about a week before his. Although I’m sharing this information with you now, dear reader, I have yet to share news of my own promotion publicly. There’s a reason for this, and I promise to delve further into that in a future post.

But for now, I want to touch on the military promotion ceremony from the new military spouse’s perspective, plus how to prepare and our expectations vs. the reality of it.

What a Year July Has Been (Yes, You Read that Correctly)!

Hello, hello, hello! What a year month July has been – and it isn’t even over yet!

I don’t say this in a negative way at all, but it does feel almost as though my husband and I have fit an entire year’s worth of events/milestones in one month. I’ll touch on some of those things in future posts (like, the fact that it’s technicallllly our anniversary today), but for now I’ll briefly touch on the need for continued growth and personal development for military spouses and my travels last week.

Milspouse(s) on a Mission: The Women of Alpha Lambda Psi & Visionary Tonya Rankins

img_1236-1Community, support and sisters linked not by blood, but by a cause. These are all things many military spouses envision, crave and even hope for, especially when they foray into their first year of military life. Some milspouses find those things. Others find themselves constantly battling to find their way in a system that was not made for them.

After years of struggling to find their own niche in an unpredictable world, one group of women decided to forge their own community in a very special way, by founding the first military spouse sorority – Alpha Lambda Psi Military Spouses Sorority, Inc.

Milspouse With Your Own Business? There’s Something You Need to Know about Online Sales Tax.

Military Spouse BusinessThis will be one of the more practical posts on the More Than a Mrs. Blog and the first in a series of posting about launching and successfully establishing your own business. In a ruling that is sure to be confusing for many milspouse entrepreneurs, especially those who operate primarily online, the Supreme Court recently weighed in on a pivotal online sales tax case, South Dakota v. Wayfair, effectively widening the reach of sales tax to e-commerce. This is crucial if you operate a business that conducts online transactions. Here’s why.

Free Military Care Package Printables to Send To Your Loved One  

Military Care Package Printables to Send To Your Loved One

Guest Submitted.

There’s no way to sugar-coat it — distance is hard. Distance puts stress on any kind of relationship because it complicates communication, physical touch, and quality time. Adding in a deployment only further complicates things but luckily, there are many ways to feel closer to your spouse or partner without actually being with them. Phone calls, emails and mail are great ways to reconnect with your loved one and show your love. Care packages full of goodies from home mean comfort and encouragement.

For your next care package, use these FREE military-themed printables to decorate your box and write a love note to your significant other.

You can use the printable tags to stick on food items or use the blank templates to write in your own messages. These printables from Gifts.com even come with a patterned design you can print out and use to cover the flaps and inside of the box to make it extra festive.

If you’re looking for decorations that are a little more sentimental for your spouse, print out these love-themed decorations. Perfect for an anniversary or just because, these care package printables know just how to say “I love you.”

Send a care package just because to remind your soldier or veteran how much they mean to you. For ideas on what to put inside your care package, check out some of these ideas:

● Printed photos

● Fruit snacks

● Calendar with family birthdays printed

● Flash drive of home videos

● Sports drinks (preferably powdered mixes)

● Board games

● Chips and salty snacks

● Candy (that won’t melt)

● Cookies

● Condiments like honey or hot sauce

● Energy and granola bars

● Jerky snacks

● Stationery and stamps

● Playing cards

● Kids crafts from school

● Personal care items like baby wipes, deodorant and toothpaste

Be sure to check for any restrictions when sending your soldier a package and when in doubt, ask the post office any questions you may have about sending your box.