My husband Matt calls the experience of being in theater "Bizarro World." As I got off the C-17 into the dusty air of Baghdad, I was immediately in just that. It smelled like my husband when he first got home from deployment. (Sorry hun, but its true for all of you!) Granted we were forced to change our plans due to fog that limited helicopter take off. Still, so many things were notable. I hear from soldiers that coming home they are hit by the sensory overload of colors, carpet, and noises. Baghdad is crawling, at least today, with secret service or other security detail. Every door is guarded by at least 2 stern looking men. Outside the tall 10-15 ft cement walls provide weapons security as well as walling off sections that make large alleys to walk to and fro. Outside is nothing but gravel and the sounds of incoming and outgoing aircraft is constant. I can understand why it became Matt’s white noise when deployed, why he "goes to another place" when he hears a bird. Still, I noted that there were indeed, no colors. Much of this trip has included making sure that I am following the group of press so that I am where I'm supposed to be. Today as I was talking with the Secretary's staff, I somehow got separated from the press. Soon I found myself close to entering a meeting that I was not supposed to be part of. Once we all realized, I was grateful to be walked back to the press group by a friendly security guard/state security who basically looked like special forces in civilian clothes. It actually gave me a great chance to ask him about his assignment here. I think one of my favorite things about all of this is getting to see the branches working together. Seeing the Air Force, special forces, and today our Army doing what they do best. It seems that so many of us live within the community our service member serves in and become incredibly proud of our branch. Seeing them work together is a whole new perspective. We know they exist to work together like a machine, but seeing it happen is different. I have to admit that although we got grounded today, it was not a wash. Talking to the crew on the C-17 and those that work here is enlightening. When I asked what they felt family most misunderstands, they expressed the need to decompress after they come home. They said that doing what they do takes incredible mental and physical energy. Giving them a day to decompress and get their energy back will help so they can re-engage. As I look back, I asked Matt to engage again way too quickly. I asked him to make big decisions before he had recovered. I've always told couples to avoid big decisions during reintegration but I know now it's more than that. In fact, I think back to our reintegration that was so difficult and see that he needed time to rest and heal and I was ready to move quickly- that caused a lot of tension that could have been avoided. A little part of me is healed today because I look back on that experience with new eyes. Talking with troops right before Christmas helped me understand the care package issue. After eating in the DFAC and having tons of options and yet seeing them live minimally- they really don't have many needs. But that's the issue, the have all their basic needs (depending on where they are) and are living so minimally they agreed they don't let their minds stretch outside of that. So a "what would you like for Christmas" gets a "well I don't need anything." We decided on items you use up like toiletries, food, and snacks they can share. I know that sounds cheesy, but when you eat the same things everyday or have to order your favorites online- getting them from a loved one is great. Living in small spaces though makes it hard when you keep getting stuff that isn't disposable or used up. There is simply no room to put those kinds of things out. Here are my big take aways (listen to my journal for an expanded edition): 1. We need to appreciate other branches more, the puzzle fits beautifully together to complete the overall mission- which is fantastic to see! 2. Understand that your service member really may not "need" much during deployment, but they also may not know "what" they want. But that shouldn't mean we send random box fillers that they won't know where to put. Above all, a box from home that doesn't look like grey walls, gravel, and camouflage could be heaven filled with the right things. 3. Military Leaders: you may not be able to send a spouse over seas to paint a picture of what you do, but there are plenty of ways you can show them an accurate picture. Bus them to the field for a couple of hours, tell them (educate them) on the actual mission. Family days, even if it is just your leaders can reduce anxiety and give them a cause to get behind. Some of those may sound simple, but I am trying to take into account the things that are really simple to do that we don’t realize are quite big in understanding your service member. When it was time to fly back, the flight crew of the C-17 brought me up into the cockpit and explained the brevity of this kind of mission involving a VIP. The coordination is incredible. We talked about their families and how much they are excited to be home for Christmas this year. I looked out the cockpit window to see the night sky and the lights of Saudi Arabia in the distance. The handed me night vision goggles (NVGs) and I could see every cloud like it was day and ships on the water. I asked what is the most beautiful thing they see out the window that they look forward to. “Home.”
