Military

Military Spouse Concerns: Coping with Crazy

coping-with-crazyI married my husband in 2013. In 2016 he commissioned as an officer in the Navy. This was something he had been planning and working towards for quite some time. He joined the Navy to become a Naval Aviator. The route he took to get there brought a lot of uncertainty. We weren’t sure if he would get selected, and if he was selected,  when he would go to Officer Candidate School (OCS). Once he was selected with a date for OCS, we didn’t know when he would have to report for flight school in Pensacola, FL. When we moved to Florida for flight school, we didn’t know when he would start training. Now that he’s in training, we don’t know when we will move to the next part of his training. Are you getting the point? Lots of uncertainty. I’m kinda, sorta getting use to it. Not really.

I am a planner, in case you couldn’t tell from the lists, and I have found that a lot of military spouses are like me. We’re type A, we like to be in control, we like to have a plan and we like to see it happen. And the military just laughs and laughs and laughs. So how do we find a way to keep our sanity in such an insane world?

  1. Alcohol– Did someone say wine? Margaritas? Hey girrrrrl, Hey! So I’m only slightly kidding here. I don’t necessarily mean drinking copious amounts of alcohol all the time. More like, relax, have a drink and woosah. Blame it on the.png
  2. Keep engaged– I hate when someone says to stay busy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good advice. I think it just hits a nerve with me, because it’s the advice that is given out SOOOOO much. So I’m going to say stay engaged instead. Semantics are important! When your time is consumed with work, or kids, or volunteering, activities, social engagements, etc… it’ll make the long days go quicker and less time to worry about when and where you’re moving to next.
  3. Socializing– This can mean a lot of different things to different people. If you’re the type who flourishes in a big crowd, by all means get out there, make all the friends you can handle, there are tons to be made and found on base and off base. If you’re the type who just needs a handful, make that happen. Or maybe you’re the type who prefers to fly solo most of the time. Whatever works for you, just make sure you know yourself. If you need to be super social, don’t hibernate inside all the time. Do you boo. we like to partay.png
  4. Improve Yourself– So a lot of our time is spent making sure our spouses are supported in their careers. We make a lot of sacrifices to make sure they can be focused on their missions and growth in the military. But we need to make sure we are improving ourselves as well. This can mean developing your own career, or learning new skills like a language, or a hobby, or a talent. Never stop growing. It can be done even when you’re unsure if/when your spouse will be home.
  5. Be Independent– I was given advice from the spouse of the CO at a spouses event last month that really resonated with me. She said she learned to live her life as if her husband wasn’t going to be there. That meant she planned trips. She planned nights out. She worked and took her kids to activities and groups and parties. She did it with the expectancy of doing it solo, so if and when the opportunity came that her husband could attend, it was a pleasant surprise. This did two things. 1. It helped to eliminate disappointment when he wouldn’t be able to go to these things. Is it perfect? Will there be a little sadness that you’re flying solo? No and of course! But it means that #2. your life is not on a constant standby.

Learning to cope in a crazy world. Still planning in an unplannable life. Some might call it insanity, I call it the military. Stay fly spouses! And when in doubt, return to option #1: Alcohol. 43764928

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Military

Five Career Hacks for the Military Spouse

This was first published on Military Spouse Advocacy Network and I am honored to work with them!

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One of the greatest challenges, and topic most talked about by military spouses, is finding work. That may come as a shock to some who assume it would be milking their service member for benefits, eating all day and not working; alas, no. A majority of the spouses I have come in contact with are desperate to continue working in their field or continuing their education to become gainfully employed in the future.

