2 years in

I’m going to skip the recap of my procrastination cycle that I continue to get myself in with writing this blog and just jump in to today’s post, in which I feel ready to catch up to more current events because I finally, after 9 months, feel like I’ve adjusted to our most recent military change.  I mentioned a few posts back that I (and we) have been really frustrated with military stuff for awhile now.  The long and short of it started with D finishing flight school and it finally feels like it has ended with hot, sticky boredom but peace in little old Meridian, Mississippi.  I’ll share a little of our journey with this transition although a lot of the more personal bits have been left out.

It all started with D’s selection, which is what happens when they finish primary flight training and are selected to fly a specific air craft.  For Navy guys, the options for platforms are Maritime(P3s and P8s), Rotary(helicopters), Jets, or E2-C2. At the end of training, they have the guys fill out a “dream sheet” where they rank their top 3 choices. This is a step in what I now realize is the Navy’s cruel trick of making you think you have a choice, when in reality you don’t. Maybe we were naive to forget that military life means hanging up your free will for the “needs of the Navy.” But the students are encouraged to do the best they can and given the impression that if they do well in flight school that they will get their top choice. Maybe this is true for some but we are now no longer naive to think that there are any absolutes.

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Each squadron does their selection differently, but D’s basically had the guys line up at the squadron bar with family and friends around. Each student had three chips in a cup that each had a platform on it. They’d toast someone and then pull out a chip and read it. The CO would then look at the list and tell them yes or no if they were assigned to it. My husband already has two helicopters licenses, got the best score that week and 60% of the Navy pilots fly helicopters, so I think we weren’t the only ones assuming that he would get his first choice of rotary. Three chips in the cup, so if you got two no’s, then you knew the third one was a yes and your platform, right? Well, D got a no for e2/c2, a no for maritime, and then pulled out a rotary chip. Sigh of relief. Rotary means D gets to fly what he wants, we stay in Pensacola, and he’ll wing in a mere 6 months. The CO looks down at his bind and then says um, no. They steal his cup and put another chip in it. Whoops they say – jets it is. I think we both spent the next hour thinking “what just happened?” Not only did we get jets, we also were getting sent to Meridian, MS rather than Kingsville, TX which D had requested. In 3 weeks.

I won’t go into all the details of why this was difficult for us, but it wasn’t made any easier by people who didn’t get why anyone would be anything but super ecstatic to fly jets or to be a fighter pilot’s wife and didn’t understand the significant of how this would impact our current life and future. This was a major adjustment for us to wrap our heads around in addition to everything that came with it – We ended up living apart for 7 months as I commuted back and forth to my business and our home in Pensacola. D’s training started very slow and he seemed to be scheduled for duty every time I came for a visit. Then training stopped altogether due to issues with the oxygen system in the training jets. (If you think it’s difficult for a military wife to deal with the idea that her husband could die in battle, try wrapping your brain around the idea that your husband’s own plane could poison him.)  Meridian was smaller than any town we’d ever lived in, and to make things worse, everyone we knew was either staying in Pensacola or going to Texas.

But here we are. A lot of problems or questions or fears that have come with this transition have not been solved, answered, or soothed. But I’m finally feeling on a regular basis like things are okay. Maybe its time, maybe its perspective, whatever it is, I like feeling this way. And I actually feel like I’ve learned a few things along the way, and maybe you’ve been here too if you’re a navy wife.

1. It is not up to you. I’d heard it a million times, you read about it, you hear it constantly.  The military doesn’t care about what is best for you, it’s whats best for the Navy. You know that when you join this group, you sacrifice.  But I don’t think you can fully understand what that means to give up your freedom of choice until you’re going through it.  I don’t know why the Navy asks us or why we keep asking each other where we want to live or what we want for our future.  Feel free not to ask me, because honestly I’d rather not make a decision that is not really mine to make.

2.  You can be happy, but it’s okay if it takes time.  Moving is hard.  Moving to the deep south when you grew up a yankee is hard.  Moving to a tiny town where the nearest Target is 90 minutes away is hard.  Leaving your first home is hard.  Leaving your job or business you built is hard.  Finding a job or creating a new one is hard.  Making new friends is hard.  Saying goodbye to friends is hard.  Doing all this when your husbands dreams were just dashed is hard.  I don’t think pressuring myself to be happy about this move made me any happier.  I’m okay that its taken me a long time.

