As a military spouse and mother, Marciana “Marci” Gillispie has worn many hats. In fact, she’s worn more than fourteen (and counting) since the coronavirus pandemic started. But, we’ll talk more about that in a minute.
Marciana Gillispie is no stranger to the military. The former military brat is married to a United States Air Force (USAF) chaplain and lives in the Midwest – having temporarily traded the alligators and beaches of Florida for turkeys and cornfields. As soon as you meet the fiery powerhouse in person, though, you quickly realize she’s so much more than a “military spouse”. In fact, if you’re not immediately struck by her ready smile and outgoing personality, something’s wrong (with you, I mean, not with Marci). Even her sarcasm is good-natured. It’s easy, then, to see how she’s already garnered so many friends and adopted family over the course of her thirty-odd years.
I, for one, was immediately drawn to Marciana Gillispie. My husband, who’d PCS’d to the Midwest while I wrapped things up in Georgia, “warned” me over the phone shortly before I arrived. “There’s one chaplain’s wife here in particular you’re really going to like,” he said. My husband is a pretty good judge of character. He was absolutely right.
Marciana doesn’t talk much about herself (she’s first to tell you that), but her good nature is a gift that has undoubtedly come in handy during various stages of her life – first, as a military child, then as a missionary braving the rainforests of Papa New Guinea with her husband, John, and yet again as she forayed into the jungles of motherhood.
Now, though, Marciana and her quick wit are tackling a challenge of a different kind – COVID-19. While the deadly pandemic continues its in discriminatory sweep of the world, she’s conquering the virus one costume, and one smile, at a time.
And speaking of costumes, let’s get back to those hats. In the past four weeks, Mrs. Gillispie has been a mermaid, Wonder Woman, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, a Mattel Barbie, Disney’s Moana, Mary Poppins, a Minion, Tinkerbell, Princess Jasmine and Scarlett from Clue. That’s just to name a few. It has definitely made for lively quarantine school sessions.
Heroes for Heroes, Inc. Omaha
It all started during the last year, when Marciana began donating time to fledgling non-profit Heroes for Heroes Inc., Omaha. HOH is an award-winning volunteer group, comprised of military and DOD members. It’s also the brain child of an airman, Andrew Byrne. Members enrich the lives of disadvantaged children, young and old, by dressing as princesses and superheroes during public appearances.
Heroes for Heroes has also proven its longevity by pivoting during the pandemic and continuing to serve the community, virtually. In fact, if you visit the group’s Facebook page, you’ll see Mrs. Gillispie dressed as Poison Ivy, reading a book aloud during a virtual story-time, and yet another volunteer dressed as Wonder Woman, attending a child’s socially distanced 7th birthday party.
My Many Faces
Like many parents, coronavirus found Marciana Gillispie at home for several weeks with several little ones (and a husband). After being quarantined for awhile, the days were starting to blur together. “We need something to break up the days,” she said to her husband, John. When she proposed the idea of cosplaying at home, he told her to go for it. The Amazon purchases started rolling in.
The Gillispies’ children, ages 61/2, 8 and 10, sometimes join in on the fun but, Marci says, “I imagine it’s a bit like being Walt Disney’s kids – sometimes you’re in it and sometimes you’re over it.
Eventually, Marci began posting her various costumes to her personal Facebook page and she quickly garnered attention. She does her best to comply with requests for specific costumes and now has a dedicated Facebook page. “I’m not a ‘convention’ person,” she says, “But it’s fun to do it for the kids.”
If you’d like to keep track of Marciana Gillispie’s many faces, follow her here: My Many Faces.
With everyone stuck indoors and the government advising (read: ordering) people to refrain from large gatherings, many events are being increasingly postponed and/or cancelled. But while the majority of the world understands the need for social distancing at this time, that understanding doesn’t make the need for it any easier. Let’s face it – a lot of us are going stir crazy. Humans crave, no need, social interaction, particularly today’s society. It’s a lot easier now to understand how someone might die of loneliness, don’t you think!
The bright side of this, though, is the sheer creativity that loneliness has birthed. People are finding new and innovative ways to make the connections they’re missing. From djays playing music sets from their garage for their neighborhood, or for a larger audience on a social media platform, to Zoom meet-ups with family and friends – folks are combating the boredom in ways previously under-utilized.
Enter: virtual scavenger hunts.
The idea came to me after a particularly difficult week or craving human interaction. I scoured the internet, searching for the panacea to my issue before finally coming across, and modifying, the idea for a virtual scavenger hunt.
Setting up the Game
A virtual scavenger hunt is exactly what it sounds like. Someone hosts the meeting online and reads out each clue, while participants rush around their own homes searching for qualifying items within a certain time limit.
In lieu of Zoom, I opted for the more secure Cisco Webex system. At time of writing, Cisco offers a great many more features in its free membership than Zoom currently does – including unlimited meeting time (note: when Covid-19 first blew up, Zoom initially offered the same, but it seems they’ve now decided to capitalize on their increased popularity).
Cisco Webex allows you to tailor your meeting invite to your needs and edit. You can also easily set up meeting reminders to be sent up to 30 minutes before your online appointment event. Up to a paid plan for the option to stream your Webex meeting to Facebook Live. (As a bonus, if you choose to start your meeting from your iPhone, you can add the background of your choosing or blur your surroundings to add an air of professionalism.)
To invite participants to play, I either plugged in their email addresses, triggering an automatic invite, or shared my unique meeting room link and password. If you want a bigger crowd, you can also post invitation graphics to your social media platforms, covering the link and asking that those interested in attending message you.
As an extra security measure, I personally elected to have the room lock ten minutes after the meeting started (no nude or racist interlopers in my meeting, thank you). I encouraged everyone to download the software on their laptops so that, at time of play, they could view all of the other players in the grid view.
My favorite feature was the ability to share graphics with viewers. I used another app, Canva, to create a Welcome Screen and a screen of the Ground Rules I created. I had those screens up for attendees to view before the game officially began. I’ll link to PDFs of those graphics for you at the bottom of this article, but you can easily create your own in Canva or a similar mobile or desktop application.
The Ground Rules
To make it more interesting, I allowed for the second place round winner to earn three points, and the third place winner to earn one (1) point. A simpler method is just letting the first person to return win the round – earning one point.
Another Cisco Webex feature I loved, was the ability to share an app during your meeting. I downloaded a timer app to my desktop and shared it during each round. It was handy for everyone to be able to see and hear the timer loud and clear!
Since our scavenger hunt was @quarantine approved”, I worked in some hot commodity items – like toilet paper, hand sanitizer , masks (one person brought back a Spider-Man mask and another brought back a charcoal mask) and soap. Encourage the creativity! It makes for more fun.
