March 28, 2012

What is Service?

Tonight I received a comment on a post I wrote on February 11th. called Different Sides. In that post I wrote the following: 

"I am proud of what my family does for our nation. I love my husband, and I love my country. I'm proud that we choose to serve something greater than ourselves.

I would like to thank the person who wrote the comment because it inspired me to write a post that I've been considering for a while. Let me begin by saying that I do not feel the need to explain myself to anyone, but this issue has been such a hot topic in more forums than mine, that I would like to address it now.

For convenience sake, here is the comment that was posted:

"I've really been enjoying reading your blog and have found it interesting, however I do have a comment about something you said: "I'm proud that we choose to serve something greater than ourselves." You don't serve. You are not active duty, you are a civilian, you didn't choose to serve. I find it highly offensive that you have implied that you serve just because you are married to someone who does."

I never implied that I serve my country in a military capacity simply because my husband does. I do not feel the need to "ride his coattails" so to speak, to feel that sense of accomplishment. Nor would I ever try to rob my husband of what he has so rightfully earned and take it for myself. I did not mean what I said as a blanket statement to describe all military families. I meant it only in reference to my family. With that said, my husband's military service affects every single aspect of my life. It affects my marriage, my career, where my home is, my social life, my emotional well being, and my children and the entirety of their lives as well. It also affects how and why I volunteer my free time. Just because the military spouse does not have a contract with the United States government does not mean that we are immune to service or sacrifice. It is my husband's military service and career, but it is our life.

When my husband and I fell in love and chose to get married, I promised to love, honor, and support him. Part of that promise means that I support him in his chosen career. Our marriage is a partnership based on mutual love and respect. His job is in the military but he also takes into consideration how his career choices affect his family. His lumps and bumps are mine too. Everything that affects him, affects me. I may be behind him, left at home while he is away, but I live this life with him. While he trains, deploys, and works hard to defend our nation, I work hard at home to support his unit and the families of his men, in addition to maintaing our home, our vehicles, raising our children, and running a business of my own.

This kind of support is not always official, but it comes in many forms, and varies from unit to unit. Many of the things I have done include volunteering as FRG leader, fundraising for the unit, putting together care packages for single soldiers, cleaning empty barracks rooms prior to the return of the deployed men, hosting holiday dinners, making monthly phone calls to 150 soldier's spouses and families with updates and information, taking care of a soldier's over due cell phone bill, or expired license plates, and bringing hot meals to staff duty. Other times it means being there to babysit someone's children, give rides to the doctor, or commissary, help spouses who are new to the area become acclimated for a smoother transition, mow other's yards, be a friend, an advocate, or just a shoulder to cry on. I've been a military spouse for nearly a decade, so many times I simply share what I've learned along the way. A lot of this is even more important when our soldiers are away. My family has received of this kind of help and support as well. Both my husband and I were very grateful.

Not every military wife does this. It is not required of us. But I do. I do not get paid for my time, I offer it freely. Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's work, and many times it's both. It is in this way that I "serve" something greater than myself, and it is because of my husband's military service that I choose to volunteer my time to this cause, and to these people. To insinuate that I sacrifice nothing, and serve nothing because I am not military personnel is insulting.

I do not directly serve our nation in the way that my husband and his men do. I will never have that honor. My choice is to love and support my own soldier, and do my best to support his men and their families. It is not a job as rough, tough, and gritty as the one my husband does. I will never pretend that what I do is harder than what my husband does. I will never pretend that it is imperative to a successful military or a strong nation. But the fact is that military spouses and families are part of military life. Helping and taking care of them is full of it's own unique challenges. Many military wives shoulder responsibilities and burdens that non-military wives often don't, or never do. The sacrifice and service of military spouses who work hard and volunteer their time in support of soldiers, their units, and their families should not be overlooked. I'm proud of my husband's service, and I'm proud of my contribution in support of my husband's service. Nothing and no one will ever change that.

March 27, 2012

A Little Bit of Home Here

Cruising the internet the other day:

Hmmm, summer clothes for the kids, check. Summer clothes for me. . . um, not so much.

Looking for some delicious summer recipes that don't take a BILLION years to make. . . 

(The weather is warming up here. Can you tell?)

Sandals, a new bikini maybe? Nah, not yet. Still 15 lbs. to lose.

A mini break to someplace? Any place? Nope. That would require lots of work for me, and no fun without my husband.

How about. . . and there it was. A crappy quality picture -probably taken with an old iPhone- of me sitting with a friend at Sonic, sipping a Diet Cherry Limeade.

I'm not sure what clinched it, if it was the friend in the picture, or the Cherry Limeade, probably both, but it's official. I miss home. I've been feeling it coming on for about a week now, but this really did it. I usually miss home a lot more when my husband is gone, and there are specific times of year when I really, really miss home. This year though, things are just a bit different.

I'm not just feeling nostalgic for the place where I grew up. I'm feeling it for places in time no matter where in the world I happened to be. Nights on the town in Savannah with our friends Jen & Lamont, backyard BBQ's with neighbors at Fort Benning, and yes, even Fayetteville with my friend Heather, sitting at the Sonic. I know that a few years from now, after our time on Okinawa is over, I'll feel some nostalgia for this place too.

But this time it was the Cherry Limeade, the friend, the feelings of peace and consistency that I know I felt when that picture was taken. For a moment I completely forgot where I was. I was determined to call up a friend, meet at Sonic with our kids, and order a Cherry Limeade! There has been a Sonic, and Cherry Limeade available in every place I've lived for the last decade.

But then. . . the horror! Oh the horror! Reality dawned an instant later. I'm in Japan. There is no Sonic here. Hence, no Cherry Limeade. Since I can't see my old friends, it's clearly time to dig up a copy cat recipe for that one. It's amazing how something so simple as a frivolous drink can make me miss things back in the states so much.