Hello Air Force! My first day started off with the bright lights of day when it should have been 2am. I got about 4 hours of sleep thanks to the “sleepy pills” the on-plane physician handed out. I am your normal everyday military spouse who happens to be a clinician, but I am going to do my best to share with you what I experienced today. My hope is that I can take this experience and translate it in a way that coffee will encourage you to invest in your marriage. We landed at INCIRLIK Air Base in Turkey which conducts many of the airstrike missions in Syria. US Families (mostly Air Force) are stationed here much like any other OCONUS assignment but because of the rising tensions in and around Turkey and its border with Syria, families have been placed on lockdown and cannot leave base. Many of the families that were here before the lockdown remember what it is like to travel into the city, which makes it even harder. I imagined that many of them feel isolated and trapped. Can you imagine some of the new spouses getting an assignment to Turkey and then finding out they can’t leave the base once here? While here, there was a town hall for military families where they could ask Secretary Carter questions. Most of the questions were on the lockdown, how long it would continue, and would there be an upcoming forced evacuation. Secretary Carter was very encouraging that he did not foresee a forced evacuation and hoped that things would improve. My mission here is to understand what it is like for our service members. Seeing our Air Force in full force was intimidating, in a good way. They are putting in long hours both on the ground and in the air. Many of the spouses here described how much better they understand deployments now that they are watching “at home deployments” play out in front of them. Their service member is tired but determined to complete the incredible mission given them. The threat of ISIS is very real. It already feels real to us there in America, but here our military families can’t even leave base to go into town. The importance of building allies and coalition partners is necessary and our leaders are working hard to do it. It was incredible to see Airmen from Germany, Spain, and Turkey all joining our personnel for the same cause. Some of the coalition airmen stood up to thank our US airmen for their hospitality and how proud they were to be fighting ISIS with us. Turkey was warm for December. Not as hot as it would be in the summer, but the families there are enjoying 70 degree weather. Seeing the city in the distance made me wonder how safe some of the families are out there. One spouse here is Turkish and cannot get off base to see her mother. I can’t imagine who scary that is! Since I am an Army spouse, I have to give a shout out to the incredible power we have in our aircraft. I saw every plane you can imagine lined up, many of them loaded with the bombs that are ready for the next mission. As my heart rumbled in my chest as the fighter jets took off, I couldn’t help but be thankful for what they do and the amount of skill and precision they develop to do it. I totally get it Air Force Spouses- it is pretty incredible to witness. From the moment I stepped on this historic plane, refueling in air, and then visiting Incirlik, I am so proud of our Air Force. My father was a pilot in the Air Force and I feel like I am seeing him in his jumpsuit around every corner. Today’s #PowerofMarriage message is this: 1. The mission our service members are called to do is not only real, but more important than ever. It is a noble cause whether it is to protect our lives or someone else’s. Keeping their mind on the mission is paramount to success in that moment. As hard as it is to let them go and not heap unnecessary stress on them- it is the right thing to do. This doesn’t mean that we don’t communicate. On the contrary, it means that we learn to communicate better, quicker, identifying the root issue so that it can be resolved or processed. Striving not for perfection, but for peace, is not only good for us, but beneficial for them. 2. Our military tempo is very different than it used to be. Deployments aren’t going away, if anything we are adding a new component that keep hearing about from spouses. It is the deployment from home- the long work hours that feel like a deployment. I’m not sure, perhaps some of you would say one is easier than the other. Both are stressful on the relationship. Be intentional with your time together. Decide together how and when you will decompress by setting a specific time and time limit.
Matt and I fell in love at Gardner-Webb University. This fall, we had the opportunity to go back and speak with students who are just starting out like we were. With our intention to ease anxiety for students who are still unsure of God's calling on their life, we encouraged them to be diligent with what God has already asked them to do- today. In this interview, Gardner-Webb's radio show asks about our start in working with military families and why we love what we do. More than anything, we feel a calling to heal brokenness in others individually and together. I am thrilled to share with you my husband Matthew and his love for me and others. I hope it encourages your marriage and inspires you in your own calling. This is the beginning of #PowerofMarriage.