I did pay out a small virtual prize via PayPal to the first place winner, but I didn’t tell anyone there was a prize until after the fact. How you handle that is up to you!
Finally, here’s video of our game. The ability to record meetings (and stop and start as you wish) is my final favorite feature of Webex (and Zoom as well). I recorded all 37 minutes through the Cisco platform, but you’ll notice it didn’t capture everyone’s faces (someone needs to work on their tech skills, obvs). I’ll figure that out for next time. Meanwhile, the audio alone is entertainment enough! Most importantly, as the host – you’ll have the same fun, with none of the cleanup *wink, wink*.
Last week I had the pleasure of co-hosting the virtual launch party for the FindMe mobile app created by fellow military spouse, entrepreneur, and all-around boss chick Jennifer Brantley, Esq. of More than a Mrs. The FindMe mobile app was developed shortly after Mrs. Brantley PCS’d to England and was searching for “all the things” that make a person feel at home. As a milspouse myself, and person who also experienced a PCS less than 6 months ago I was beyond excited when I found out about the FindMe.
FindMe makes it easier for members of the military community to find local businesses in their new area… And get this! The businesses listed within the directory are recommended by other members of the military community. So, instead of posting a question in a Facebook group and waiting for recommendations you can pull out your phone, open the app, and find a listing right then and there. And if you find a spot you want to recommend you can add it to the directory in a matter of seconds.
It’s just that easy. As a person who has a business listed in the directory, along with being one of the apps beta testers I want to give you the…
Top 5 reasons why you should download the FindMe Mobile app today:
For us by us: This app was designed specifically for you! I don’t know about you, but just knowing this app was created by a military spouse excites me. It lets me know she truly understands “the struggle” of constantly moving to a new area and having to start all over from scratch.
User friendly: If you’re not tech savvy no worries, neither am I. This app is extremely user friendly and easy to navigate. There are different categories such as the directory (highlighted with a star), about us, share with a friend, guided videos, how it works, and many more. While using the app if you start having difficulties, I suggest watching one of the guided videos or selecting the “contact us” tab and sending a message for help.
Helps you find “all the things”: In search of a hair stylist, place to eat, church to attend, or community group? If you recently moved my guess is yes, yes, and yes. Well, FindMe’s directory has a wide variety of local businesses in your area recommended by other members of the military community to help you find all the things and make you feel at home.
Saves time & money: How many times have you gone to an establishment and wasted your time and money? By using a business directory created by your peers you can save these vary precious things. Your time and money. Nowthat’s a win, win for me.
Encourages community & connection: Last but not least, are two of my favorite features from the app. The “Get Social” & “Ask the Tribe” tabs. FindMe allows you to create a profile in order to connect with other app users and ask the community questions. We are often the “new kid on the block” and find ourselves searching for others to connect with in our area. These two features connect you to other military members and spouses allowing you to connect with others in your area and expand your tribe.
So, if you’re looking to make your life a tad bit easier after a move, want to contribute to the military community by listing a business, or want to support military owned business this is the app for you. Moving is stressful enough. It’s time you made your life a little easier. If you haven’t downloaded the FindMe app I suggest you do it today.
FindMe Mobile is available for download now at the following links:
Patience Riley is a military spouse, momblogger, therapist, and personal wellness coach. She is the woman behind the WHOA MAMA Blog which was created to normalize the good, bad, and ugly surrounding motherhood by providing mental wellness tips and encouragement to mamas. Patience’s business Prepared to Prosper, LLC is listed in the FindMe directory, where she provides virtual Coaching to new mothers in the USA & International countries, and provides telehealth counseling to NE and FL residents. For more information about Patience please check out her blog WHOA MAMA at www.whoamamas.com or view her listing in the FindMe app.
I don’t always post the prettiest, color-coded, aesthetically appealing photos to my social media feeds nor do I always include the deepest captions. In fact, I usually don’t have time to keep my various profiles or this military spouse blog up like I should – but, much like my every day life, I speak when I have something to say and what I do is post…is real. So let’s talk about the coronavirus, aka COVID-19.
Very rarely do people plan for something like this. You CAN’T plan for something like this. You are not in control.
Why Hello, novel coronavirus
This military family is still stationed in the United Kingdom. But last week, just before things hit the fan in the United States, my husband and I left the hum of the base chapel and the English countryside for a long-planned visit home to the US. We left excited at the prospect of seeing our families only to land at Chicago O’Hare eight hours later – to a ghost town and explosive headlines.
Now, I have a characteristic that makes me a good attorney, but may not be so great for life as a military spouse. I like to be in control. Anyone with me on that? Subsequently, I was reading (aloud, lol) anything and everything “coronavirus” I could get my hands on, in the hopes of preparing us for things to come. Little did I know how futile my efforts were. Isn’t that always the case? Meanwhile, my husband insisted he didn’t want to hear about anything else coronavirus-related (but you can bet we both had masks, hand sanitizer and gloves). I decided to relax along with him.
There were no waits at the restaurants (score), no traffic (double score)and then…the travel ban hit. The number of cases continued to increase. And as the DOD placed more stringent movement restrictions upon those affiliated with the military, we scrambled to find flights back to the UK. We hadn’t even seen our families yet.
Best LaidPlans Laid to Waste
Yes, when I found out I wouldn’t see my family – my mom, my dad, my siblings – I bawled like a baby. I bawled, after first letting loose a heart-wrenching, guttural howl from somewhere deep within me, right there in the hotel room.
I don’t know where it came from, and I’m positive I frightened our neighbors, but the sound made my usually stoic husband scramble to comfort me. It had him wrapping his arms around me and talking to my mom and promising to get me back as soon as he could. It made thirty-three year old me feel like a child. And I didn’t care. The coronavirus brought this military spouse to her knees without ever touching her physically.
Home is Where the Heart Is
I miss my family, y’all. I didn’t even realize just how much until that moment and now, as I write about it, I feel that howl building up inside me again and tears are streaming down my face. This is why – because I’m not there while they’re being advised to go on lockdown, or given curfews. One of my little brothers (well he’s in his 20s, so not so little) is basically alone in Atlanta – he moved there right after we left for my husband’s first duty station (*cringe No. 1), and I can’t be there for him. His goodbye to me was “Well, I’m glad we got to breathe the same (US) air, at least for a minute.”
I’m on an entirely different continent. I feel horrible. And while a majority of the time, I feel just fine (and know I couldn’t be with them anyway now because “social distancing”), I can’t entirely shake it. If you’re a military spouse or member, or even not, it’s very likely that in this moment you know just what I feel.
Social Distancing in Uncertain Times
Now we’re back in the UK (after a heart race inducing trek home from airport, where we tried our best not to give people the side-eye for coughing).
