Soy capitan, soy capitan.

 

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my Zanny, in a rare sleepy moment

I’ll start by acknowledging that the first 2.5 weeks of deployment have gone pretty well. Despite the curve ball of my two-year-old giving up naps (a.k.a. turning from a sweet, sleepy baby to a crazy little ‘roid monkey who thinks the world is her personal Mt. Everest), things were going fine, and I was surprising even myself with my high level of patience. A kid would knock a whole cup of milk onto the floor or spill a bubble wand indoors, ants would come coursing into the kitchen overnight as if they owned the place (a real southern CA phenomenon, I’ve heard), or the cat would puke energetically by my bed at 2 a.m. — no matter! Deployment Andria would just laugh and say, “Oh, isn’t life a hoot!”

Then today happened. We were going to fly out this evening to Monterey (or so I thought!) to visit my mom and some old friends of ours who are taking a summer tour of the States from their native England (more on them later — they are fascinating people; he is a former Royal Air Force pilot whom we met while stationed in Illinois. He flew for Tony Blair on the UK’s version of Air Force One! And yes, I will tell you this factoid every time I mention them.)

While I dashed around trying to pack for four people, one of whom needs a seriously silly amount of stuff (diapers and cookies and stuffed bunny and whatnot), I ran to the washing machine to switch the loads, when, in the midst of a sodden pile of clothing, out tumbles — my cellphone. Full of water and dead as a doornail.

The kids and I hauled over to the Verizon Wireless store, where the apologetic Ivan informed me that he could not provide me with a phone, because our entire account is listed under my husband’s name with my own name mentioned nowhere. I babbled positive-identification info at him like a crazed auctioneer but there was no sweetening up this Ivan fellow, who said I’d need to get my husband to add me to the account himself before any new phone came my way.

Back at home, at least I had an internet connection to print out our boarding passes. But when I tried to do so, Alaska Airlines informed me that I couldn’t check in online more than 24 hours before my flight. Say what, Alaska Airlines? Don’t I leave in a few hours? No, you fool [I guess this is the voice of…Alaska Airlines]. Turns out our flight is actually tomorrow, but I scheduled an airport shuttle (and been convinced that we were leaving) today.

I’m sure I sounded like a real gem when my mom, whose help I enlisted long-distance, explained to the shuttle service, “Hi, I’m calling on behalf of my idiot daughter. She made her airport-shuttle reservation for the wrong day, but she can’t call you herself because she put her cell phone in the wash this morning. I know! I’m not sure how she survives either! Ha ha ha!”

Add to all this that my sweet baby daughter has gone off the chain where sleep is concerned. She just gets out of her bed whenever the hell she wants. Naps are a total joke; I don’t even try anymore. I make the big kids get in the car with me and we all drive around for 10 minutes until Zanny falls asleep, and then I park in the driveway, let the big kids sneak back in the house, and tip my seat back for a little 10-minute nap with the a/c running, which my neighbors must find … curious. Couple minutes later and a now-sweaty Zanners is ready to take on the world again.

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I’ve noticed an upswing in the number of photos I take of my baby sleeping. Totally mommy porn.    IMG_6648 Heh, Zanners. She don’t even know what’s up.

Then there was her escapade last night. Around 12:30 a.m., shortly before I planned to turn in, I went upstairs for something and decided to peek in on Zanners in her bed. Her door was closed, which I took to mean that she was soundly sleeping (if she gets out of bed, she almost always leaves the door open behind her in her scramble to evacuate). Imagine my surprise when I opened the door, peeked into her dark room and saw AN EMPTY BED. YEAH. A TWO-YEAR-OLD’S EMPTY BED. I went flying around the dark upstairs, silently freaking out — I’d been downstairs all evening, writing, and I hadn’t even heard her door open! Girlfriend is a freaking ninja. I darted into my bedroom and then my closet where Zanny was cheerfully arranging towels IN THE PITCH BLACK DARK like the creepy kid who senses your death in some horror movie. She turned to me and said, “Oh, hello, Mommy. I just do dis,” and I was like, “Get back in bed!” Meekly, she did….. and then got up five or six more times before finally taking pity on me and giving up. Is it bad parenting to stroke your toddler’s back and say, in a gentle but whacked-out sing-song, “Good night. Mommy loves you. And if you get up out of your bed again, Mommy will be very, very mad” ?

But here we are, still standing. Phoneless, crabby, and sleep-deprived, but hopefully on our way to Monterey tomorrow, and on to easier and less-stressful days!