3.  Sometimes it takes a lot of work to be happy.  A trip to Starbucks, a walk through Anthropologie or Target, a few minutes on my back porch, a morning on the beach, an evening in my garden – all these were effortless happiness for me.  None of those things exist in Meridian, so I can either be unhappy or work for it.  I will go anywhere and try anything here because there just isn’t that much to do.  Make new friends, make a new beautiful home, make new hobbies and new memories.  That may take effort and work, especially in a small town, but its worth it.

4.  Go outside your comfort zone.  I grew up outside Philly and stepped with my girlfriends during recess and I now own three horses, wear cowboy boots on a regular basis, and actually crave pork skins now and then.  I don’t like leaving a/c if its over 80, but I’ve spent most of the summer dirty and sweaty on our friends’ muggy farm with horses pigs and a cow named Einstein.  I bake pies and go to antique shops and rodeos.  Not because these things are me, but because I want to be happy where I am, and for now that’s the deep south which is not my comfort zone. (I actually told D when we were moving to Florida that I didn’t even want to drive across Mississippi and jokes on me, we live here).  And we’ll probably be here for quite some time, so I will continue to do everything I can to make my uncomfortable zone as comfy and cozy as can be.  And you know what? I really do love pie.

5.  Advocate for yourself.  Michelle Obama may have convinced you that military spouses will be taken care of but the reality in this country is far from policy.  I said awhile back that military spouses are awesome and the truth is, we are a giant ball of awesomeness that is a majorly untapped resource.  I wish every military wife knew how awesome she was and wasn’t afraid to demand that people pay attention to that rather than just brush her under the rug.  It is not easy and I think at times we will feel absolutely defeated.  But don’t let the defeat take over, keep fighting for whatever it is that you deserve whether its a job, a home, a license, or something for your family.

6.  Try not to make comparisons.  It really felt for awhile and there continue to be things that make me feel like we are getting the short end of the stick.  But there’s always going to someone who has it worse and someone who has it better.  Comparing either way rarely makes us feel good.  There’s no set path of what D’s military career will look like and chances are it will be different than our friends.  I’m trying to focus on our own path.

7. Pie. It’s all I can think about now.

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We fancy

Today I am rewinding to October, our first Navy ball!  I’m pretty sure military balls were created just to keep the wives happy.  Maybe some guys like getting fancied up, but it’s not really my man’s thing.  He also could not comprehend that I actually got enjoyment out of spending hours picking out the perfect dress (no easy feat when you want a modest one), accessories, and doing my hair and makeup.  But it’s totally my thing.  Unfortunately, they make the guys buy the tickets so it was weeks of nagging him to do something he could care less about 🙂  Also during flight school, everything tends to happen at the most inopportune time so of course he had a really important flight scheduled for the morning after the ball.  Well, I guess the MOST inopportune time would have been if he had a flight that night, so it could be worse! Also a lot of our friends did have flights, meaning we really didn’t know anyone there.  I’m hoping our next ball falls on a weekend where my husband can actually relax and we know some more people there, but it was still a great night for me! I’m not sure we’re going to be able to top our venue though – the naval aviation museum.  It was pretty fun to have dinner under a few Blue Angels with helicopters and jets all around us.  I read a few posts about military balls beforehand, but it wasn’t as formal as as all that.  I’m sure each command is probably a little different, but my advice?  It’s a ball, ladies – not rocket science.  Dinner, some speeches, pomp and circumstance, and dancing (if you’re lucky and your hubby doesn’t have to get home to study).  Lately I’ve been a little frustrated (severe understatement) with some of the aspects of military wife life and for a girl who likes getting fancied up and taken out on a date, it was a little bit of a reward for military wife life.  I hope my husband knows I’ll be expecting it every year 🙂

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I’m back, for now.