It is not always easy. Moving every few years, or even more often if you’re in the training pipeline like we are, makes employment complicated. Depending on your location, there may be few or no positions in your path, or employers may be reluctant to hire you due to your status as a military spouse. It gets tricky explaining frequent job changes on your résumé, and they may not want to hire someone who will most likely not be long-term. All of this, in addition to other reasons, makes things murky; but, it isn’t impossible, and there are opportunities available which I have compiled below:

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  1. Working from Home: There are many benefits to working from home. It may be one of the few PCS proof work options available to military spouses. Do your research on the different positions and options available which may fit your skill set, and then get to applying! Be careful of scams, since unfortunately they do exist, but if you’re diligent in your research on companies and any offers you may receive, this may be a great option for you and your career.
  2. Furthering your Education: Whether you are currently in school, looking to begin a new program, or wanting to advance your career with more education, there are tons of options available for military spouses. You may even be able to receive tuition assistance which is definitely helpful on any budget. Be sure to check out options through MYCAA.
  3. Connect with a Mentor: Taking the time to find someone in your location  who can help you not only find employment but develop your skills and connections will make your transition much easier. Even if they do not work in your field, their ability to help you adjust to a new station will give you the flexibility to focus on your next steps career-wise.
  4. Build your Business: Many military spouses have their own businesses they support. Growing your personal business can be a great way to increase income, connect with your community and grow personally. Do this through connecting online, local conferences, and working with a mentor specific to your field. Set goals for where you would like your business to grow and what steps you need to take to achieve them.
  5. Start a New Career: This may be one of the scarier paths military spouses can choose. However, as we’ve learned from being in the military, life is not meant to be lived standing still. If you are feeling like you have the opportunity to change your career be sure to do your research on the course you will take. What skills do you already posses that are transferable? What skills will you need to learn? Is this new path going to be a feasible option with the military lifestyle? Feel confident when making your choice, plan for success and then buckle down and get to work to make it a reality.

One of the biggest mistakes one can make is trying to do it alone. So get out of your comfort zone, connect with other spouses, connect with your community, find a mentor-have I broken that record yet?- and watch your career take shape and grow. It might not be what you thought it was going to be 10 years ago, 5 years ago, or even last year, but it is still yours. You are still a success, and your purpose and impact will be felt everywhere you go.

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Military

New MilSpouse, New You! 32 Military Definitions to get you Through!

This was first published on Military Spouse Advocacy Network and I am honored to work with them!

new-year-new-you-3Weight loss, pay off debt, save money, learn something new! As if you could forget, it’s a brand new year and with that comes everyone making New Year’s resolutions.

You may have promised yourself to pursue some of these endeavors also, but chances are, as a new military spouse, you probably have something a lot more simple, yet so complicated on your goal sheet. Raise your hand if that goal is to learn the language of the military. Hello acronyms!

Or maybe it’s to survive your first PCS (permanent change of station). What in the world is a personally procured move? What about finishing your education or finding a job in your career field? MYCAA who?

You have a set of unique challenges to tackle and it’s something your civilian family and friends may not fully understand or be able to help with. This is where your military network comes in to offer the tools you need to save the day! To survive this crazy life as a military spouse, self-reliance, confidence and empowerment is key. So prepare to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and we’re going to learn some need-to-knows together.

Let’s start with the communication barrier. Who would have thought you’d need a translator when being married to your love in the military? As a former teacher, I thought the world of education had a lot of acronyms to memorize, but the military definitely takes the gold medal. The list is probably infinite, but here are some very common acronyms and vocabulary you’ll need to know to get started32 Need to Know DefinitionsFor the New Military Spouse-3.png

Whew! Are you ready for the quiz later? These terms will be old hat in no time at all and you’ll be on your way to fluent in the language of the military!

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Military

Courage and Inspiration: Synonymous with Military Spouse

In the eight months I have been a military spouse I have met so many diverse, inspirational, and courageous women. Every single one of them keeps me motivated and inspired to continue to work hard and make a difference every single day.courage-and-inspiration-synonymous-with-military-spouse

I have met women who are in college -while also working jobs- to obtain their own degree and have a career alongside their military significant other (SO). I have met women who are living apart from their SO for a number of different reasons, like school, or economical circumstances, or training. I have met women who run their own businesses, while running a household and raising their children to not be little assholes. I have met women who volunteer on base, off base, and virtually. I have met women who struggle with their mental health, physical health, family issues, money problems, moving to a different side of the country without a job or knowing anyone there. And I have seen them persevere through it all.