And also, if you have a nightmare tonight that you open your closet and some tiny lily-white child is sitting there smiling eerily and whispering, “I just do dis,” well, you’re not alone. I’m right there with you.

We Used to Wait: Playlist for a Deployment

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Hello, Lieutenant

You know how some music just takes on extra meaning at certain times in your life? Breakups, leaving home, birth of a child? I find that the same thing happens to me during a deployment — I have security blanket music that I want to listen to all the time, because I trust it to keep me in a certain frame of mind. (Which is a big responsibility for a piece of music, now that I put it that way. If this music were a friend, it would find me too needy and would quietly sneak away.)

So, here’s what I’ve been listening to, and my liner notes!

(Please keep in mind that my musical taste suffers from my natural limitation of being a suburban mom who stays at home all day with 3 young children. These musicians would be horrified to learn that their music is resonating so strongly with the likes of me!)

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“We Used to Wait” by Arcade Fire

I used to write

I used to write letters, I used to sign my name….

Every now and then a song comes along that is just one big hit to the solar plexus, and this song is it for me. I love everything about it: how it deals with writing, and waiting, and all the boredom and loaded meaning and minor obsession that comes with waiting for someone. And how much you are putting out there when you do write to someone, and how real letters are something we hardly write any more, and they almost seem to scare people off because they seem so much more intense than all the newer forms like e-mail and texting. These are things I, weirdly, think about quite often, and then Arcade Fire went and made it into a song.

When I was writing my novel, I wrote a section where two people are waiting for letters from each other, and I listened to this song over and over when I was working on it.

It seems strange

How we used to wait for letters to arrive

But what’s stranger still

Is how something so small can keep you alive

 

We used to wait

We used to waste hours just walking around

We used to wait

All those wasted lives in the wilderness downtown

 

… Sometimes it never came

(oooo we used to wait)

Sometimes it never came

(oooo we used to wait)

 

By the time he gets to that part near the end where the music gets all pounding, and he’s like, WAIT FOR IT!, this song just has me, and I can’t, I dunno, multitask or anything until it’s over.

If I had to make a playlist for Siobhan Fallon’s You Know When the Men Are Gone, this would be the first song.

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“Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

I don’t think there’s any song about love more beautiful than this one. There’s probably a total of 20 words in it used in different combinations, but it’s so beautiful.

Wait, they don’t love you like I love you

Wait, they don’t love you like I love you

Ma-a-aps

Wait, they don’t love you like I love you

 

Made off, don’t stray

Well, my kind’s your kind I’ll stay the same

Pack up, don’t stray

Oh say, say, say Oh say, say, say

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“The High Road” by Broken Bells

This one is dark, but good.

 

Come on and get the minimum

Before you open up your eyes

This army has so many hands

Are you one of us?

 

……Cause they know and so do I

The high road is hard to find

A detour to your new life

Tell all of your friends goodbye

 

It’s too late to change your mind

You let loss be your guide…

It’s too late to change your mind

You let loss be your guide…

I feel dorky admitting this, but for months I thought the line was, “You let laws be your guide” — which is less dark, and made me think more of my own situation: how, when we joined the military, we traded freedom for security (the very thing I was raised by my former-hippie parents NOT to do!! I’m so sorry, Mom and Dad. Love you!). And, yes, these are the kind of weird, overly-analytical thoughts I have while listening to music. But anyway, I like the line with “laws” instead of “loss,” so, like a small child who sings the wrong words to a commercial, that is how I continue to sing it in my head.

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“Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin

In my house, we were raised on 1950’s music. Slightly at odds with my mom’s politically sharp, former-hippie persona, she listened mainly to doo-wop and Motown. She just never really got into music after, say, 1963, with the exception of brief forays into Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and the “Beverly Hills Cop” soundtrack. So I knew Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea” many years before I had a husband in the Navy to go off sailin’ without me.

(I was seriously pissed when, during Dave’s first deployment, Carnival Cruise Lines began using this song in their ads, but instead of keeping the original line, “And no more will I go sailin’,” they had the gall to change it to a perky, “Go Sailin’!” Just hearing the ad would work me into a huff at those culturally and spiritually bereft advertisers who dared to alter such a perfect song to meet their own ends.)