I’ve always been inconsistent with journal writing, which is very much what this blogging stuff feels like. You’ll find gaps in every journal I own (well actually, you won’t, because those aren’t for your eyes). But it’s been much too long here. Unfortunately one of the reasons I haven’t written in awhile is because this blog is about our life in the military and for sometime now the military part of our life has been really hard. Not just hard, hard is manageable.  I’m not sure what the word is for it. I think it’s pretty normal when your husband joins the military for it to become a part of your identity.  Some wives avoid that, but I’ve embraced it and found pride in it. But there are also times when you have to step back and let it just be your husband’s job because at times it really sucks. It’s one of those times right now, so I’m not going to write about what’s going on in our lives now. But I will write about what’s happened since the last time I was on here, because my purpose was to connect with military families and share our experiences. So I want to do that – it may take time to catch up but I’ve got to start somewhere right?

Last time I was here D had just completed his first solo in primary flight training.  He’s now in advanced training so obviously a lot has happened since.  Today I’ll just share a few thoughts on primary.  It took D about 6 months to complete primary.  Several times when I told older retired men that my husband was in flight training, they would apologize.  I get it now.  It’s not easy on anyone.  One of the toughest things about their training is that they don’t find out their schedule each day until the afternoon/night before. (Unfortunately this doesn’t change in advanced).  It definitely makes it incredibly difficult on everyone even though you learn to adjust.  I’ve become one of those people who a lot of times just doesn’t commit to things.  Those people used to annoy me.  Trust me, I wish I was not this way.  I would love to have the next twenty years of my life planned, but I can’t tell you what we’re doing tomorrow.  There is also a lot of ups and downs with how busy D is in flight school.  Throughout primary he had weeks where he didn’t have anything and weeks where I went to bed by myself.  Sure, I can create consistency in my life if I want, the military doesn’t run my schedule.  But that’s only if I don’t really want to spend time with my husband, because he will without a doubt be scheduled for the most inopportune times – birthdays, valentine’s day – never fails.  So you learn to adopt the go with the flow free spirit attitude.  Or on days where you can’t do that, you’re just a wee bit angry and resentful 🙂 And you have backup plans.  Backup dates.  I have filled in for husbands on several dates and had wives fill in for mine.  And our puppy regularly fills in as my nightly snuggle companion.

One of the things I don’t understand about primary is why in the world they have it in Pensacola, the no. 2 rainiest city in the country.  It seems like things would be much more efficient if it was in someplace like Arizona?  But of course efficiency and the government are antonyms 🙂 .  I got to go “watch” D’s last solo (formation flying), which meant sitting in the instructors lounge for a LOOONG time while he flew and then having him walk me out to the plane when he was all done and show me around.  Definitely different than watching solos in the civilian world!  But it was still nice getting to be a part of it.  Primary ends with selection, where they are assigned their specific aircraft, but that will be a post for another day.  Can’t get too carried away today!

Me in all D’s flight gear.  Its heavy!

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All done with primary, a very happy day!

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Happy late 4th of July!

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One goal I will not be crossing off my list this year as accomplished is blogging every week.  Oh well- such is life!  I can’t believe summer is almost half over already. We’ve been trying not to melt in the Florida heat, but enjoying the beaches and paddleboarding and motorcycle rides.  Yes, D bought a motorcycle. I think we both picture this:

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Even though we look more like this:

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D is still in the first phase of primary, he’s done lots of simulator flights and about 5 actual flights in the T-6B.  The crazy summer thunderstorms make it tough for him to consistently fly but the simulator is always ready!  His training wing had a spouse orientation the other week and I got to do a short flight in the simulator, it was pretty fun but I think the Navy should keep me out of their aircraft unless someone else can land it.  Here I am flying over Pensacola.  In a skirt.  Which made it impossible to eject before my crash landing on the runway.

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I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since D commissioned as an officer.  I was reminiscing the other day and thought of just a few things I’ve learned in my first year of being a Navy wife I would want other new spouses to know.

1. It’s hard being away from D, but I don’t have to be miserable. Yes, it sucked being thousands of miles away from my husband when he was at OCS and not being able to talk to him. Yes I hated that the only thing I had to snuggle at night was a pillow with a sweatshirt on it. Yes I spent a few nights sitting at the bottom of my shower crying because I missed a phone call and no way to call D back. But most of the time I had a great time doing lots of fun things – learning to run, yoga classes, girl time, sunbathing poolside, eating breakfasts for dinner – a lot of things that D doesn’t really like.  Being apart is a reality in the military, so if you don’t want to hate it, make a plan not to.