We’re back in what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has now declared a Level 3 country. I’m teleworking, even though the base is only seven minutes from our home. I’m also actively engaging in the oh-so important practice of social distancing.
My husband is reporting to work as usual. There are souls that still need bolstering, after all – especially now.
You are not in control. Read that again – YOU. ARE NOT. IN CONTROL. But you can turn to the One who is.
I’m an ambivert leaning towards the introvert side, save for the fact for this deep love and empathy I have for people (it’s a conundrum, I know) so I feel I’ve been preparing for this my whole life *insert laughing emoji). I don’t feel frightened. Not exactly. I’m not tripping about the state of affairs – I have God, after all – but I am being cautious. And whether you think everyone is overreacting or not, you should do the same.
As I wrote in a Facebook post earlier this week, this situation reminds me of salvation – wouldn’t you hate to have gone your entire life not believing in hell, only to find that it does exist?
So stay safe, you guys. Take precautions. Wash your hands. Don’t panic buy (read that again, too). Leave something for everyone else (especially toilet tissue). God will take care of you and you should take care of others as you can, particularly the more vulnerable. We’re living through some future generations’ history lesson. Let it be said that humanity didn’t fail the test. This novel coronavirus will not win.
What You Feel is Normal
Know though, that if you’re feeling anxious for any reason it’s perfectly okay. Feeling anxious or uncertain is reasonable when your plans are laid to waste. Very rarely do people plan for something like this. You CAN’T plan for something like this. You are not in control.
Read that again – YOU. ARE NOT. IN CONTROL. But you can turn to the One who is.
Resources for Uncertain Times
Here are some resources I use, when I don’t feel in control (like now):
I’m reading It’s not Supposed to be this Way by Lysa Terkeurst. In it, “New York Times bestselling author Lysa TerKeurst unveils her heart amid shattering circumstances and shows readers how to live assured when life doesn’t turn out like they expected. What do you do when God’s timing seems questionable, His lack of intervention hurtful, and His promises doubtful?”
I consult the following Bible Verses. Try reading One-a-Day or use a keyword search online for verses pertinent to you:
Jeremiah 29:11 is my all-time favorite. God has plans for you, and they are to build you up!
2 Timothy 1:7
1 Peter 5:7
I’m reading a new devotional plan. Try an app like YouVersion – they have tons of great suggestions at the moment. If you’d like to complete a short devotional with me, try one of these:
And a longer one (10 days): “Finding Peace” by Charles F. Stanley – I had the pleasure of attending his church when I lived in Atlanta.
I’m also working on a new project when I’m not on the clock. What new thing are you working on, or old thing are you finishing?
Be gentle with yourself. Do the best you can and know that’s good enough. It will all be over before you know it. If you’re military or a military spouse, this is everyday life. You’ll knock it out of the park. #Quarantinediaries #Coronavirus2020 #Coronavirus
Are you who you want to be? Are you who you would be? I’m not…yet.
Welcome to our first post of 2020 (it’s already February. I’ll do better, I promise)! Let me preface this post by telling you that January has been a heck of a year – I mean month. We started off so strong but ended the month with personal loss, spiritual attacks, financial strain, health concerns and more. Yet, God is and remains so good.
A Different Approach.
As you read this post, you may notice it has a markedly different tone than previous posts on www.morethanamrs.com. Here’s why:
More than a Mrs. is heading into its third year and I realize I haven’t yet really addressed the fact that I’m a chaplain/preacher’s wife (my husband was ordained well before he joined the Air Force). The premise of More than a Mrs. has always been to focus on the military spouse as an individual, irrespective of your spouses’ position as a member of the military.
But the truth is that, even in the civilian world, being a preacher’s wife and, even more importantly, a Christian, is significant. It’s an integral part of who I am and, in this day and time, when our world is being plagued and assailed by so many different issues, it’s more important than ever that I cultivate my own light and allow it to shine.
Perhaps what I share in these moments, moments when God won’t allow me to write what I want and compels me to speak on a more personal level, can serve as a beacon of help and hope for someone out there in the ether of the Internet world. Maybe…just maybe, that someone is you.
The Preacher’s Wife.
Ten years ago, I never would have envisioned that I’d be a preacher’s wife – despite having been raised in the church and being the great granddaughter, granddaughter and niece of pastors, and the daughter of a minister of music. Now, I couldn’t imagine a different life. As I write this, I laugh – primarily because I’m far from perfect and would never claim to be, and I’m the first to point out my imperfection when speaking with others. *insert Kanye shrug* (See, not perfect, lol).
If you follow me on social media, you know my husband recently swore me in as a government employee (Disclaimer: all of the opinions shared on this site are my own and are not endorsed by the federal government). Working on a military installation, surrounded primarily by young, opinionated airmen and civilians in various stages of life has presented its challenges but, more recently, has also afforded me the opportunity to bear witness and clear up a few misconceptions about God, His mercy and the Bible.
In turn, my interactions with members of the military, civilians like myself, and even members of the parish have led me to more closely examine who I am and how I live my own life.
An exchange this past weekend with co-workers really brought this self-reflection to the forefront of my mind.
I exited that conversation with questions of my own echoing in my head – Am I who I desire to be? Am I someone that others will look at and perceive to be a light?
Upon a cursory examination, I was sorely disappointed in myself. But even with this realization, I still didn’t give the questions the time they truly deserved. God took care of that (as He usually does). There’s no ignoring God nor a conviction he places in your heart.
Things came full circle last night, when I opened my guided journal.
The prompt I turned to today asked, “What kind of person do you want to become?” It’s an interesting question because Matt and I are reading through Proverbs together which, I think, serves as a good template. I scribbled notes as Matt read aloud tonight, starting at Ch. 16 and ending at Ch. 18.
Here’s what I’ve added to my prayer list of “becoming” as a result of that study:
• I want to be humble. “Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall”
•I want to be a person who trusts in the Lord and seeks joy vs. temporary happiness. “Trust the lord and be joyful” • I want to speak (and think) only kind words. “Kind words are like honey sweet to the soul and health to the body”
•I want to be in control of myself so that no one can incite me to act out of character. “Better to have self control than to conquer a city”
•I want to be generous with forgiveness. “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven”
• I want to wish even the most difficult people well, no matter how they treat me. “If you repay good with evil, evil will never leave your house”
•I want to know when to speak and when to be silent. “Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent”
•I want to listen to understand and not to one-up someone. “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in airing his opinions.” Proverbs 18:2
What do you think of this list? Who do you desire to be?
It’s amazing the things that can happen in one year, isn’t it? We enter each new year with so much determination and yet we’re uncertain of what the days ahead have in store.
Will they herald heartache? Or triumph? Successes or failures? Life…or death? As mere humans, we lack the omniscience of our Maker and, if we’re not careful, can find we’re not properly armed against the days ahead. Perhaps that’s why some are happy to see the year 2019 “go”, while yet others look back at the past 365 days with nostalgia.
