Monthly Archives: September 2020

How to Juggle Being a Military Spouse and a Grandparent

I appreciated more what my parents must have gone through when some of their grandchildren, including mine, moved away from them. Being grandparents is amazing. But living far away from those grandkids is hard.

Our first two grandchildren, Tony B and his brother, G (he doesn’t want to be called Gaby Baby anymore.), were born in England while we were stationed in Hawaii and Mississippi, respectively. Tony B. was born the day the Good Chaplain had to report for duty in Hawaii in May 2012. We were in Illinois staying with Illinois Girl and Soccer Stud, waiting for the Good Chaplain to leave for Hawaii. I planned to fly to England in two weeks to be there in plenty of time for the birth. Tony B had other plans. He was three weeks early.

Tony B. and Nonna

A mutual friend of Mrs. Tech Sergeant and I woke us in the middle of the night to tell us Mrs. Tech Sergeant was in labor. The same friend called again in the morning saying our new grandson was here and gave us a phone number to the hospital since our daughter could not call out from the base hospital room. When I saw his cute little face in the pictures they sent, I fell immediately in love.

The Good Chaplain didn’t get to see him until the following November when he was six months old. I can’t say enough about the technology of Skype and now FaceTime. Because of that technology, we saw Tony B most Friday nights as we prepared for bed, and he was getting up and enjoying his breakfast on Saturday morning.

Two years later, when I flew to England after G was born, as I got into the car, Tony B looked at me and said, “Hi, Nonna.” I was impressed. He hadn’t seen me in person since he was six months old, but he knew who I was because of our Skype sessions.

A happy G

As he is wont to do, G messed up our plans by coming into the world two days after we moved to Mississippi in June 2014. He was two days late. I remember we were at our first church service in the officers’ club’s banquet room, followed by a lunch to welcome us. Since lunch was in our honor, we sat at the front table. Normally, my phone would not be on during worship service, but I knew Mrs. Tech Sergeant was in labor, so I placed my phone front and center on the table before me.

Baby G’s heart rate dropped with each contraction, so Mrs. Tech Sergeant had a Cesarean section. This time, the plan was for both the Good Chaplain and me to fly to England to meet our newest grandson at the end of July. But since Mrs. Tech Sergeant had a C-section, I moved up my ticket and left on July 5 to help her out. I stayed for four weeks and held that chubby little child the whole time. His daycare workers were not happy with me because he did not like to be put down after I left.

Little Bitty was teeny tiny.

Two and half years later, our granddaughter was born in December of 2016 in Illinois while we lived in Virginia. Much closer. Illinois Girl and Soccer Stud wanted time to bond with Little Bitty before family descended on them, so we came to town for the New Year. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that little one, so it was a long two weeks before I could hold her.

When they were little and living in England, we only saw Tony B and G about once a year. But, they moved to Delaware in 2019, and I’ve seen them twice since then. They are planning on visiting us in Illinois in October, and we are planning on going to Delaware in December. After seven and a half years, I am so excited they are finally living on the same continent.

When the Good Chaplain retired in 2018, we moved back to Illinois and live just around the corner from Little Bitty, so we get to see her several times a week. And, since Illinois Girl is expecting her second girl any day now, we finally get to be around to help out when our grandchild is born.

Even from far away, I take my grandmother’s prerogative to spoil my grandchildren seriously, and they don’t want for much. This is the life we’ve always dreamed of. The Good Chaplain wanted to be the pesky grandfather, and now he is. Don’t wish for your children to grow up too fast, and enjoy each phase of their lives, but remember, as the Good Chaplain frequently says, “Grandchildren are your reward for not killing your own children.” When the time comes, enjoy it.

Until next time,

Vicki

If you are grandparents on active duty, tell me how you feel about being away from your grandchildren. If you are not grandparents yet, how do your kids feel about living away from their grandparents? Answer in the comment section below.

What Military Spouses Should Know About Being Empty-Nesters

Last week we talked about how hard it was to leave your parents and family when you married into the military. Well, guess what? In a blink of an eye, your children will be leaving you. So, the number one thing you should know is — You will become empty-nesters. No way around it. And that applies whether you are a military spouse or not.