2.  Work is important to me, at least for now.  I’ll admit, I was sad to leave my practice in Oregon, but pretty excited about having some time off of work during the process of moving.  I didn’t realize until after I started working again, however, how difficult it would be for me to not have the confidence I get from working and how strange it would be to go from being financially self-reliant to completely reliant on D.  And I think I was a little bit more of an emotional mess than I wanted to be not working.  The reality of being a military spouse is that your career becomes secondary to your spouse (unless you don’t mind choosing not to live together) – this is harder for some than others, but figure out how you feel about it and do what you can to make the best of it when you can’t have what you want.

3.  Military life is constant change and unpredictability.  Not only do we have no clue where we’ll be living in the next few years, D has no idea what his schedule is in the next few days.  I can rarely predict when D will be home or not since he can’t either.  And there is a constant change in how busy he is.  He will be gone or studying for 12 hrs straight for a few weeks, and then may have a week or months of pretty much nothing.  That constant change in his schedule and productivity can be pretty difficult to adjust to for both of us.  It requires a plan A, B, C and learning to be okay if none of those plans work out.  It also means giving a lot of “I don’t knows” to family and friends who ask questions.  Note: Some family and friends are more willing to accept this answer than others.

4.  Military wives are awesome.  I absolutely love having ladies who are going through the same things as me.  I love meeting new people and building new friendships and having a built in support group.  And thankfully with technology, these friendships don’t have to end with a new duty station. (And I imagine it’s hard being a military husband,  but I bet they’re just as awesome.)

5. Ask for a military discount. I still forget this everywhere I go.

When I asked D what he’s learned, all he said “Hurry up and wait” (*see number 3).  That’s the Navy for you.

It’s definitely been a wild ride our first year in the military, I’m sure there are many more adventures ahead of us!

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Stressed but thankful

So one of the joys of military life so far (please pick up on sarcastic tone here) is the back and forth between D working hard and hardly working.   There’s been a lot of waiting since we moved down to Pensacola, which in some ways was really nice, but its pretty tough to transition from doing practically nothing to working basically from waking up til going to sleep 7 days a week.  Since API started, D has been gone for about 10hrs a day for school and spends the rest of the nights and weekends studying at home or with his study group.  We do Friday date nights which helps, but its kind of hard going from probably spending too much time together to hardly spending time together at all.   D has been doing great on all his tests (he has two a week) but its pretty intense.  If he doesn’t get an 80 or above, then they have to roll back and join another class, which could mean several more weeks (sound familiar?).   And on top of the academics he’s had PT tests and swimming tests (including swimming a mile in a flight suit – eek!).  We’re both really hoping that he continues doing well so this craziness is as short as possible!  As for now, I’m spending lots and lots of time with this guy:

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Last week was especially rough for me because we had another tornado on Tuesday.  If you haven’t heard about it, it was pretty bad – thankfully no one was killed or even seriously injured in our area, but there were a lot of homes and buildings destroyed.  (You can read more about it here.)  When I told D I had rescheduled my clients so I wouldn’t have to work that night, he didn’t even know what I was talking about because he was holed up in class all day.  He was way too stressed with studying to really care, while I was prepping food and water and trying to figure out how to keep us and our fur babies safe.  I finally convinced D to take shelter in our bathroom when the news said that a “deadly and dangerous tornado” was directly over our area of the city and the lights started flickering.  We stayed in there for about 15 minutes and when we came out, found that the tornado path and damage was only a mile from our house.  I felt so weird all week with how close it was.  How people’s lives were completely turned upside down just a mile from us, while we just went on with going to work (driving right by the damage) and living our normal life.  I know  with living in this area there will definitely be more crazy weather, but I really hope we don’t see worse than this.  We’re feeling very grateful to have been spared (again) from any damage.  I hope we can always remember how lucky we are in so many ways.

If you’d like to donate to help the families affected by the tornado you can go to helpNWFLrecover.org