Making the Most of It

Lots of changes going on lately. I’ve been a roller coaster of emotions, but what else is new? I’m doing my best to make the most of it. Joshua and I have had our share of distance and moves, and now that we’re just finishing up three months of living apart we’ll be reunited again just in time to pack up and head south!

Memorial Day, 2011

When I first met Joshua, he was stationed in North Carolina and I was temporarily living in Ohio for my first job post-college. Not long after we met and started dating, I moved back to my home state, New York, and Joshua deployed to Iraq.

Fast forward 3 years, an engagement, and a second deployment to Afghanistan. The long distance was killing me and all I wanted was to be with him. After an unsuccessful job search in the middle of nowhere in North Carolina, I left my job in New York to freelance and live with my lover.

We were together in North Carolina for 3 months before the military sent us to our second duty station in Virginia. I couldn’t be happier. Not only was it closer to DC and a better job market, but it was closer to home in New York (7 hours vs 12 hours, on a good day).

We fell in love with northern Virginia! It’s been the perfect medium of northern + southern state-of-minds and the best of both worlds. Not as high speed and cut throat as New York tends to be, but still ambitious and determined. Not as laid back and slooooow as North Carolina tends to be, but still relaxed and full of nice people.

Fast forward 2 1/2 years to now. We were hoping to stay in Virginia at least another year or so, possibly longer. Okay, let’s be honest— I was hoping. Joshua the Marine knew better, but thankfully he’s finally understanding my need to daydream about the things I WANT to happen versus worrying about what MIGHT happen. Anyway…

Joshua got new orders. The military is sending us back to North Carolina. At first, I was slightly devastated. Freelancing in this economy didn’t work out so well for me, so what was I going to do for work? Further south meant further away from my family than I already was, and I’m already homesick for New York an unhealthy amount. North Carolina for a grunt in the Marine Corps usually means deployments, so did that mean we’d be separated yet again? And what about the wonderful friendships I’d finally developed here in Virginia?

Thankfully, things soon started looking up. Joshua will be an infantry instructor, which (god willing) means no deployments in the foreseeable future while he’s teaching. My job is keeping me on full-time as a virtual employee, thank goodness for the company’s military spouse owner, their partnership with MSEP, and the nature of my work in social media and design. My mom is planning to move down to NC later this year (and -in- with us while she’s house hunting), so that will be amazing having her so close! I know my dad will travel to see me, and my brother isn’t TOO too far away in Pennsylvania. As for everyone else… Who doesn’t love a free place to stay that’s just 3 miles from the beautiful North Carolina beaches? I shall entice my visitors with a well-decorated guest room and promises of the ocean.

Last but not least… We’re buying a house. We’re buying a house!!! And that, my friends, is a story that needs its own sparkly new blog post. But it makes me soooo excited to move again! Military life is not always the easiest, but we try our best make the most of each little moment, all the moves, and the opportunities it provides us (and life milestones!) as best we can.

Here’s to a whole new chapter! :-)