Along with meeting all of these amazing people, I have also become wiser to the stereotypes and stigma that comes along with being with a spouse/fiancé/boyfriend in the military. The expectation is that the non-military SO doesn’t work, is lazy, and is just a moocher along for the ride and benefits. There may be people out there that do fit this description, but I have yet to meet them. Sometimes, when faced with this expectation that if you’re a military spouse, you’re a dependa-potamus (as it is so lovingly referred to), it can get you a little down, a little defensive, and a little hurt. So I found a few inspirational and motivational quotes that will keep me and hopefully you aware that you are important, and you do make a difference-regardless of perceptions.

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no one knows what you have been through or what your pretty little eyes have seen but I can reassure you whatever you have conquered shines through your mind.png

the courage to live brings its own rewards.png

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the great thing in this world is not so much where you stand as in what direction you are moving.png

there is hope in dreams imaginagtion and in the courage of those who wish to make those dreams a reality.png

I am proud to be a military spouse and am not defined as so simply because of my husband’s profession, but because of the unique set of challenges I face, endure, and persevere through every day. So I can chuckle at the dependapotamus cracks and jokes, because I know it does not apply to me, and it doesn’t apply to you either. We’re not along for the ride, we’re driving our own car.

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Military

The Five Stages of Grief…aka Becoming the New Military Spouse

the-five-stages-of-grief-aka-becoming-the-new-military-spouseWhether you are marrying your significant other who is already in the military or you’re already married and they are now enlisting or commissioning, many spouses undergo a cycle of emotions when becoming a new military spouse. These stages may look familiar as the stages of grief, but they 100% apply to this life changing moment as well. Pour yourself a cup of tea or some Irish coffee and enjoy:

  1. Denial– It’s not going to be that bad. My spouse won’t be gone ALL the time. Our lives won’t be SO different from what they were when we were civilians. Oh sweet, naive you. This is the first part of the cycle when you have your rose-colored glasses on and haven’t received your own set of battle wounds yet. Now don’t get me wrong, the reality isn’t the complete opposite of what you think it’s going to be like, it’s much more in the middle, well…. maybe leaning a little bit more to the right. Truth is  your life is going to be completely different from when you were a civilian, and no your spouse won’t be gone ALL the time, but they will be absent pretty frequently -some more than others, depending on their job- and no it won’t be that bad. It’s not going to be all candy and flowers, but it will certainly be an adventure so buckle up for the ride.thisisfinecomicthumbnail1-630x227
  2. Anger– Oh will there be anger. You’ll be mad at your spouse. You’ll be mad at the situation. You may be mad at the military or the government. You’ll be mad at yourself for being mad. You’ll be mad because you can’t make any concrete plans. You’ll be mad because Sally’s spouse called her or sent her flowers and you didn’t. You’ll be mad because people ask the same questions over and over again. You’ll be mad because you feel guilty for being mad. You have a right to be mad. Don’t be ashamed of your anger. Just don’t stay there.94b77afc279bec32413ccc62976004815ed0665d82e88e4892097a043fb6d025
  3. Bargaining– You’ll make deals with yourself or with your God about if you get to talk or see your spouse you’ll be ever so good. You’ll be the best spouse ever when they get home. You won’t take your time together for granted. You’ll bargain with family, you won’t be home for the holidays this year but maybe next year. Or what if they come to you instead? No? Don’t be surprised when they can’t or won’t come. You’ll take a job below your skill or education level because sometimes you have to take what you can get. You’ll watch the neighbors kids this weekend if they’ll watch yours next for a date night with your significant other. Get your bargaining chips ready, there’s a lot to barter for in the military life.nzox5nl-jpg
  4. Depression– You’ll want to be alone. You’ll want to not do anything even though they say, “Keep Busy!!”. This is like the anger stage. You have a right to be depressed. Don’t be ashamed of your sadness. Just don’t stay there. tumblr_n7mcyauebg1t7gtxto1_250
  5. Acceptance– You’ll start to get the hang of things. You’ll get into a routine. You’ll make a few friends. You’ll be able to find everything you need in the grocery store, and even get to the grocery store without a GPS. You’ll start speaking the military lingo using all those acronyms and your civilian friends and family are going to need you to translate. And then you’ll PCS and even though it won’t be as hard as the first time, you’ll hit up some of these stages again. 348baa9ffbfdd7791f63c2bf2632b234

The stages of grief do not move in a cycle like they are frequently pictured, and neither are the stages of being a new military spouse. It is much more organic than that. You’ll bounce from one stage to another and back again, you may skip a cycle and think you’re in acceptance, only to go “back” again. It’s all normal and it’s all part of the adventure! Because you’re not only going to feel these emotions, you’ll also feel extreme moments of happiness, joy, excitement, support, purpose, and love. Those are the ones that make it worth it.

