I’ve never bothered to make any New Year’s Resolutions. That has more to do with the fact that I know they’ll be broken by Valentine’s Day than a belief that I don’t need any improvement. This year, I’ve decided to try something different. Instead of resolving to finally start that total fitness regime or learn a foreign language, I am going to make a Military Spouse’s Resolutions: little things that can help me and others in our hectic lives as military spouses.
REMOVE THE STICKERS
We still have a rainbow of little moving stickers on all of our furniture. I’ve always thought of each one as a little badge of honor. The military spouse’s version of the member’s chest full of medals. The white one was from when we moved to a Florida with a newborn. The green one is from the overseas move when they told us our household goods might be lost on the bottom the Atlantic. Each brings back a memory of a move.
But this is our “forever house.” Barring unforeseen circumstances, we will live here until the kids graduate from high school. We are as settled as we have been since we got married. It’s time.
SEND OUT CHRISTMAS CARDS
I had coffee at a friend’s house in early December. She was putting stamps on a stack of what looked like a hundred Christmas cards. After she was finished, she sat back in the chair and sighed with relief. “Well, that’s the first half done!”
I asked her how she could possibly know that many people. She blinked in disbelief. “You’re a military spouse, too,” she said. “How can you not know that many people?”
She had a point. With all of the jobs, neighborhoods, schools, churches, and activities we’ve been involved with for the last twelve years, our Christmas card list should be as long as my arm. But we sent not a one this year, and we didn’t get many more than that.
I’m not sure what happened. The first year we were married, we had a respectable list, but with frequent military moves, we lost track of our friends and they lost track of us. I truly enjoy hearing from old friends, even if it’s only once a year. I actually like reading those year-end letters from friends and relatives no matter how braggy or how mundane.
Of course, I know that you’ve got to give to receive, so in December 2013, I resolve to send out Christmas cards to our friends, neighbors, and co-workers around the world, cheesy letters and all. Which leads me to my next resolution:
BE A BETTER CORRESPONDENT
Why wait until Christmas to stay in touch with friends? It’s easier than it’s ever been with email, Facebook, and other social media. There’s no excuse anymore. But staying in touch doesn’t just mean occasionally “liking” someone’s Facebook post. We’ve made some wonderful friends over the years. We’ve supported each other through all the ups and downs of military life. The deployments, promotions, and PCS’s. There is no reason we still can’t do that, even though we’re separated by an ocean, in some cases.
When we part, I always promise I will keep up with frequent emails and phone calls. But then I get caught up in the whirlwind of unpacking boxes and getting the kids ready for a new school. I confess that I’ve never really gotten used to the frequent moves. Starting over is hard, and I envy the extroverts who don’t seem to miss a step when moving to a new duty station. I just don’t have that kind of personality. In focusing all my energy on adjusting to a new location, I tend to neglect what I’ve left behind. There won't be any more moves, and I want to do better.
BE A BETTER TOURIST
When we found out several years ago that we were headed overseas to RAF Mildenhall, we made a list of all the European capitals and historical sites we wanted to visit. At some point, the ruined castles in the English countryside started to blend together, and it wasn’t until the last six months we were overseas that we really started to travel. We enjoyed it, but it all felt a bit rushed.
I’d like to blame it on the fact that we had two pre-schoolers that weren’t terribly portable, but it really comes down to procrastination. My husband and I would inevitably look at each other on a Friday night and say, “So…what do you want to do this weekend?” Our poor advance planning meant that we spent most Saturdays at the exchange food court and base indoor playground. Our pre-schoolers were thrilled, but there’s something wrong when the high point of your weekend during an overseas posting is getting an extra large Diet Coke at the BX Burger King.
I don’t want to fall into that same trap here. This area offers world-class museums, battlefields, historical sites, outdoor attractions, sporting events, and more. There isn’t really an excuse to plan every weekend around a trip to the exchange.
Let me know if there’s anything I can do…
How often have we heard or said those words as military spouses? We all want to help friends whose spouses are deployed or others in our community who are dealing with family emergencies. When I’ve been on the receiving end of one of those kind but vague offers, I could have come up with a long list of things I needed. But like many military spouses, I just don’t like to ask for help.
In our busy lives, it is often easy to overlook the struggles of others in our military community, but it is often the simplest gesture that means the most. I can’t tell you how much it meant to have a friend offer to watch my toddlers for an hour so I could run to the store for milk and bread or finally get a haircut.
I know how much I’ve appreciated the more specific offers of help when my husband was deployed: from the meals that were delivered on hectic weeknights to the moms who babysat my older child while I went to my OB appointments. Those are the kinds of offers I have resolved to make in 2013.
STOP BLAMING THE MILITARY FOR EVERYTHING
I’ve spent the last decade as a military spouse, and I’ve realized that our military lifestyle has become my go-to excuse for not accomplishing the things I want to accomplish in life.
We hit our share of bumps in the road as military spouses, but not every bad thing that happens to us is the military’s fault. While I’m sure that frequent moves and the stresses of deployment have contributed to my failure to keep up a fitness routine, the military didn’t hide my keys to keep me from hitting the gym. (I have begun to suspect, however, that the military has secretly installed some kind of experimental homing device in my car that makes it impossible for me to avoid a Taco Bell drive-thru.)
So, those are my resolutions for the year. We’ll see how long I can keep them going. If I succeed, then by this time next year, I will have renewed bonds with old friends, sent out a stack of Christmas cards, and gotten my furniture sticker-free at last.
And if I don’t succeed, it is all the military’s fault.