I have had many opportunities to address the “resilience” of military families. Like many of you, I don’t relate to this word. In fact, I don’t want to even say it anymore. I don’t feel like I “bounce back” from things. Often, I feel like I evolve more than anything else. In today’s episode, I walk you through my last few months of Jackson Pollock "manic" research on what do military couples really need to get through difficulty. Get ready to put your thinking caps on as I help you understand why we feel like we are knocked down to the ground after minor obstacles. This content is fantastic for understanding how to help you walk your children through stress, but more importantly how to understand what is going within YOU. Secondly, I am thrilled to share with you why marriage is the answer for how we can become more resil…. I mean healthy…. You will hear me reference Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do- please share it with your friends. I'm all about saving marriages, so I hope you will join me!
If you haven't caught on, there is a pattern developing here! From now until January, Lifegiver will have a new episode every payday which means two a month! I will be bringing you tips and topics from me during one and the other episode will be an interview with an inspirational military spouse. This week is no exception! Erin Whitehead has achieved what many spouses dream of achieving. She is a Marine spouse who loves her husband dearly and followed him everywhere the Military sent him. In this episode, she shares what it was like right after 9/11 to be a military family. As a counselor, I know the power that journaling and writing can have during difficult times. Erin describes how writing helped her get through several deployments, each unique in their difficulty. She also opens up about how military spouse community surrounded her and helped her through loss and moving forward. Seeing the power of finding her own words, she created Many Kind Regards, a blog-writing and coaching business that has helped hundreds of writers including military spouses find their voice on paper- if not the computer screen. "Our goal is to help writers create meaningful, effective content that engages an online audience. " Erin WhiteheadFollowing her dreams didn't end there. Her volunteer work earned her the 2010 Armed Forces Insurance Marine Spouse of the Year and a spot on The American Military Spouse Choir that performed on Season 8’s America's Got Talent. I encourage you to take a moment and watch their performance here. In this candid interview, listen to Erin's story of how she got through difficult times separated from her husband, the power of the military spouse community, and the wisdom she has to share as her husband is about to retire. You wont want to miss this one.
In this episode, I interview Lena Steiner. I met TeamSteiner in Colorado during one of the most significant seasons of my life. That deployment changed a lot of us, including my own husband. But it was the support of Corey and Lena Stenier that carried an entire squadron through dark days. TeamSteiner served military families by Corey taking on the heavy responsibility of the Rear Detachment Commander- staying behind while the rest of the Squadron deployed and Lena supporting him and becoming a leader herself. Lena talkes about how losing friends in war has affected her marriage and her process of embracing the military lifestyle. lenafamily When it comes to leadership, Lena describes the impact on marraiges when leadership considers families as priority. Key spouse leaders changed her life by their willingness to create community and introducing her to running. She is now qualified to run the Boston Marathon and has trained even through her current second pregnancy! I have always admired Lena for her compassion for people, but also her fierce approach at life that earned my nickname for her "The Beast". Here is a picture of pregnant Lena smoking me on a 5 mile run.
You would think that this would be easy for me as I have been using the term "lifegiver" for years to describe the kind of person I want to become. Yet when it came time to work on this episode, not only did I have a loss for words- I also went through a challenging week that completely changed my perspective. The military has a way of taking everything you put nicely in an organized box in your mind and then dumping it out and walking on it. Or maybe that's just me... I have a feeling you have been there, too. I admit that I am not especially strong at adapting to change quickly which you can imagine makes being a military wife tough. Yet, in that moment, I thought about all of you. I was reminded of how much grit it takes to be a military spouse, regardless of branch or circumstance. Some days are easy, others can feel excruciating- yet we find a way to push through and find a silver-lining. In this episode, I describe what a Lifegiver is and the three things that I have found in common with every Lifegiver I have ever met. If we want to make a difference in our home and in the world, these are three things we MUST do. I hope it challenges and encourages you to work towards your purpose and potential. She must know her current passion and calling. What is it you love to do? What fires you up and makes you angry with the world? A Lifegiver must define or begin to define what she is currently passionate about and then be working towards her future purpose. What can you do right now to keep growing despite where the military sends you or whether it takes your spouse away? Creativity is crucial, knowing your purpose will help provide the hope as your place, the people, and seasons change. Secret: Our calling is rarely tied to things like your business, your crafts, or your ideas. The most fulfilling calling will always involve people who need the lifegiving hope our wisdom carries. Here is a short talk from Brene Brown on understanding the power of empathy. A Lifegiver must be able to protect her calling. Protection involves both offense and defense. You must first be able to know how to take care of yourself. Each of you likely know what state you are in and what you are “needing to do” or being asked to do to take care of yourself- so do something today that moves you in that direction- at least one thing. But a Lifegiver must also work in Defense. Once you know your calling, it is much easier to say no to the energy wasters be it tasks or people that suck the life out of you. Knowing your calling gives you the words you need to say no to other things. My challenge to you is to make a mission statement if you haven’t already. A Lifegiver must give her marriage and family her first fruits. As much as I hate hearing the phrase often used by the military to “put your household in order”, there is much truth in that no person can be mission ready if those she is responsible for are neglected, in conflict, or in trouble. The place where you have the most impact and influence is at home. Think of it this way. What you may have to offer someone else, multiplies when you invest in it at home. What someone else might walk away saying, “Gee that was nice of her” gets a “That was exactly what I needed in my life today” from our husband or children. Our calling is something that is a life journey, we will often need to take sabbaticals to give our first fruits to those that mean the most to us. This does not mean you lose your calling, but if you don’t take care of your first responsibility, you CAN lose your family. Bring life to the garden in your own backyard before starting a greenhouse business. Here is a great TedTalk by Benjamin Zander on how to define whether you know you are making a difference. He is a Classical Musician and uses music to make an incredible point.