Regardless of your personal experience, though, 2019 – with all it’s ebs and flows, joys and pains – is not to be simply cast off. If we have hopes for a better 2020, we have to carry the lessons learned in 2019 with us – ready to be dusted off at a moment’s notice. More importantly, we have to be prepared to act from a place of intention, while simultaneously relinquishing our desire to control every outcome.
Control. There’s that word again. How can we possibly relinquish control when we know precisely how we’d like everything to go (and subsequently the worry that comes when we aren’t sure whether things will indeed go our way)? One of my favorite Bible verses (actually my absolute favorite) gives me, a closeted control freak, solace and the strength to do this:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
Jeremiah 29:11 is a verse that conveys yet another of God’s undeniable promises. And what a promise it is! I may not know what tomorrow holds, but God holds the future in His hands. It may not be easy (and in all likelihood will not be), but what blessed assurance that each event in 2020 will culminate into a positive testimony.
Although God definitely doesn’t need our help to accomplish this (or anything), we must also do our part by equipping ourselves for the months ahead.
As we prepare to ring in the new year with bells, whistles, prosecco (at least here in the U.K.) and ball drops, have you considered whether you’re properly armed and ready for the new year? If not, don your armor by spending a few moments of reflection with God, right now, before the New Year comes barreling in.
As military spouses, we like to think that inclusivity comes naturally to us. After all, we so often feel left out ourselves that we would never want anyone else to feel the same way. Right?
Rewind to our September Milspouse on a Mission: ALtitude Change brunch, which included an engaging panel session where we discussed, among other things, what it means to be a “military spouse.” And that definition might be broader than you think.
The issue of inclusivity (or the lack thereof) is one that plagues the mil community despite our best efforts (a close runner up is bullying in the milspouse community, but that will be addressed in another post).
Military spouses are often assumed to fit in a certain box – in that we’re typically assumed to be female and mother to at least one child. This classification is often done to the exclusion of male spouses (how often, for instance, have you innocently posted ‘hey ladies!’ in a milspouse social media group?), veteran spouses, spouses with no children (due to choice or simply because they cannot) and yes, even active duty spouses.
We’re so glad one active duty spouse was able to carve time out of her schedule to attend the brunch, and as she so aptly put it, overcome the fear that her presence wouldn’t be welcome.
My husband recently tried to join a group in his capacity as chaplain (after being asked to do so) and promptly had his request denied, receiving a rather snarky, “Why do you want to join a spouses’ page” by way of reply to his follow-up. “Am I not a spouse?” he mused to me, having attended the brunch (and kindly serving as photographer and videographer (thanks, love!).
He totally is, if you think about it. And while we all have different struggles (as is the case when many people come together anywhere) we do have some shared experiences and should welcome each other with open arms.
There were so many other great discussions had during the event – like new spouses’ fear of coming onto base for the first time, how we can communicate better at home and what uplifting messages we’d share with less seasoned spouses, if given the opportunity.
It was a joy to be able to engage in such health discussions in a safe space – to commiserate, not complain – and try to work through some possible solutions for each other. Here are some stills and video from the event.
Our next Milspouse on a Mission event, Letters to My (Younger) Self, which will take place on Saturday, December 7, actually took its thematic cue from some of those earlier conversations. Tickets are on sale now at www.letterstome.eventbrite.com and entry is open to all spouses (active duty and non), single, female airmen and young girls ages 13+. If you’re in England, we hope to see you there!
Resigning from a job, for me, has to be one of the most unpleasant experiences of my professional career. No matter the circumstances – whether I must leave due to circumstances beyond my control (e.g. because my husband joined the Air Force and I love him, duh, so I’ve got to go (also known as a PCS)) or because I’m due to climb the leadership ladder – someone is bound to, for lack of a better term, feel some type of way.
Before I met my husband, I stayed in positions for years, with my one transition away from a (serious) job being due to my decision to go to law school. It was a gradual transition that my employer saw coming. I started my next job as an intern at a small law firm during my 2L year of law school and the transition to attorney and then senior attorney seemed organic. I was bound to stay for some time.
Yet here I am, again. Writing this article at 5 a.m. on a Thursday morning, having resigned from positions four times within the span of 2 years.
When I first started this blog in early 2018, while we were at Offutt Air Force Base and I was trying to determine if it was worth getting my law license there, I penned an article about the difficulties military spouses experience with job mobility. Through various avenues and referrals, my story caught the attention of Senator Carol Blood, who reached out to me for a testimonial regarding my experience as she continued her endeavors to make it easier for milspouses to find employment in the great State of Nebraska.
What I didn’t include in that testimonial or the article that preceded it, was how painful others actions can make the military spouses’ “resignation experience”.
When, with great regret, I resigned from the law firm in Georgia (after six total years of dedication and service), I was abashed at how I was treated by members of staff that I’d worked alongside for years. A paralegal/receptionist I thought I’d formed a friendly relationship with (lunched together every day, she attended my “bridal shower” (in quotes because technically I was already married), we chatted and texted constantly, and she even had a heads up that I’d be leaving before anyone else did) became increasingly rude and standoffish as my last drew closer. And, on the final day (ironically the same day as the firm’s Christmas party), she actually yelled at me in the middle of the law firm lobby when I tried to tried to speak to her as I normally did. No exaggeration. No instigation from me. And I never received an apology.
Almost in tears (ok I was in tears), I told the principal attorney that I would not be staying for the Christmas party. Against my better judgment, though, I allowed him to convince me to stay. Bad decision.
The party was awkward, a lot of people learned that day that I’d be leaving, and the bonus I was due for working the entire year, was withheld.
Clearly, despite all I’d done while there, those people felt some kind of way.
Now though, that I can think back on it subjectively, I understand that everyone’s actions were knee-jerk reactions to losing me as an employee and friend (I still came away with glowing recommendations and love for everyone there). It’s just too bad that reason didn’t negate my perception of their cruelty at the time.
Another resignation experience, which required that I resign to take a promotion within the same state agency, found my current supervisor making every endeavor to keep me where I was. From talking, behind my back, to the CEO of a state agency with 5,000 employees, to calling me into their office to talk to me about not abandoning my “passion”, to promising to create a director position for me to fill. I must say, I was impressed at the level of effort (and extremely flattered).
There have been other, less painful (still difficult), resignations since then – like the one that came after my husband received surprise orders to PCS to England. The ones that don’t involve overt behavior, but rather a gradual shutting out. A closing of doors. An exclusion from meetings. And, apparently, at British companies (where you can be required to give up to six month’s notice), there’s also a never-ending spate of passive aggressive, less-than-funny jokes at my expense, coupled with abrupt announcements to employees that “she’s leaving. Don’t bother learning her name.”