To prepare for this eventuality, it is important to work on your marriage before this happens. Go on date nights. Sometimes, before military days, we only could afford to pay the babysitter and drive around, talking. Do it. You are a couple first, then parents. As the Good Chaplain says, “The best gift you can give your children is a good marriage.”

A second thing to know is — if you are a military spouse when your children are grown up, you may actually leave them.

I didn’t have problems when the girls left home to go to college. Sure, I worried about them being in Illinois while I was in Alabama, but since they went to the same school, roomed together, and lived only hours from family, I wasn’t as concerned as possible.

Of course, I knew I would see them frequently — holidays, summer breaks, etc. But, in fact, I became the “Mom who never leaves.” I visited for various reasons once a month from when I dropped them off in August until February. I had legit reasons, but I also enjoyed seeing my girls and making sure they were safe. After that first year, we didn’t see each other as much, but we talked on the telephone and e-mailed frequently.

The Good Chaplain had a hard time every time the girls would leave to go back to school, either from holiday breaks or summer vacations. He’d get quiet, a little teary-eyed and mopy for a day or two, before getting back into his routine.

The hardest times for me were when we left Illinois Girl in Illinois after college graduation and left Mrs. Tech Sergeant in Alaska when we moved to Oklahoma.

Both girls worked at the Child Development Center at Eielson Air Force Base, AK, during summer breaks. The CDC offered them jobs after graduation, and Mrs. Tech Sergeant accepted that offer. She moved to Alaska. Illinois Girl, having already met Soccer Stud, decided to stay in Illinois. I sobbed when we pulled away from her apartment.

By this time, the Good Chaplain and I had gotten down a routine as empty-nesters that did not include children. We went to the Officers’ Club every Friday night to meet up with a group of friends. We went out to eat when and where we wanted. We went to the movies when we wanted.

Don’t let your kids become like George!

And then, Mrs. Tech Sergeant moved back in. Which brings me to my third point — sometimes they come home again. I felt strange the first time my daughter came to the club with us and ordered a drink. I had to think about what she might want for dinner or if she would want to go out with us. Once, when we were going to the movies, she asked what we were going to see. She said she didn’t want to see that movie. I said, “Good because you aren’t invited.”

A year later, Mrs. Tech Sergeant met Tech Sergeant in Alaska. She moved into an apartment with a friend. She liked her job and her future husband, so she stayed in Alaska. Neither the Good Chaplain nor I were in good shape when we left her. And it didn’t help that a few days later, while we were somewhere in Canada, Mrs. Tech Sergeant contracted the H1N1 virus, and I was not around to help her.

The bottom line is becoming empty-nesters can be tough, but it is also an enriching time to rekindle your relationship with your spouse.

Next time I’ll tell you what it’s like being a grandparent halfway around the world.

Until then,

Vicki

Tell me how you felt leaving home for the first time or having your children leave home in the comments below.

How Military Spouses Cope Away From Family

January 26, 1986, is a day I will always remember. It was the day after the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl. It was also the day the space shuttle Challenger blew up, killing all aboard. But I remember it as the day my in-laws had to rescue us because the Good Chaplain and I both came down with a nasty stomach bug. We couldn’t even get out of bed to feed our three-month-old twin daughters.

The Good Chaplain was not yet in the Air Force Reserves or on active duty. Thankfully, both sets of our parents lived about 20 minutes away and could help. I don’t know what I would have done if we already lived at Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.

Yes, I do. I would have called on neighbors and friends to help out. This scenario plays itself out all the time in the military world. I received several calls to please watch the children because the parents were sick. And it will happen. You will find yourself as either the caregiver or the person needing care.

As you prepare for life in the military, knowing it means moving away from family, you frequently ask yourself how you are going to cope in a variety of situations without your mom nearby. It’s scary, especially if it is your first move away from home.

As I did when we went on active duty, if you have children, you mourn the loss of weekends away while grandparents watch the kids. You also mourn the loss of family Sunday dinners, birthday parties, and holiday celebrations. It’s hard because you are leaving all the familiar comforts and going into the unknown once again. We actually moved two hours away from family before coming on active duty, so I experienced a few of those feelings before the big move out of state.

