You're not going to find "Get involved!" or "Join the FRG!" advice from me. I mean, there's nothing wrong with being involved. I was an FRG leader myself back in 2010-2011. But this is advice that will help you keep your sanity if you're living the military lifestyle. This is my advice. This is what I've learned. We all have our own experiences in the military and back in 2009, I was brand new at this. I'm reminded once in awhile that I'm not brand-new anymore and I do, actually, have some wisdom to offer. Behold...
1. Be flexible. Don't believe anything they tell you until it's actually happened. R&R starts next week? I'll believe it when he calls from the airport. He'll be home by October 16th? Try November 1st. It is stressful and it will push you to your breaking point (and it will make you write substitute plans for a week straight because you don't know when he'll be coming home)...but you will get through it. I learned at one point to not be surprised by anything the Army did, no matter how unjust it seemed. It's hard to communicate that to others though. Family, for instance, usually requires an explanation as to why you won't be coming home to visit or why he's still deployed. It's hard to understand when you're not used to the system.
2. Find a hobby. Or two. Actually, three. This should be number one on the list. You cannot, I repeat cannot, expect your husband to entertain you. Our military life began with a deployment in 2009. For four months, I anticipated homecoming, believing that all would be right with the world when that magical day came. I should've found a hobby. You are still a person. You still have interests and things you want to do and accomplish, even if you do move at the drop of a hat every couple of years. For deployment number two, I had blogging, teaching, and working out on my side. It kept me occupied for 11+ months. Along with plenty of HBO. Really, find a hobby. You need an outlet.
3. Be friendly. I'm an introvert. Meeting new people is at the bottom of my "that could be fun" list. However, I've learned that if you're new, you need to smile. You need to be kind and chatty and ask questions of people. You need to fake it if you don't feel like it. It's the only way and will benefit you in the end. There's times that Scott has introduced me to new people and I felt terrible at the time. Later, he'd tell me that "so-and-so really liked you" and I'm always surprised. If you appear to be friendly, people will like you. Then, they can eventually get to know how great you really are, especially if you're an introvert.
4. Be welcoming. On the flip side, welcome the new people. Help those who have questions. Smile. I didn't realize how much knowledge I'd gained until I met new wives who didn't know the same things I did. I'm happy to share. So many wonderful wives shared with me. It's always someone's turn to play the welcome-wagon.
5. Don't be afraid to try new things. Can you say Alaska? Or 35 acre ranch in Colorado? You can do some amazing things when you get to live all over the place. My first instinct is to usually say no when Scott comes home with a new idea (or calls from 500 miles away and says we're moving to Alaska). I do try though. I've gotten to see and do so much, just because of this lifestyle.
6. Make a career of sorts. The nice thing about the moving is that you get to reinvent yourself often. The bad thing is that you have to be on the constant lookout for opportunity. I've been lucky enough to find a job at each location and I'm not telling you that you have to work, but you need to find something to do. Seriously. Whether it's raising kids, going to school, working-from-home, going to an office, volunteer work, or something part-time. You will go insane if you don't find a purpose. Especially if you're at one of those middle-of-nowhere bases. It took me all of 3 months in Missouri to realize I needed a job. And I've tried to find a paying job at each location. Some people go the volunteer work route and that's fine too. I did that at one point but I always felt like my marketable skills were being exploited. I figured I'd better put my degree to use for as long as I can.
7. Don't try to control...anything. Ever. This goes back to #1 and something I often struggle with. A few years ago, I would get really bent out of shape when Scott would come home and tell me the latest development in what he was supposed to be doing or where he was supposed to be going. However, all my frustration and worry never did a thing for him or me. I hate to say it, but the military doesn't care how it keeps you up at night, so it's not worth the worry. Worrying just gives you something to do. I subscribe to Ma Ingalls' method: All's well that ends well. How you get there doesn't matter.
8. OPSEC. This is probably the most important advice. Operational Security. Did you know that there are cases where soldiers have not arrived home on time from deployments because wives or other family members told social media the travel information? And I'm not talking a delayed flight. I'm talking days or a week of delay for hundreds of soldiers and family members because someone felt the need to spill the travel times (probably in a grammatically incorrect way) on Facebook. I never understood what the big deal was with this. But if you look at the way terrorism has infiltrated every country in the world, it's probably best to keep it to yourself. A day delay, after a 12 month deployment, will feel like the end of the world. I'm telling you. Nothing goes as slowly as those last 12 hours. Why would you want to be responsible for doing that to other families? And please (pretty please) think before you post photos. The wrong person can gain all kinds of information from backgrounds, uniforms, etc. Especially if you're posting a photo of your soldier and there are others in the background. I try not to be too specific on this blog but, obviously, army wife is part of my identity. You just won't get a lot of dates/descriptions/locations from me. I would never throw out our address or tell you the names of my students, so I would also never give the details on my husband's job to the wide world of the internet.
I even remember cropping this photo within an inch of its life because I didn't want to show the internet the background, just in case.
The real picture has Scott and another soldier with a background of bulletin boards and postings inside one of the buildings on their operating base. Even back then, I knew I couldn't sleep if I put that all online. (Okay, climbing down from the soapbox...)
Military wives: Anything else you can think of?