It’s uncomfortable, for sure (and making me seriously rethink my gracious offer to stay past the required notice period). But as my husband so flippantly texted me (from his beautiful TDY location), “Get over it. You’ll be moving from more jobs for next … years.” And he’s right.
The truth is that you’ll encounter so many changes as a result of this life – because of your ambition or simply because a better opportunity presented itself (as is the case for me in this instance – GS-12 position here I come!). Could your employer be more sensitive? Yes. Do they have to be? No. And really, it shouldn’t bother you – as long as no one can complain about your performance.
Have you ever encountered difficulty with your “resignation experience”?
Attendees will enjoy brunch, swag and a game of “Speed Friendship” (it’s like speed dating, but the small talk is more interesting and there’s no pressure to find the love of your life), followed by an engaging discussion on “reinventing” yourself, no matter the season of military life you’re in.
You’ll get a crash course on how to “pitch” yourself in any situation – whether it be to make a new friend, work for a new employer or market your own business. Have fun, engage in some unique self care and leave with a new friend (or two).
Space will be limited to 30 persons. Unfortunately, childcare will not be available for this event, but children are welcome.
Participants must be prepared to present military identification.
While your answers may vary depending upon your own life experiences, there’s certainly one image it doesn’t conjure up: the icon representing your social media vice – network, that is – of choice.
Social media has the very real potential to be the bane of humanity’s existence. So many people wield it incorrectly, using it to show only the “pretty” side of life, not realizing that by filtering out the “ugly” moments they’re missing the opportunity to touch others through their testimony.
It’s so easy to do. We post the very best moments of our lives – the artfully crafted gatherings, the prime “candid” shots, and Selfie No. 25 of 47 successive picture (because the lighting in that particular photo was perfect). We put filters on our food, our faces, our physical bodies and even in the body of our Instagram captions.
I’m guilty of it myself. What’s the saying from today’s most popular viral meme? ‘We” is me, I am “we”.’
I was having a conversation with someone recently about her job search and, in the midst of our discussion, she asked about my first week of work. Many of you know that I left yet another a stateside position in May when my husband received orders to PCS overseas. You’re also aware, thanks to glowing Instagram and Facebook posts I published, that I recently started a new position for a company in England – a mere three months after leaving my last role.
In the face of this “success”, I initially considered writing a “how-to” for U.S. military spouses seeking work while stationed in England. But then, the following exchange happened on the More Than a Mrs. page, and it reminded me of the value that lies in truth and transparency.
As you can see, there was reference to my “inspirational story”. But truly – where is the inspiration in making things sound so easy and glossing over the experience?
So, here, my friends, is the whole TRUTH.
The truth is that I started my job search three months before the moving process began. That I applied to more than 50 positions. That I received numerous automated messages thanking me for my application, or stating that I’d been referred to the hiring manager, followed by months of radio silence.
That USA Jobs repeatedly sent me “You do not meet the qualifications for this position” emails for positions I was overqualified for. That I was specifically asked to apply for one particular position based upon my credentials, and still never heard back.
The truth is that there were weeks where I gave up. That there were days where I was the very embodiment of negativity and my husband had to pull double duty – first as chaplain on base and then as consummate consoler at home.
The truth is that, out of all those applications I put in, the job I ultimately scored is the only one that called me for an interview, and that I had to lightly “sell myself” post-offer as a good investment once they realized I was a military spouse. That I’m still not practicing “law”. That I took another pay cut. That I have no clue how I’ll obtain the in-person continuing education credits I need to maintain my second law license in Nebraska – the license I just shelled out hundreds of dollars for before we found out we’d be moving.
The truth is that…I’ll likely have to do this all over again in (prayerfully, at least no more than) three years time. And there are thousands of spouses out there who have had (or will have) similar experiences. No one is untouchable.
These hardships are the truth. But there’s also the other side of the coin – the lessons learned about myself, my strength and my resiliency (there’s that pesky word again) – from this experience.
And I bet, that if you were to poll other milspouses about lessons learned during their own job searches, you might detect a decided pattern regarding the need to embrace change and flexibility – as well as the fact that “your turn” may just not be right now or it may not look quite like you imagined. Sometimes, to get ahead, you have to be willing to take that forced break, to take that pay cut or, even better, to morph your skills and experience into a new opportunity.
With that said, in preparation for this article, I did just that. Below are the stories and bare bones truths I received in response to my queries. And if you’re in search of commiseration and encouragement as you continue on your own job-search journey, you should file away some of the following gems.
“Job searching as a military spouse has taught me that I need to remain open-minded to many different possibilities and embrace the fact that my career may have to take a different direction during this season of life.”
“Being a milspouse has taught me just how flexible I can be as it pertains to employment. Being able to assess my skills, not devalue them, but also be willing to utilize them in ways I never expected has benefited me as I look at the long-term, post-military lifestyle. It has afforded me creativity as I look at life after this stage.”
“As someone who ties my self-worth to my job, the transition to being a military spouse was rocky for me. I learned above all that a career is vital to how I identify myself. Not motherhood or being “so-and-so’s wife.” I love my family, but it’s not enough. Not by a long shot.
I’ve pieced together jobs, but I still haven’t been able to approach the level of professional achievement I am comfortable with (or what I had before becoming a mil-spouse). I vastly underestimated how great my sacrifices would be. I’ve had to change everything about who I am for this life.
Honestly, it has been a huge blow to my self-esteem. When I was a little girl in the 80s, we were told we could be anything we wanted in life, as long as we worked for it. Now, as a military spouse I am surrounded by a culture that tells me I can be anything I want as long as I put wife and mother first…And make meals for the squadron, volunteer for the bake sale, and be home when the furniture is delivered, of course. For a woman of my generation and upbringing, it was a culture shock!
We also deal with people making asinine remarks, like, “Well, you knew what you signed up for.” No we didn’t. Maybe we thought we did, but none of us could truly know what hand military life would deal us. Nor could we grasp how much of our own personal destiny is put in the hands of people who would rather we didn’t exist at all. The idea that we love a military member so we have to become non-complaining furniture is a joke.
I try to make the best of it by building the best career I can (and I have found consolation in this), but I would be lying if I pretended the career aspect of being a mil-spouse wasn’t the single biggest disappointment of my life.”
“Since becoming a milspouse, the job search to continue my career in insurance sales made me realize how different our life was as a military family. Landing jobs that had a traditional schedule as well as typical workplace drama got me down a number of times. I was annoyed to be at work when my husband was off, missing vacations to see family and not being able to nurture new friendships due to a packed schedule. All of these struggles reinforced my decision to open my own agency which was a dream of mine for a long time. While I am fortunate to have experience in a field that allows such flexibility, I feel for other military spouses because finding worthwhile, flexible income is extremely challenging.”