Somewhere beyond the sea

Somewhere waitin’ for me

My lover stands on golden sands

And watches the ships that go sailin’…

 

We’ll meet beyond the shore

We’ll kiss just as before

Happy we’ll be beyond the sea

And never again I’ll go sailin’

 

I know beyond a doubt

My heart will lead me there soon

We’ll meet, I know we’ll meet, beyond the shore

We’ll kiss just as before

Happy we’ll be beyond the sea

And never again I’ll go sailin’.

 

No more sailin’, so long sailin’

Bye-bye sailin’

Move on out, captain

That’s right. You move on out, Captain!

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….which leads me to……

the very campy “Brandy” by Looking Glass. I’m including this song here just because I like to use it to poke fun at myself. (The lyrics are so pitiful!) And also to make my mother-in-law roll her eyes, because she cannot stand this song.

After a long day of layin’ whiskey down, I sigh, and just wish that Dave would finally make an honest woman out of me. But his life, his love and his lady … is the Sea.

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And if we’re really gonna get campy, how ’bout a little “In the Navy” by the Village People?

This is really……something. I mean, wow. I have to say, I love the Village People: they bring a good time. But I couldn’t help but chuckle at the perplexed commenter who asked, so plaintively (and I quote), “Why do the Navy and homosexualness go hand-in-hand so much?” I have no comment on that, but it did bring to mind the old joke: “It’s true, the Navy invented sex. But the Marines introduced it to women.”

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Some runners- up…

“Smile Like You Mean It” and “Spaceman” by The Killers

“Smile Like You Mean It” is an obvious choice when you’re stuck in the position of putting on a brave face for an extended time. (I actually don’t like watching The Killers perform because Brandon Flowers is too clean and pretty for my taste, but I like their music, especially for jogging.)

“Spaceman” is one of those songs that’s catchy and seems too-cool-for-school- ironic at the outset, but I think it has more going on beneath the surface. When I hear it — and I understand this is a very particular take on it! – I imagine someone who might have deployed in, say, 2006, and ended up in a bad spot in Iraq, and come home feeling like no one could understand what they’d been through. Which was not our family’s experience, thankfully. But I have a lot of empathy for someone who might feel that way.

Well, now I’m back at home

and I’m looking forward to this life I live

You know it’s gonna haunt me

So hesitation to this life I give

 

You think you might cross over

You’re caught between the devil and the deep blue sea

You better look it over

Before you make that leap

 

And you know I’m fine

But I hear those voices at night

Sometimes they justify my claim

 

And the public don’t dwell on my transmission

‘Cause it wasn’t televised

But it was the turning point

Oh what a lonely night

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Of course, there’s also “All These Things That I’ve Done,” which is the perfect anthem for a military family (I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier). Thanks to the VFA-14 Tophatters for this video.

Yeah, you know you gotta help me out, yeah

Oh don’t you put me on the back burner

You know you gotta help me out, yeah

You’re gonna bring yourself down

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Finally,  a personal favorite of mine is Feist’s “I Feel it All,”

(This recording seems kind of funny, kind of like those Jimmy Fallon spots where everyone plays little kids’ instruments. But she’s so pretty and it’s a good song.)

 

I know more than I knew before

I know more than I knew before

I didn’t rest, I didn’t stop

Did we fight or did we talk?

 

…No one likes to take a test

Sometimes you know more is less

Put your weight against the door

Kick drum on the basement floor

 

I like that simple idea: No one likes to take a test. Of course not! I was not in the mood for a test just now, either, thank you. But now it’s here — I won’t rest, I won’t stop —  and let’s just hope that when it’s over I’ll know more than I did before.

 

Horseman, Pass By: In Which We Survive Week One of Deployment and My Dad is Mistaken for Robert Redford

Photo: And he's off! We sure do love you Davey Jo! Do good work, be safe and we'll see you in January.

And we’re off! Dave’s been gone one week as of today. He left last Wednesday morning, early. I was sad to see him go, but also relieved that we could get this show on the road and get it over with sooner.

He reports that Guam is jungly and remote (they flew over 3,300 miles of nothing-but-ocean to get there from Hawaii). It’s hot and humid, and they get attacked by bizarrely aggressive crows on their PRT runs (one Marine jogs carrying a paddle so he can wave it over his head when he goes through one stand of trees). His first night, sitting in a small room with bare walls and one bunk, no family, no phone or TV or internet connection, I think he was kind of lonely, but they’ve gotten to work setting up their new EOD unit out there, and I think it’s pretty much like a 9-to-5 job in the jungle.