Remember Not to Get Comfortable

The past 2 1/2 years, Joshua and I have been living a pretty sweet life. He went to work everyday, had the occasional overnight or 2am work night, and was home most— if not all— weekends. In Joshua’s words… we’ve almost been living like civilians. We live on a military base, but it’s just like any other nice neighborhood. Not only is housing here at Quantico gorgeous, but I also work off-base so I’m in town everyday anyway. Again… like a civilian. I’m hardly friends with any military spouses on base, and I hang out the most with my co-workers and civilian friends. We only really talk about military life as it relates to our jobs, since we all work for the government… not as it relates to us personally. We don’t talk about being afraid of upcoming deployments or trainings, or that our husbands or wives might die. We don’t talk about PTSD, or picking up rank, or how we’re still reintegrating even almost three years post-deployment.
We’ve been living relatively normal lives the past two years. We’ve taken long weekends to visit family, spent time together watching TV series On Demand, explored the area with our puppy, and had plenty of time to make dozens of fun, worry-free, happy memories.
Things are going to change a bit in the upcoming months. First off, I have to clarify that Joshua won’t be going back to the fleet and I am soooo happy that the next three years should also be deployment-free. He’ll be doing a B-billet job as an SOI instructor (SOI = School of Infantry for Marines). So ladies and gents… if your spouse or S.O. is going through SOI after boot camp, there’s a good chance that Joshua will be one of his instructors later this year.
We don’t know a whole lot about what his schedule will be like yet, since he’s still going through school to become an instructor, but we do know that it doesn’t sound pretty. What we’ve heard from current instructors: He will be at work from the time the students wake up in the mornings until the time they go to bed at night. He will be gone on overnights in the field… a lot. He has to watch everything he says and does with the students, because the students are “always right” and if he upsets any of them, he will hear about it from his command. Basically, it will be very stressful and he will be gone a LOT.
Rather than count the number of ways this sucks (I’ll be alone in NC without friends way more than I was alone here in VA with friends, I’ll never see him, he’ll always be stressed out, I’m working from home so I will have no interaction with human beings for at least 40 hours a week, this is a three year assignment) …Oops. Sorry. I meant to say, rather than count the number of ways this sucks, I have to do my best to stay positive. I will do my best to be supportive, and hopefully better myself in the process. I might have more time to cook and clean since I’ll be working from home without a commute, and lord knows I need help in both those areas. Oh! And that’s the greatest positive of all… my company has agreed to keep me as a virtual employee, so I’ll still be employed! No job searching (in a military town with ZERO jobs in my field), hooray!
About the town… Jacksonville, North Carolina. Well… let’s just say it wouldn’t be my first choice. The town is so very military, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it just means it’s that much harder to avoid it. And I’m not even sure I want to avoid it. In fact, I’d rather embrace it. It’s just that we’ve been living in this nice little civilian-esque bubble for so long now that it’s going to be a transition all over again.
So we’re PCSing soon (PCS = Permanent Change of Station = moving) and what’s the first thing I did? I researched where we’ll be moving to. Just like this blog I posted on Blog Brigade awhile back. Which, by the way, milspouses: If you haven’t submitted a blog post for Blog Brigade, I strongly recommend that you do! I work for the Blog Brigde. I’m like, the second in a line of four or five people to review the incoming blogs, so I can definitely put in a good word. Especially if it’s my friends that are blogging. Like Shannon. She’s written several guest blogs about finances. She’s also my go-to-girl for anything money or budgeting related. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve texted her for things like how much she and her husband budget for their clothing allowance, or how much she spends on her hair. (You know, the things that matter!) Or sometimes, I just ask her WWDRD? What would Dave Ramsey do?
Oh, and since I work for the government with Blog Brigade, I’m not allowed to endorse any other military spouse blog over there. But since this is my personal blog, I also totally recommend that all of you write for SpouseBUZZ or Homefront United Network, too. These are two of my favorite blogs, and you can totally put that you contributed to them as a guest writer on your resume. And as a huge advocate for pumping up your resumes (friend me on LinkedIn!), I think that’s pretty sweet. I’m not really sure if I’m allowed to submit blog post for them since I work for BB and I don’t know if that is considered a conflict of interest or something? But remind me to look into that.
This past weekend Joshua and I went down to North Carolina to look for a place to live. We found a great house to rent. We were also able to reminisce with Joshua’s buddies from his previous unit, the ones he deployed to Afghanistan with. I got to see an old milspouse friend, and meet two new ones. One of which has a blog! She recognized me from my blog! Everybody go check out Stephanie from While I’m Waiting. She’s such a sweet girl and I’m so glad I got to meet another blogger. It’s like we have the instant connection whenever I meet another blogger… like we get each other. Or maybe I’m just a little crazy.
And with that… Over and out!

One Year Later

Last week, Joshua and I celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary. One year. Wow! So much has happened in the past year since we said our vows on Lake George.

We were in not one— but two more weddings. Felice & Christian and Nikki & Anthony.

We traveled— a lot. New York, Utah, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Ohio.

We moved— again. We went from a 3rd story apartment building to base housing here in Virginia.

We cut up all our credit cards— then got two new ones.

We got older— his 25th birthday last July and my 27th this past May.