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Military

Five Things I had to Give up as a Military Spouse

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Sometimes the military life is romanticized and sometimes it gets a really bad rap. To be honest, it’s a little bit of both. Do the men look really sexy in uniform? Yes. Is it fun to get all dolled up for a military ball? Why yes, yes it is. How about those homecoming videos after deployments, is there any other feeling like it in the world? Nope! Ok, I get it. It’s romantic. Speaking of uniforms, I claim the one on the left… and sorry, the one on the right is taken too!:courtesy-of

Now what about the bad stuff? How about that lack of communication during training or deployments. Yeah that’s not fun. Or moving every few years or less? Moving is THE worst thing ever. Do you really not get to pick where you’re going to live or if you can take a vacation for summer break? Yeah, no. Alright. I get it. Doesn’t sound like a good time to many.

Let’s be real. You have to give up some things when you become a military spouse. It’s not all candy and roses and fancy balls, there’s also sacrifice and there are challenges mixed in. It’s one helluva ride, and this is what I had to give up:

  1. My Job- I had to give up my job because unfortunately it was a position very specific to the state we lived in. I was a lead facilitator for the Delaware Readiness Teams. This meant I worked with organizing and managing schools and community groups in Delaware towards improving early learning in their communities. Not exactly something that all states have. So even though my job could not be transferred, I have a pretty killer résumé and can use those skills to find work in my career field in our new location. There are so many resources available to military spouses, and even though it isn’t a cakewalk, it’s more than possible to continue your career as a military spouse. Check out this super sweet infographic, I’ll be sharing more about it in a future post:career-hacks
  2. My Home- I have lived my whole life in the same county in Delaware. I was pretty comfortable living less than two miles from my sister, twenty minutes from my brother, and thirty minutes from my best friends. I knew once we were fully immersed in the military life it would not stay that way, but I was super excited for the adventure. So put on your travel britches and get ready to move, because home is now wherever the military leads you! Do not fret! We are extremely lucky to live at the time we do with all the opportunities for communication, so you can still stay in touch with your families back “home”. There are some downsides, like you won’t make it to every birthday, holiday, dance recital or baseball game, but it makes the times when you are reunited, that much sweeter. courtesy-of-2
  3. My addiction to planning- Lawd how I love to plan! I have so many spreadsheets and calendars and lists I’ve made-beginning from the time I could write, through high school, college, when planning my wedding, my sister’s wedding, and basically every day of my life. Well…. the military likes to look at your plans and chuckle and then do what needs to be done, even if it doesn’t fit in with your plans. So I had to take a moment and put into check my desire to plan out multiple vacations a year, with itineraries, and reservations, and skipping the travel insurance. But I heard a great tip from a senior spouse at a group meeting I attended last week. She said, she has learned to plan her life with the assumption that her husband will not be there, so when he is able to be there, it’s a wonderful addition. This eliminates being disappointed, and it also eliminates putting your own life on hold and constantly waiting to pursue some of the things you want to do. Does this mean your significant other is never going to be there? Absolutely not. But there will be times when they will be gone, and depending on their job, some more than other. Now obviously this doesn’t apply to every situation, but I think this is a good mentality and “plan” to have. 4bd35ca970677125a92c873c1b7bdef0
  4. Clutter- Being in the military means moving. They’re basically synonymous. So unless you like to move a lot of stuff every couple of years, or less if you’re in flight school like we are, it’s time to PURGE the clutter. I downsized a lot when my husband was at Officer Candidate School in preparation for our move. We had lived in the same house for 3 years (a long time for us) and had accumulated crap. So I held 5 yard sales over the summer and we still ended up donating about 20 boxes of junk…. I mean quality second-hand items, to the Purple Heart Society. I like them because they’ll come get your… quality second-hand items. And then we moved, and I’ve identified an additional 10 boxes of crap I’m going to get rid of. Anyone need some throw pillows or kitchen glasses?courtesy-of-3
  5. Comfort zone- When you live in one place for an extended period of time, you get very comfortable. You have your schedule and your habits, your friends, family, and coworkers. You have your go-to restaurants, you know where everything is in your grocery store, and you know which gas station has the cheapest gas. These are all things you need to relearn every time you move. Your comfort zone is more than just having to make new friends. You’re basically relearning how to live your life. It’s tough, but it’s also exciting, because when you finally find your favorite bread or ice cream, it’s such a relief! And even better when you discover a NEW favorite bread or ice cream that your old location didn’t have! It’s the little things. Learn to embrace the little things. why-ridiculously-photo-genetic-frog-is-so-happy-19048