Now I had a plan. I would make my favorite summer drink here to Japan. Off to the 100 Yen store to find some cheap reusable travel cups with straws, and the commissary to buy my ingredients. I know I'm not getting off this island to visit home anytime soon, so I'm going to make the best of what nostalgia brings. I've decided I'm going not going to miss home. I'm going to have it here.

I can't build a Sonic, and I can't fly my friends out here. So I'll put a kiddie pool in our yard, grab a beach umbrella, add some friends and their kids, and best of all, my homemade cherry limeade. . . only this year since I don't have to drive home, maybe I'll have a little something extra in it too!

Oh, and I'm going to buy that bikini after all.

March 19, 2012

Do Unto Others

Hi! My name is Stephanie and I am a Facebook addict! Hahahaha!

I keep in touch with most of my friends that way now, since we live on opposite sides of the planet from each other, and it's not always convenient to schedule a phone call or Skype date. What is daytime for me is the middle of the night for them.

Several days ago while I was adding some pictures, updating statuses, and perusing the latest exploits of friends, new and old, I came across a particular page. I will not share the name of the page in this blog because I don't feel that their message is a positive one, nor do they need or deserve anymore traffic directed toward them. Anyway, I came across a page directed toward military wives. It possibly began as a humor page, attempting to give us spouses some comic relief in the sometimes overly serious world of military life. The title of the page seemed promising. Maybe the creator's intentions were good. I don't know.

I dug into the page looking for a laugh, because lets face it. These days, under these particular circumstances, I am wound tighter than a spring. I am very sensitive to much of what I see, hear, or do, and sometimes a misdirected comment, a photograph, or a story on the news is like a dagger jammed right into my heart. Even when I try to keep my emotions in check, some days are very overwhelming and it just can't be helped.

As I wandered around this particular Facebook page looking at the posts and comments, I found some things that were remarkably true, and a bit humorous. I added a comment or two about my own blunders as a military wife. But as the days went by and I looked again and again, I found nothing remotely funny about what was happening in front of my eyes. What I saw didn't make me angry, only sad. It seems that this page was created for military wives who want nothing to do with the military and abhor everything about being a military wife. I consider myself a pretty open minded person, so if the patrons of this page feel that way, and it works for them, then more power to them. They have every right to live as they choose.

But here is where the problem lies. In my mind, and in my heart, I know that what they are doing is wrong. The things being posted and said are very inconsiderate and rude. They make a specific point of degrading and belittling other military wives who do not fall in line with their method of thinking, or living. The entire thing exists only to be hateful toward a specific group of people. Some of the things mentioned on this page deal with women who "wear their husband's rank" or feel they deserve special treatment because of their husband's rank, demand discounts, and otherwise use and abuse their privileges as a military spouse. Perhaps a valid grievance to air, but then it got worse. Also mentioned, or more specifically targeted are over weight women, and unemployed women, with many comments being made with the assumption that they are all lazy, and mooching off of their husbands. *sigh

I too have my own opinion of spouses who DO use their husband's rank, cheat on their husbands while they're away, and otherwise "mooch", so to speak. But I am of the mind that a PFC's wife and children should be treated with the same consideration and respect as a Colonel's wife and children. Regardless of rank, appearance, or employment status, each family deserves at least that much. There is no difference between us. We are all in the same boat. In my own experience I find that it is easier to surround myself with people I respect, and who respect me, people who I enjoy, and who bring out the best in me. It doesn't hurt me any to let the rest go about their lives their way.

But no matter how much I disagree with something someone does, I do not spend gross quantities of my time lumping all spouses with certain characteristics, physical or otherwise, into one large group, and proceed to make fun of them. The actions of a spouse, appearance of oneself, and the rearing of children is between a soldier and their spouse. It is not my place to judge. I don't feel the need to point out what I believe to be the shortcomings of others simply because it is not how I choose to live my life. I do not need to belittle anyone, and in my opinion, those that do belittle others do it because there is something lacking within themselves.

It doesn't matter which kind of community you live in. Rich, or poor, New York City, or Ely Iowa, there is always going to be ignorance, arrogance, people you'd rather not spend time with, and people who don't subscribe to the same set of values as you do. That doesn't mean that they are less human than you. It doesn't mean they don't have feelings. It doesn't mean they aren't fighting some sort of daily battle. It just truly disheartens me that there is this kind of negativity going on in a community that should be of all things, supportive of each other. Sometimes all we have is each other.

I am a proud military wife. I am proud of all the things my husband has accomplished. For he has done so by his own strength and ambition, and the loving support of his family. What affects him affects me and our children. It is not within my makeup to pretend that this portion of my life does not exist. I proudly wear his unit insignia as a pendant around my neck. I live in base housing. I am a stay at home mom with a small business of my own. I wear my workout clothes to the commissary! Judge me if you must, but know that I don't care. I know in my heart what kind of wife I am to my husband, what kind of mother I am to my children, and what kind of person I am to this world. I also know what kind of person I don't  want to be. I strive to be better for my husband, for my children, and for myself.

I've been making a conscious effort to eliminate negativity from my life. In that spirit, I chose to disentangle myself from anyone or anything having to do with this page. There is nothing good that can come from consciously demeaning others. This has made me ever more mindful of how I publicly treat other people. Even if I'm having a bad day, even if the checkout line at the commissary is slow because a slightly overweight woman in sweatpants is taking too long to count out her coupons. No one has the right to make her feel like she's less. There is only one who will judge us. I will be held accountable for my actions in this world, both the good I've done, and the many mistakes I've made.

Luke 6:13. "And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.".