“It taught me that some jobs just don’t work with this life and I can either be mad about that or I can consider it a gift to be challenged to think about my talents in new ways. I’d have never become a writer or a speaker if I’d stayed on the linear professional path I was on when I met my Soldier.”
“Since becoming a milspouse, the job search process taught me not to take “NO” as an answer. There are opportunities out there, and I have to go for what I want. For me, that meant saying bye to corporate America and starting my own corporate me! ;)”
“Job searching as a milspouse has taught me that I can find joy in a lot of different jobs when I stay true to who I am. As a certified teacher I have taught and subbed at some duty stations, but I have also worked at coffee shops and started a blog. What I’ve found is that the better I know myself, the more I can use my gifts even if it’s in a different avenue or “career path” than the previous duty station. It’s important to be open to opportunities that are outside of the box if they are within our strengths.”
“Since becoming a milspouse, the job searching process taught me that I’m more adaptable than I think. We all are. I may have different jobs from different fields, but that only builds my skills and knowledge for my next opportunity.”
“I’ve learned to fend for myself to create my own opportunities. I’ve been hired to do a ton of different things over the years, never two jobs have been the same but I’ve also never had a job longer than 2 years. Moving so much and knowing I’m going to move regardless has killed a little bit of my work attitude because I know I will move before I’m promoted or given a raise. It doesn’t mean that I don’t work hard. I end up not playing the long game as much as my peers who stay in one place and network and schmooze . I have used all the moving and job experience to my advantage and now I’m at a point where prospective employers are impressed by my skill set. But my job won’t ever come first as a military spouse.”
“I gave up my paid career as a college English educator when I got married and we PCSed. I tell my homeschooled kids that I work hard, every day, all day, all year round. Not all jobs have salaries. I do lots of work, good work, godly and holy work – raising and teaching my 4 kids, managing our household, planning our travels, investing, writing, researching, guiding. I don’t measure what I do by a mere income and I am thankful and blessed that I don’t need one.”
“Like most things, the career options for military spouses is more nuanced and varied than anyone wants to admit – because it highlights both difficult solutions are and the institutional biases that run deep in the military culture.
Employment and professional programs are extremely limited in scope. It is easy to focus on location based challenges by championing entrepreneurship, resume workshops, corporate hiring programs and remote work as the be all answers. But, as helpful as those things can be, they fail to address the full picture.
Employment is also limited by the lack and expense of child care. It is curtailed by the expectation that “your wife will take care of it” when it comes to household management tasks – which also hits dual military and single women who serve. Employment is challenged by school issues, health struggles and kids activities – all things experienced by nonmilitary families but with the added wrinkle of military bureaucracy, limited family/network support, underserved areas and that lag that happens with learning what is available in a new area. More than anything else, spouse mental health is a key component of the un/underemployment issues that is grossly neglected.
It’s not impossible. But it’s hard and requires the military family to make hard choices frequently – family size, geo-baching, slower pace to promotion for both parties, and more all are part of the conversation.”
Many thanks to each of the spouses who shared their truths with us. We’ll be satisfied if being transparent about it here helps even one struggling spouse realize he/she is not alone. Even better, though, if the conversations sparked here pave the way to future conversations with decision-makers, and increased action.
Did you hear echoes of your own story in the sentiments expressed here? When it comes to your career, how have you dealt with the many transitions required by military life? We want to hear from you!
One of the best things about my husband’s overseas assignment has been the opportunity it presents to travel. I’m not only referring to travel to other countries (I’ll post soon about our visit to France and Disneyland Paris), but also travel to the quaint and historic villages that England is so well known for.
While some might disagree with what I’m about to say next, England is such a “drivable” country.
Yes, it can feel like you’re on an amusement park ride of the most dangerous kind – with its lack of traffic signals, narrow carriageways (roads – but definitely built with only a horse and carriage in mind (hence the name)), exhausting roundabouts with dizzying traffic seemingly assaulting you from every direction (a lá merry-go-round), and its mostly polite, but sometimes erratic drivers who will pass you even if you’re going top speed.
If you’re willing and able to get past all of that, though, (try being volunTOLD to drive on Day 3) it’s amazing how many historical landmarks you can pack into a weekend, or even 24 hours, and still make it back in time for work the next day.
As an aside: I generally advise against “packing” multiple things into a short amount of time. View them at your leisure so you can really take them in. There’s no need to hurry. 🙂
We’ve been here now for about 3 months and have already forayed to Cambridge, Norwich, London, and tons of smaller, neighboring areas.
Today’s travel plans were special. They (our plans, that is) took us to Downton Abbey.
Yes, that Downton Abbey – also known as Highclere Castle.
(Because I’m feeling a mite lazy, here is the introductory paragraph from Wikipedia on Highclere Castle:
Highclere Castle /ˈhaɪklɪər/ is a country house in the Jacobethan style by the architect Charles Barry, with a park designed by Capability Brown. The 5,000-acre (2,000 ha) estate is in Hampshire, England, about 5 miles (8 km) south of Newbury, Berkshire. It is the country seat of the Earl of Carnarvon, a branch of the Anglo-Welsh Herbert family.)
Let me preface this by saying that my husband cane to England and became totally OBSESSED with Downtown Abbey. He’s a few years late, but who’s counting? Certainly not I. He even worked a Downton Abbey reference into his sermon at the base chapel this past Sunday. Which is fine, because at least I wasn’t the subject (one of the dangers of being a preacher’s wife is becoming fodder for sermons). We’re now on Season III of the show and watch “new” episodes every evening at 5:30 pm when he makes it home from base.
All of that to say, my husband REALLY likes this show. So, of course, this trip was a must and we made it there with just enough time to spare.
The castle is only open to the public for self-guided tours during the summer months, so if you’d like to visit add it to next year’s “must see” list – the last day to view in 2019 is September 3.
Like most things, the castle is a lot smaller than it appeared on television, but it’s still so very grand. It sits on a slight incline, set rather far back from the road, nestled amongst immense grassy fields, and complete with designated parking (hurrah!).
Arrive early and be sure to wear your wellies, as you’ll be walking across the grass to join the line outside of the entrance. You’ll then slowly snake your way through the manor, where rooms used for filming have assorted informational plaques erected. As you look, be mindful of the fact that others are waiting behind you to see as well. Totally worth the trip if you’re a fan!
If you purchase the premium ticket, you’ll be treated to the exhibit downstairs in what was once the wine cellar, and a view of the gardens. When we visited, the exhibit was an Egyptian one, complete with sarcophagus as the former Lord Carnarvon of Highclere Castle played a significant part in the archeological scene and the excavation of Tutankhamen’s resting place in the Valley of the Kings. It was pretty neat.