Be prepared for traveling during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to celebrate with each side of your family. We never had less than three Christmas celebrations once we got married, and sometimes more. Once we moved away, it was worse because not only were we traveling and lugging all the presents with us, but we had to drive all over the Chicago suburbs from one house to another. Yep, I’m whining about the hardships of being with loved ones over the holidays.

Also, be prepared to visit family for the majority of vacations. Rarely will you go somewhere exotic for a vacation. I remember one summer when we were traveling to the Chicago suburbs, one of the girls said, “We always say we are going to Chicago, can we actually go into Chicago?” Good point. We gave them a day in the city to do whatever they wanted to do. The family was invited but could not make any decisions on what we would see or do. Our nuclear family also discovered a place called Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia, and we made sure we spent some time there every year as our own little getaway.

And family visited us frequently as well. We knew who really wanted to see us and who simply used us to stop en route to other places. For instance, when we lived in Georgia and Alabama, we were the stop on the way to Florida. But when we lived in Minot, North Dakota, we knew they were coming to see us.

Family is important to our life in the military. I think I grew closer to my mom once we moved away. I was more intentional about calling her because I knew I wouldn’t see her for a long while. Plans needed to be made, and schedules coordinated. And money was also a factor since we were traveling further. But you manage to make it all work.

Next time I will shed light on the parents’ perspective on all this.

Until then,

Vicki

What was the worst part of moving away from home for you? Comment in the section below.

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Making New Friends Needn’t be Hard for Military Spouses

Editor’s note: So I don’t have to keep using the word “spouse” , and since most of my readers are female, I am going to use the word “wife” interchangeably with spouse. No offense is meant to the many male military spouses out there.

You’ve left all your friends behind, either because you just married into the military, or because you’ve just moved to a new duty station. Either way, you are going into new and unknown territory. You are going to need new friends.

Making new friends doesn’t have to be hard or scary. I realize not everyone is an extrovert like I am. They don’t talk to anyone they meet or comment on their observations. My daughters often were mortified when I would speak to someone in the line at the commissary, whether I knew them or not.

Maybe, it has something to do with teaching them not to talk to strangers and then doing that exact thing myself. However, a smile or a friendly hello goes a long way in brightening someone’s day. The Good Chaplain, pre-military days, was a salesman. Sometimes his job took him to the not-nice neighborhoods of Chicago. He found if he said hi to people, it took them off guard. They look up, so if they were planning on mugging you, you’ve seen their face. They either have to kill you so you can’t identify them or leave you alone. Luckily, he was left alone. Plus, he was friendly.

For those of you who are not uber-extroverts, if you want friends, you will have to put yourself out there. Trust me when I say that people will not come knocking on your door, seeking you out. Oh, sure, the next-door neighbor may bring you a plate of cookies and offer to help in any way. And they mean that, but they get busy with their own lives and so you need to make the first step to ask for help, or say hi, or return the plate with more cookies on it.

But how do you make friends? Well, if you are a parent, that is the easiest way. Meet the parents of your children’s friends. Because you know your children are already out on the playground, making friends of their own.

What are your interests? Reading — join a book club. Sewing — take a quilting class. Dancing, cooking, antiquing — find the group that fits your interests.

Whenever we moved, I looked for two groups, the women’s group at the chapel and the spouses’ club. These groups offered smaller clubs to get involved in that suited my interests, such as Bible study, book club, and my favorite, Lunch Bunch. They can also introduce you to new things. I had no idea what Bunko was until I joined a spouse club.

If you work outside the home, most of your new friends may come from the job. They may or may not understand your military lifestyle, but that’s okay. You still have work in common.

The saddest comment I heard was from a colonel’s wife at our first assignment. She said she doesn’t bother to make friends anymore because it hurts too much when they leave.

See this link for more on friends leaving. https://soldierswifecrazylife.com/2015/06/05/the-5-stages-of-watching-your-best-friend-move-away/

My friends don’t be like that. Even if you are only friends for the short time you are together, it is worth it. Every person you meet has the potential to become your BFF. And even if they don’t, they can bring enjoyment to your life for the time you are together.

Make a move. Put yourself out there and reap the benefits of friendship, even if only for a season.

Until next time,

Vicki

How have you met some of your best friends? Share in the comment section below.