My 9-to-5 hasn’t changed! The kids and I are hanging in. We found our groove pretty fast. We’ve spent an inordinate amount of time downtown in the block that houses both the YMCA and the public library. Books, movies, and swimming: that’s us. I had one sad evening but otherwise I’ve been all business. It helps that I have revisions on a novel to slave over and various other projects (volunteering as a reader for Kore Press, leading my neighborhood book club this month, etc.). I put the kids to bed, and go right to the computer to do my work, and work until midnight or 1 a.m. Somewhere between 5 or 6 a.m. I hear the patter of little feet and a small voice right next to my ear: “Oh, good morning!” (That’s Zanny.) And then we start our day.

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Goobers!

The house is pretty messy, I often leave dishes in the sink overnight and I have only done one load of laundry (had to dip into the “B Team” of underwear today, and that is no fun), but we’re trucking along. The only time that feels a little hard is Zanny’s naptime (which is a farce these days, but I keep trying) and the 6 p.m. time slot where my brain starts thinking Dave should be home soon, but then I recall that it’s just me around these parts. And weekends — weekends kinda suck. I got my nice dad to hang out with me this Saturday just so I wouldn’t feel lonely in our non-military neighborhood when all the families are out on walks together.

Hangin’ out at my dad’s house this past weekend

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THIS is how you watch ’em.

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Hey, blue eyes

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In the absence of much news, I’ve decided to tell y’all a story.

I love stories! And this is a good one.

So, my dad has been told throughout his life that he looks like Robert Redford. I’ll let you be the judge:

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It’s true, my dad is a fit, ruggedly handsome man. He was a redhead in his youth and it’s faded to a nice, natural blond. If you don’t see the real Robert Redford every day, I can see how you might think my dad looked like The Sundance Kid. (And he’s told that he looks like Robert Redford with such regularity — often, actually mistaken for Robert Redford — that it has become a family joke.)

Last month, my dad went to visit some of our family in Ireland. He hadn’t gotten any farther than LAX when he noticed a woman slyly holding up her camera at waist-level and snapping pictures of him. It took him a few minutes to realize what she was doing, but then he suspected: she, like many before her, thought he was Robert Redford! Alas, she was proven wrong when he sat near her in a lowly coach seat, not the first-class befitting of a Hollywood legend.

My dad stayed with our family in beautiful Sligo, Ireland for a week or so — childhood home, and burial place, of W.B. Yeats, whose grave my family and I visited back when I was ten years old. (“Cast a cold eye on life, on death — horseman, pass by.”)

my dad’s photo from Benbulben, Sligo’s famous mountain

Dad and the family puttered around the region, hiking Benbulben, taking the rowboat out on the River Shannon, and so on. He also made a couple of trips to downtown Sligo, a town full of artisan shops.

While downtown, he visited a woodworker, Francis Presley, who’s known locally as “The Wickerman” for his wood and wicker creations. My dad, his partner Gail, and my uncle Paul all spent some time in The Wickerman’s shop, enjoying his wares.

photo by my dad – the Wickerman, Francis Presley, showing off a guitar-like instrument

They then proceeded down the street to this jewelry shop.

Gail liked one pendant in particular — a silver hare. My dad wanted to get it for her birthday the following week, without her knowing, so he could surprise her with it at home. So he purchased it but then sent my uncle Paul in the next day to pick it up secretly.

This detail is important, because a week or so later, my aunt Berta was downtown when she overheard someone mentioning that Robert Redford had been spotted in Sligo the previous week.

She overheard the person saying, “He bought a pendant from the jewelry store, but sent his minder in to pick it up for him the next day.”

Berta stifled a laugh — “Robert Redford” was my dad, and the “minder,” of course, was Uncle Paul!

She overheard another person mention that they, too, had seen Robert Redford about town.

Imagine Aunt Berta’s surprise when all this went a step further, and she opened the slim “Sligo Champion” at home to find the following story:

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click to enlarge

“Robert Redford…the world famous actor, director, and producer, 77, stopped by Francis Presley’s workshop in Branley’s Yard. … Francis, known as the wickerman, told the Sligo Champion: ‘It was a busy day, people were passing through. I spotted this group of three people and looked at the man in particular….I could tell that there was something remarkably familiar about his face. He was a shortish man, he looked about 72….he seemed bemused by the oddness of my craft. … He seemed like he wanted to remain anonymous.”