It is one thing to go through the constant change in my life, it’s another thing entirely to watch my kids struggle. I feel responsible for their well-being, but how do you know when your kids are really struggling with the constant transition of moving, making friends, and leaving friends? Kids and adults feel stress in similar ways, but sometimes their expression of it may look different. This is a season of transition for #TeamWeathers. We spent a year and half in Georgia and will only spend 6 months here in South Carolina. Knowing this, I saw my youngest begin to struggle. When school started, he picked up a cold that kept him home for a few days. When I noticed his cold was not getting worse and he was avoiding school I felt in my gut that something was off. Mixed with frustration and selfishness (to be transparent) I needed to figure out what my child was feeling but could not express. In this episode, I walk you through my own experience of working with my son. The heartbreak of hearing his stress and the battle of guilt I had to walk through myself. I will give you some tips on behaviors to look for in your children if they are trying to tell you they need help as well as what you can do to help them. Even more, I will address the internal struggle moms go through when we sometimes get it wrong. - Here is a little bit of what I cover: - Hidden Clues to look for when your child is struggling - Why we can’t read their minds- no matter how hard we try - How kids control their world when it feels out of control - How to not spiral into guilt and shame when you miss the clues you child is giving you Special thanks to Kelly Keesecker and her son Carter for the incredible “Shout Out” thanking an important friend who supported them during transitions. This one is definitely worth listening to and sharing with other moms you know. Let’s all be honest… Parenting is hard and you will never get it right every time. But we can all begin to be pick up some tips and be graceful with ourselves. Most of the time (if we allow it) imperfection leads to breathing hope into someone else’s life. Hopefully this will inspire you to do this in your child’s life.
Cyber-bullying has become a trending issue in the Military Spouse world. That may come as a shock to some of you, but it is not just happening to our kids. This podcast will talk about the growing issue in the military culture and what you can do about it. Everyday, social media tempts to bring out the worst in us. What will you do? In essense we must learn to that we have no control over other people, but we DO have great influence. Learning to control yourself is a big enough challenge. Learn what you can do to address cyber-bullying in our military spouse culture or as a parent. Included are great tips that can be shared with your children and teens as they enter the digital world. For fun, we take a few minutes to talk about why I believe every military spouse should be a fan of Wonder Woman, and it's not just because of her awesome fashion sense.
This is not a new podcast, but a talk I gave in 2010 to New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Many people have requested access to it, so it has been included into the Lifegiver Series. Here I address how you can manage chronic depression as well as how your faith and relationship with God plays a role in our mood. Depression look svery different for each person it effects. From a bad day, to Post-Partum, to grief, and Chronic Depression- there are so many kinds and levels. There can be hope, though. And God does not intend for us to walk that road alone. This talk is full of scripture and doesn't discourage the use of medication either. I hope it will bring hope to those who struggle with it personally as well as the caretakers of family members who fight it everyday.
Corie Weathers, LPC and AFI 2015 Military Spouse of the Year shares a little bit about her own story as a military spouse and her vision to make Lifegiver Military Spouse Podcast as a place for other military families to be encouraged. Information on how you can send in your shout out is available and you get to hear the first inspirational shout outs to Lifegiver!