I hope this didn’t come across as negative, because I absolutely love my life as a military spouse and you will too. The morale of the story is to be flexible. Be resilient. You can try super hard to cling to all the things that came so easy when you lived back home. Or you can embrace the life you now GET to live! You GET to meet so many diverse people from different parts of the world. You GET to make an impact in different communities! You GET to be with the love of your life as you build an amazing and passion-filled life together. One set of orders at a time.

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Military

15 Motivational Quotes for Military Spouses

Confession time. I wasn’t entirely sympathetic or empathetic to the military lifestyle in my previous life. I don’t say this meaning I wasn’t grateful for their sacrifice, I just did not fully grasp the magnitude of their sacrifice.

Moving frequently?– How hard could it be?

Going months with limited or no communication with your significant other?– I’m independent, probably not that big of a deal.

Putting your career on hold, or having to find a new job with each move?– If you look hard enough, you’ll find them…

Oh sweet, oblivious, naive, ignorant me. When it is said that the military life is different from civilian life, this is not a drill!, it truly is a different beast. And now that I’ve been thrust into this lifestyle, I wouldn’t trade it for a single thing. With the challenges also comes a great deal of pride and empowerment.

But for the days when it is a little bit harder than most, remember these quotes. Remember you are bad ass. You are not alone. And it is worth it.

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Numero uno. Loving him is easy. I might not always like him. Or the struggles. But loving him is definitely the easy part. Don’t forget the love. Let it bring you through the dislike.
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2. Feeling like you have a purpose makes a world of difference in your self-worth. If you have contributed in a way that is useful, honorable, compassionate and makes a difference in another person’s life- how could that not make you happy? Try it.
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3. There’s a lot of waiting in the military life. Waiting on orders. Waiting while they’re away for training, or deployments. But we are patient. And we can wait a little longer for the ones we love.
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4. Your significant other isn’t the only one with a dream. Your life can also be lived with passion, compassion, humor and style. Find it and live it.
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5. Sometimes this doesn’t mean physically together. And that’s ok. You are still a package deal.
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6. You’ve got this. You is kind. You is smart. You is important. You is badass.
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7. Life is what you make it. Turn on the light.
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8. Hey look another quote about depending on yourself and positivity and self empowerment. There are so many to be found, because they are true!
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9. There is love. You love your significant other. They love you. You love this life because it is the life you have together.
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10. You may sometimes feel like you are playing side chick to the military. But remember, while he’s there, he’s wishing he was with you.
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11. You are NEVER alone. Welcome to the fam.
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12. You bad ass.
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13. When a little prayer is needed.
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14. Your strength is just as honorable. Your sacrifice is just as important. Thank you
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15. No caption needed.

It’s one of those scenarios when you do not fully understand a situation, until you’re living it. I could write a million words trying to explain how my life has changed in the short 7 months I have been married to a man in the military and it simply would not do it justice. So I’m just going to leave it be.

Do you have any favorite quotes to keep you positive, motivated and inspired? They don’t have to be military related. Share them in the comments.

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Military

Military Spouse Beginner-Five Things I Did Not Expect During OCS

It was May 2016, and this is a story all about how my life got flipped- turned upside down. (Anyone else rap that inside their head? Fresh Prince anyone? No? Just me? Ok..)