It rained, as it’s wont to do here, so excuse my hair and the hastily discarded umbrella. Ha!
The castle is also host to various special events for which tickets may be purchased, like “Castle Tours, Costumes, and Cocktails” which takes place in September, Christmas at Highclere and the Stay and Tour, which allows for a country getaway at the Grotto Lodge locates on the grounds.
There are tea rooms on site if you’re feeling a bit peakish post-tour, offering pasties, paninis, sausages, assorted baked items and, of course, tea. If that doesn’t peak your interest, try the Carnarvon Hotel and Pub down the road. We skipped both and stopped instead at the M3 Motorway, Jct 4a/5 Fleet South Services rest stop, where we chowed down on Kentucky Fried Chicken (don’t judge us) before making the drive back. This rest stop is also 5 miles from Legoland Windsor.
Here are additional photos from our visit (no photography is allowed inside).
Will you be making the trip to Highclere Castle? Have you seen Downton Abbey? What do you think of the show? Share your thoughts with us, below!
One of the more interesting things I’ve realized as a military spouse is that people automatically assume you and your service member have an inordinate surplus of money, when that couldn’t be further from the truth for many military families. In fact, it only takes the perfect storm of a few factors for a military couple to find themselves drowning in debt – like an unexpected overseas/OCONUS PCS, for example, and the (hopefully temporary) loss of one spouse’s income as a result of the move (where both spouses are employed).
There are ways around it, of course, many of which involve carefully detailed planning and saving, but in a career field where you could be ordered to move at a moment’s notice (and never fully on Uncle Sam’s dime), the task of building wealth, or even just treading water, can be a daunting one.
If you’ve never undergone an OCONUS PCS before let me preface the remainder of my comments by sharing – there’s a lot they don’t tell you. Any milspouse or AD member can tell you that this seems to be a prevalent theme with the armed forces.
The costs aren’t necessarily relegated to monetary expenses, either. If you don’t properly prepare, these moves can put a lot of added stress and strain on mil families. From planning the logistics of a move, to living/migrating from one temporary home to another as you make your way to your final destination, and planning how to transport (and pay for) any pets, to finding a home once you arrive, finding good schools for the kids and all of the other resources that are generally essential to every day life – things can get complicated, fast. Add financial strain on top of that and you have a recipe for a meltdown (or three).
We recently discovered the reality of this when we moved to England and now understand why many couples claim to have spent $10,000 or more on their moves. We haven’t even fully tabulated our total yet, but here are:
Some Unexpected Costs that Can Cause Even the Best Laid Plans to Derail (Note that many of the items listed are specific to England):
The Cost of Getting to Base from the Airport. The rural location of most bases means you may be in for an expensive ride. Taxi or Shuttle (Access the RAF Lakenheath Airport Shuttle Rate Sheet Here) are your best bets, especially if you will be traveling with pets or young children and/or have tons of luggage.
MOT Inspection and Light Conversion (England) – All vehicles imported to the UK must have a light conversion prior to being inspected or it will not pass the inspection. For many, the light conversion is a couple hundred dollars. Due to the specs of our cars (US spec Volkswagens) we paid considerably more. Note that you may have convert your lines again upon returning stateside. Here’s more information on driving in the UK.
Road Tax (England) – Luckily, you’re exempt from paying road tax your first year in England. After that, report to the pass and registration office to pay annually. Cost varies, but set aside a few hundred.
TV Tax – planning to watch television during your stint here? Be prepared to pay. TV tax is paid in addition to your cable subscription service. Subscriptions are inordinately cheap here, though. We pay 47 pounds for broadband, cable (300+ channels) and pay as you go phone service with Sky. Cost varies, but set aside a few hundred.
Second Vehicle Transport Costs – Active duty service members are permitted to import one vehicle at no charge. Anything more than that, is on your dime, but you’re not permitted more than three (3) cars during your stay. English roads are teeny tiny, which makes sense, because most were built for horse and carriages. So consider road size when deciding whether to import another vehicle. Costs usually range from $1000-3000 (you can shave off some dollars by driving your car to the port yourself, versus having the transport company pick it up), but make sure to factor in the cost of customs and delivery once the vehicle makes it to its destination. Some transport companies do not include these costs in their estimates. Also consider that your vehicle may be damaged in transport (the company we used lost the key we provided them with and further damaged the vehicle removing it from the ship without the key. It will cost about $1000 USD for repairs and key replacement). Subsequently, and although it may increase your cost estimate, it’s a good idea to consider getting marine insurance to cover any accidents that may occur. Take lots of photos before you drop the car off and keep track of all correspondence with the shipping company (who often contracts with a third party for the actual labor) so that you have adequate documentation in the event damage occurs.
Rental Car. Until your car arrives (and if you ship it before you leave) you’ll need transportation. You can use taxis, but in England, it’s way more economical (and efficient) to rent a car. Lost Cost Car Rentals here allows you to rent a car for about 45 pounds (on average about $56 USD) per week. Super cheap, but it adds up AND you get what you pay for. There are other companies as well – explore Reliable Rentals or NSA.
Living Expenses Before You Find a Home. When you arrive, if you’re lucky enough to secure temporary housing or a short let, be prepared to pay temporary lodging (TLF) expenses out of pocket. You will be reimbursed on the back-end, but even then, you won’t be fully reimbursed. You’re only allowed a certain number of days in TLF – both at the station your service member is out-processing from, and the new duty station. There is no also reimbursement for pet fees, but you may be able to claim them as a moving expense at tax time.
Living Expenses after You Find a Home. Here in England, in order to let (rent) a home, you must pay a deposit (about six weeks of rent) PLUS the first month’s rent to move in. For us, this was about $4,000. As an aside – be prepared not to have the overseas housing allowance (OHA) included in the first paycheck. For this reason, many service members apply for advanced OHA, which is essentially a loan.
Utilities are also due rather quickly after move-in (within 14 days of request for service, usually), so factor in those costs as well. An additional amount is allotted for these costs.
Purchase of UK (or wherever you are) Spec Appliances. Furnishings Management Office (FMO, Air Force) provides things like a fridge and washer and dryer for the duration of your stay. They also provide temporary furnishings while you await your household good (HHG). Note – the items provided are super functional and have seen their share of families (especially the mattresses).
Reimbursement. Be careful with your spending as you may not be fully reimbursed for the money you spend getting to the service member’s new station.
Meals – you could end up being in TLF for a long time. Cook in the room or prepare to spend lots of money eating out.