He got promoted to Sergeant— and transitioned into a new position as infantry instructor to officers.

I started working for with a new company as a graphic designer— then switched positions to become a social media strategist.

He continued taking online courses toward his Bachelors— and changed his major to Homeland Security when he transferred to a new online school.

I designed six wedding invitation suites— two for close friends, four for new clients.

We gave our first puppy, Gypsy, to a family friend— and Ladybug turned one year old.

We got news that we might be moving— again.

We went to Kings Dominion— a bunch of times.

We ran through our new neighborhood late at night when everyone’s Christmas lights were up— for a whole month.

We discovered a mutual love— for Pirate’s Booty, Spartacus, creating new nicknames for Lady, nature walks, charcoal grills, and wedding cake.

We celebrated 9 holidays— together. No deployments, no training evolutions, no classes. 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and Memorial Day.

We welcomed 4 baby girls of close friends & family into the world— Sage, Ari, Mia, and Zoe.

We went to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball— and saw Justin Timberlake there.

Firsts: I got my first tattoo— he got his first archery bow.

We ate a lot of Moes— on Mondays.

We figured out the best way to share our schedules & sync our calendars— after much trial and error.

He shaved his head— and I dyed mine platinum.

We got our first Christmas tree— and forgot to water it.

We downloaded Foursquare— and continue fighting to be the first to “check in.”

We upgraded to a queen size bed— with a pillow top, and it’s heavenly.

We drank too much Starbucks— and not enough margaritas.

Joshua: Cheers to another year, and dozens more after that. You’re my best friend & my better half, and I couldn’t imagine my life without you in it. I love you, baby!

*Wedding photography by the extremely talented Mitch Wojnarowicz.

Humble Beginnings

Sometime in the past year, I met a very inspiring woman who told me the stories of her “humble beginnings” as a military spouse. This woman is the owner and president of a successful, booming government contract company. Her husband, a service-disabled veteran, is the CEO. They have a beautiful family, a beautiful home, and they are good to their employees. She shared hilarious stories of their first duty station with Husband and I, and memories from their first years together as newlyweds. And seriously? She’s definitely my most real role model.

I’ve now come to love that term, humble beginnings. These are our humble beginnings. Sometimes I get frustrated, seeing how far ahead of us other couples are, especially the ones that are close to us in age. I get jealous that they have so much, or have accomplished so much, and I wish we were there too. But I am slowly acquiring the patience and wisdom to sit back and tell myself— STOP. Those are not your humble beginnings, that is not your story. You’re living your story your way, and you’re doing the best you can. In the end, that’s all you can really do or say, right?

Husband and I don’t have a lot of extra money, but we work really, really hard. We never air our dirty laundry in public. We try to never fight in front of other people— it’s so tacky. We don’t own a home, and we have two car payments. Aside from our beds & our desks, all of our furniture is hand-me-downs from my family… beautiful & solid hand-me-downs, because my family has exquisite taste, but hand-me-downs nonetheless. We have big goals and bigger dreams. Sometimes, we drive through neighborhoods with big houses, pick out the ones we wish could be ours, and say, “Oh look, there’s our house. Honey, did you leave the light on?”

Our china cabinet is filled with an assortment of sparkly new crystal from our wedding and family heirlooms from both sides of our family. We’ve discovered that martini glasses should not be left in the freezer door to chill, because we’ve each broken a beautiful new martini glass from swinging the freezer door open too fast. We’re down to two.

We’re struggling with this work-life-love balance… but we’re strongest in the love department. Never-ending, unconditional love for each other. Work and life? That balance is hit or miss. One week we’ll both excel at work and let the house become a mess and eat take-out every night. Another, we’re struggling to get out of bed in the morning after staying up late cleaning, watching movies, or feasting on trial & error home-cooked meals from the previous evening.

We’re learning things together— big and little life lessons. Like, did you know you have to put the Christmas tree in water right away, not 2 days later? Yeah. Learned that one quick. Or that hanging pictures & wall art can be pretty easy, as long as you have the right tools? That mice in kitchen pantries even show up in the cleanest of houses, and that Tupperware can be a great investment? We know that Husband doesn’t mind vacuuming, while I prefer to mop. He’ll take out the garbage, and I’ll clean the toilets. Washing dishes is a chore we divide up, because we both hate doing them. Laundry? Joshua does his weekly. I’m lucky if I get to mine once a month.