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Fresh Carlie of Delaware

 

My husband was leaving for Newport, Rhode Island for what would turn into fifteen weeks to embark on his dream of becoming a Naval Aviator for the United States Navy. Think Maverick from Top Gun. Oh, Officer Candidate School (OCS), our first experience as a military family. We prepared for this for weeks. We made sure he had the right t-shirts, the right socks, he could run 1.5 miles in a certain amount of time and do X amount of pushups and curl ups as well. We were prepared with stamps and paper so he could write. He had a watch for when he could have one again, and we prepared snacks and food for his drive. He was prepared, but I wasn’t prepared for the goodbye.

We woke up early, loaded his truck, and double checked we didn’t miss anything on the list. I was fine. I thought to myself, this isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. And then he turned and looked at me. And I wasn’t fine. I was excited for him, and I was excited for me, but I couldn’t help but cry because this would be the last time I got to see and touch his face in person. We hugged each other tighter than we ever have before and I followed him outside to the truck. We hugged and kissed a dozen more times before I watched him back down the driveway, onto the street, he made a right onto the next street and another right on the street after that. As he drove away and the corn fields were between us, the tears stopped and I began counting down to when we would be reunited.

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Ready to hit the highway.

 

Let’s recap the five things I did not expect during Officer Candidate School, but they happened to me.

  1. Quiet- I wasn’t ready for the goodbye, and I wasn’t ready for how quiet the house would be when I stepped back inside. It was eerily quiet. It’s not like I had never been in the house alone before, but suddenly everything is still and silent and empty.0fc36a8ea439561fa5d834f1d815248f892e0028753bfaaab3e5c2c1186814e1
  2. Mailman Friendships- I got to a first name basis with my mailman. Not the one who delivers the mail to my home, the one at the post office. I became a frequent offender there for a number of reasons. I had to buy stamps frequently as letters became our main source of communication in the beginning-and even after he got  email and cell phone access, I still mailed letters daily. Mailing Candi-O boxes was an experience too (more on those in a later post). Oh and having to overnight our marriage license to him the first week. Tip: Make sure you have a certified marriage license from your county clerk’s office and not just the document your officiant signs. Maybe it’s just a Delaware thing, but we only had our copy our officiant signed and I had to go to get a more official document. 
  3. When 12 weeks turns into 15 weeks or longer- Officer Candidate School is only 12 weeks right? Not always. There are various reasons why a candidate can “roll” which means they are put into a holding class and will rejoin another class. Typically this happens if they fail a test or for medical reasons. I was very surprised when I got a phone call late one Thursday evening from a Rhode Island phone number. My husband had only been gone for a little over two weeks and there is no communication during this phase. Unfortunately he got pink eye and would be quarantined to his room for the day, which was also an inspection day. This meant he would not be able to continue with his current class and would be “rolling” to the next class. So while 12 weeks is ideal, be prepared for there to be more. Want to hear a funny joke? Make plans when in the Navy. 4bd35ca970677125a92c873c1b7bdef0
  4. Social Media- Social Media can be your friend! Not everyone uses social media, but if you do- there are some really great support groups and pages out there. Do a search for your area and ‘military spouse’. There is even a Facebook page run by the Navy called, ‘Officer Training Command Newport’. They regularly post photos and updates of the classes while they are there. While my husband was at OCS I was lucky to find a page for friends and family of his OCS class. The girlfriends and wives then formed a spinoff group and we messaged each other every single day. Being able to share your experience with others going through the same cannot be substituted. No matter how supportive your local friends and family are, it simply is not the same. I still talk to these wonderful women to this day.
  5. Bad-assery- I’m pretty badass, and you are too. Your partner is embarking on this amazing opportunity to further their career and accomplish goals they’ve set to enrich their life and yours. This does not mean you are simply along for the ride. While my husband was away I made multiple lifestyle changes towards a healthier lifestyle and lost 40 lbs! You can read about how I did it here. You can further your education, or work on your health, your career, your passion. There will be times when you will be alone, and lonely, these are the times when you rely on yourself, and your strength to get you through. Reach out to a friend, in person or virtually (Again, those Facebook groups are great!) You have the power to make or break yourself.

    Do you have any questions on what to expect during OCS as a spouse?

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