WHEW! That was a lot (and I’m pretty sure I left some things out). But to end this post on a positive note, here are some:
Ways Military Couples Can Combat Debtand Unexpected ExpensesDuring a PCS
As soon as soft orders are received, start saving. Fifty (50) percent of your paycheck(s) is a good place to start, but if you can’t do that any little bit will help (hopefully, you’ve been saving all along). Build a nice nest egg.
Mail things to yourself – Beware: This is reimbursable, but reimbursement is based upon weight (e.g. what it would have cost TMO to mail the items) and not what you actually paid. However, if the moving company loses your express shipment (like they did ours), you’ll be glad you sent yourself some items in advance.
All’s been quiet on the Western front…but that’s because More Than a Mrs. has made it to England (and is getting ready to make some noise over here🤪).
Here’s a quick, bulleted synopsis of what I’ve learned about being stationed in Europe thus far (some are things I already knew, but they might still be helpful if you’re headed this way and apply to AD and milspouses):
All the research in the world can never properly prepare you for the reality of a new base – especially an overseas base.
Number 1 doesn’t necessarily negate the fact that research is vital
Piggybacking off of Number 2, make sure to join as many Q&A spouses groups as possible before you arrive. You’re sure to find an answer to the myriad of questions you’ll have in one of them.
Do not, I repeat do not, over inundate yourself with the aforementioned information. You’ll wear yourself out before the PCS process even begins.
If you’re not confused enough by Numbers 1-4, just wait until you arrive.
Plan ahead. We knew where we staying and how we were getting to base before we ever set foot on an airplane.
Things won’t quite go as planned, no matter how much you plan, and that okay.
Study the rules of the road before you attend newcomer’s class. The driver’s test is the second day and you’ll pass with flying colors.
Don’t be afraid to get on the road. I refuse to be a prisoner of my own making because I’m too afraid to drive on the left side of the road. My husband drove on day two (out of necessity, but that’s another story). I drove on Day 3 (around base first then ventured out) and it was loads of fun. Mind your speed, know the signs, control your breathing (😂) and you’ll be fine.
All those houses you saved on Rightmove? Yeah…they’ll be gone by the time you arrive. It’s still a good idea to look, but wait until you arrive and can actually view properties before committing yourself. Photos can be deceiving. In the United States, we like everything to be BIG – it’s the opposite here. Rooms are made for double beds, not queens and not kings (unless you’re really lucky like we were).
The area closest to base will NOT look like you imagined. It doesn’t even resemble what you see in London (if you’ve visited before like I had). The villages are spread out, the roads are super narrow in spots (they have A, B and C roads – which tells you the condition) and yes, it does indeed rain. A LOT.
There’s no air conditioning. Buy fans. Lots of fans.
Also buy heaters. Lots of heaters (especially if you’re from the South, like I am).
Argos, Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s are your friend.
USAA and Navy cards are great here. Visa cards are widely accepted.
Get ready for a reality when you see the pound-to-dollar conversion.
Get connected before you arrive. There’s nothing like seeing friendly faces your recognize when you touch ground. Even if they are from social media.
If you have to conduct business in the United States once you arrive, just know you’ll be making those calls when you’d like to be going to bed, due to time difference.
You can buy a SIM card from the airport (or wherever) when you arrive, but I’d suggest going with an international plan for the first few days (like ATT’s Passport) so you can still make calls to the US. Most sims bar calls to 1800 numbers.
Make sure to let all financial institutions know about your move before you arrive and update your address to your APO box (your sponsor can help with this once you have hard orders). If you don’t, you may find that you’re not allowed to log in and see your online accounts.
Have a bomb sponsor. Seriously. Ours were amazing. (Hey Buschs!)
Save. Now. Lots of money. Lots. Of. Money. A deposit on a home plus a month’s rent will likely come due before you’re paid and before your OHA starts. This is thousands of dollars. Avoid having to take out a loan.
Imported vehicles have to be brought up to U.K. specs.
There are all kinds of taxes. Some you’re excluded from (council tax), some you’re not (road tax, tv tax). Don’t skip newcomers meeting.
The food trucks on base ROCK. Seasoning is scarce here, but the food trucks and cultural stops are not lacking. Don’t trust vendors to make pound to dollar conversions in their heads or you’ll lose money lol. Download a money converter mobile app. Also, pubs are your friend. Bird in Hand (right outside the gate at RAF Mildenhall) has delicious chicken wings. Oh, and Nando’s (cue drool)
Travel is king. And cheap. Therefore, we’re already planning trips. 🤣
It’s handy that we speak the same language, but the Queen’s (or King’s) English is also a bit different. I’ve been on the receiving and giving end of quizzical stares during conversations.
Customer service is different. Generally, you seat yourself at restaurants and aren’t really checked on by servers. So if you need something, speak up. Because of this (and also because servers are paid and treated better here than they are in the U.S.) tips aren’t always required and if they are 10-15 percent is adequate.
There’s more. So much more. But I’m exhausted. I’ll delve more into these topics as we get settled. Wish us the best.
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).
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.firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com), but there are tons of reputable companies out there.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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!
“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..
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?
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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 email@example.com.
Interested in learning more about how Tameka grabbed the reins to her life? Visit:yldist.com/tmcgee.
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?
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.
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 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.
[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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
(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.)
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! 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.
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. 🤷♀️
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!
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? 🌸🌼
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.
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.
Community, 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.
This 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.
February 18. I can’t let this significant day pass without posting this open letter to our friends and family.
So much pressure and stress and love went into the moment pictured – MONTHS of all of the above. This ceremony was already planned and deposits were in hand when we said “I do” a few months earlier in my living room (because “military” and military recruiters) and Matt and I were separated soon after. So, yes, we have two anniversaries.
But looking back now, I’m so glad things worked out the way they did. Shortly after the picture above was taken, my grandmother fell seriously ill and went to be with the Lord. While she was unable to make this official ceremony, she left praying for my marriage and knowing I was in good hands.
We now celebrate that earlier anniversary (for one, because I think in marriage you should claim every single second lol).
But seriously – for me, things really sank in when we said “I do” before our friends and family. So this is an open letter to my family and friends (who were outweighed by my husband’s in number, lol, but not love) – thank you. And to those friends and family of Matt’s who have now become my own – thank you. Thank you all so much for being there and proving that we’re not alone, even in the moments where we feel most distant.
There was so much going on that so many weren’t aware of, but you buoyed us with your love. If you only knew. This, this – YOU made it real. ——— If you’re a military significant other – I.e. not yet married and contemplating two ceremonies – know that it’s normal. If you’ve already done the same and are struggling with how things happened – know that that’s NORMAL. I wish I’d known when we were struggling with our decision. And the struggle you’re having internally is also NORMAL. Either way, the people who truly love you WILL understand.
And by the same token, don’t let any recruiter or otherwise rush you or make you feel you’re low on time. Make the decision that’s best for you and you’ll be alright in the end.