Sundays are always reserved for military haircuts and picking up the newspaper for coupons. Sometimes, Husband’s hair doesn’t come out as he likes it and he gets upset. Some days, the paper doesn’t have any coupons & I get upset. On random occasions, he just shaves his hair off at home & we forget all about getting the paper.

Mondays are for $5 burritos at Moes. Our love for burritos began long before our marriage, and it’s kind of our thing. On his last deployment to Afghanistan, I waited a whole 7 months before having a burrito, because it didn’t seem fair to have one without him, when he couldn’t. We love our Moe Mondays.

The best part of every day is when we finally get into our comfy, pillow-top, queen-sized bed together, Husband on his back, my head on his chest, Lady by our pillows or feet. We set our alarms for work the next day, kiss each other goodnight, and off to sleep we go.

These are our humble beginnings.

Mil Life Lately

I feel like getting used to military life is a constant progression. Some things in this “world” are just so different than the civilian world. From the people to the lifestyle to the day’s activities in and out… it’s just it’s own little culture. 
And I love it. 
My lover & I recently moved into base housing. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for awhile, but there is always a long wait list to get in. We’ve heard all sorts of extremes about living on base— that it’s terrible and restricting, or that it’s wonderful and inexpensive, or that it’s just plain dirty, or that it’s simply a great way to save money as a military family.
Taking all this into consideration, we decided to “give it a try” since we don’t have kids yet & the housing here at Quantico just looked really nice. We figured if we didn’t like it, no harm no foul. Lucky for us, it’s working out well!

In terms of saving money, I’ll be honest… it’s only a hundred or so a month we’re saving. We lived in a nicer place out in town though, so maybe that’s why the difference is so little. It only took a few months for housing to open up for us (your name gets put on a list with the military and it’s either first-come, first-serve or based on your rank & family status). Then they just take the money they were giving you for housing out in town right out of your paycheck each pay period. The best part? All utilities are included. We only have to pay for internet & cable out of pocket. :-)
The first photo above is on our front steps of Joshua & my mom when she came to visit. We moved into our house in October and didn’t waste any time getting pumpkins and an American flag to liven it up a bit! The other photos are a few details of the rest of our house. Don’t mind the crazy blinds in the one pic… that’s when the previous family lived here and we did a drive-by and snapped a photo!
Another significant event was Joshua’s promotion to Sergeant! He’s worked really hard for this promotion and I was a very proud, happy wife to be able to go to his ceremony and watch him get pinned. Such a cool experience!

The ceremony took place early in the morning (before I had to go into work, luckily!) and 3 other Marines were also promoted. Doesn’t he look so serious? Love it.
Next: the 236th Marine Corps Birthday Ball! Every year, the Corps celebrates their birthday on November 10th, and a ball for every unit is held throughout the month. Our ball just so happened to be the ball Justin Timberlake attended. A lot of the Marines thought he was going to take away from their evening, but he was very respectful and tried to stay out of the limelight… despite us crazied wives who wanted a photo of him!

I got shooed away when I tried to catch a photo, resulting in a blur that is barely recognizable as Justin’s head. My friend Mel had her nice camera with her and was able to catch the shot above, of Justin dancing with his date Cpl. DeSantis! 
I had fun getting ready for the ball, even though I was pretty rushed because I ended up helping a friend with her hair and makeup… which took away from my time getting ready… but it ended up okay. My hair was a bit of a hot mess, but at least all my accessories coordinated, right?!
Finally, here are just a few pieces of our wonderful military lives lately. Our red, white, & blue themed Christmas tree; Lady the Marine Westie dog; poker night at the Ploscik house with friends; working on a project for Military OneSource from home on a Friday for my new job (check out the page I designed!); and lots of camo.

That’s all for now. Hopefully I can share a bit more soon. The holidays are always so busy, aren’t they?!

Have a great week, lovelies.