The story was accompanied by a stock photo of Robert Redford at a press conference. But my Aunt Berta knew immediately that this was her brother, mistaken yet again for Robert Redford. Every detail adds up, from the timeframe to the number of people there.

My favorite line, I must say, is this one: “His eyes were shining, he struck me like he wasn’t an unpleasant man at all.”

It’s true, my dad is a not- unpleasant man. And what a funny feeling this must have been for him! Who really ever gets to hear what strangers think of them upon a first impression — how they’re glimpsed from the outside? Well, now my dad knows. He is bemused, he has shining eyes, he looks unjaded….and he just wants to remain anonymous.

Pursuing Your Own Career Dreams as a Military Spouse: A Guest Post by Author Stephanie Carroll

(While this article refers to Navy significant-others,  I think the lessons can be applied across any branch of service.  Huge thanks to Stephanie Carroll for this terrifically empowering contribution!  -Andria)

By Stephanie Carroll  (Navy)              

Author of A White Room

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The first time I went to a military base as a Navy girlfriend, I met woman after woman who had become a wife, mother, and homemaker. These are noble and invaluable roles in which women serve, but it freaked me out! I was concerned because it wasn’t just a couple or most—it was all of them. Plus, the worst part was how many told me they didn’t want to stay home but felt they had no choice.

Wife after wife told me it was too hard. She felt shackled to her husband’s career. Switching colleges every couple of years was too problematic and small military towns offered little work. Whatever jobs she could find couldn’t pay the cost of childcare. Moreover, the Navy and his career always took priority because it brought in the primary income.

Now before you freak out, let me ease the tension by letting you know that these are actually generalizations, exaggerations, and rumors and that in this article, I plan to disprove them. Let’s get started.

No. 1 – To start, at the time I met these women and heard these things, my future husband had just started his career, so we were young and the women I met were between 18-23 years old. As people get older, they gain more experience, discover more opportunities, and overcome more obstacles. That explains why almost every woman seemed to lack a career and why oftentimes Navy Girlfriends and new Navy Wives hear these impressions first.

No. 2 – It is a nuisance to switch colleges every couple of years, but there are a variety of programs to aid Military Wives. There are countless scholarships and grants to help Navy Wives with financial aid. Heck, when I first became a Navy Wife, we didn’t even have access to the GI Bill. Now you do.

Switching schools from state to state seems overwhelming but there are programs and policies put in place to help Military Wives with this process. Some wives fear that if you are not a state citizen, some colleges charge you double or triple, but there are laws that prevent that from applying to Military Dependents. Plus, most Military rotations are between three to five years, so that’s a big chunk of time in which to go to school. If you plan it right, you can graduate in one rotation.

That’s what I did. It helped that my husband extended his orders at our base to five years, but I also had to really load up on classes, five classes for two semesters. I also stayed behind for a month or two when my husband first reported to his new duty station. Big whoop! We’d done eight-month deployments twice! Also, many Military Wives simply attend internet colleges, which makes moving no problem at all.

No. 3 – We started our first duty station in Lemoore, CA, kind of a small town, or at least that’s what we thought. Our second duty station was in Fallon, NV. This place is so small, it was rumored to be the base where wives can’t find jobs and where Navy couples go to get divorced! I was really scared to go there but determined to prove the rumors wrong.

I had just graduated college and immediately landed a job as a freelance reporter for the local paper. Since I was only working part-time, I found another job working as an instructional aide, a job which didn’t require a college degree. So bam! Not only did I get a job right off the bat, I landed two within the first six months. Eventually, I became a full time journalist and editor and even helped work on a PR campaign to nix the bad rumors and let everyone know about the awesomeness of the little spunky town called Fallon.

The secret was to not listen to the rumors and to get off of base. A lot of people live on base and get stuck there. They never go into town and discover what it’s all about. Fallon was also where I started writing my first novel, and where I realized I wanted to pursue a publishing career.

No. 4 – This idea that the only work you can get won’t pay for childcare is partially true but only at first. When I first started working for the paper, I was writing one measly article a week and making less than $200 bucks a month. However, after that month, I renegotiated to write three articles a week, and I started making $600 a month. That’s still not very much, which is why I then picked up the second part-time job, which added another $600. Still not enough? By year two, I had earned my place as a full time reporter and was pulling in about $2,500 a month.

Sure, your first job might only be enough to cover gas, but as you keep working and earning more experience, you will qualify for higher paying jobs. At least the ability to pay childcare gives you the opportunity to start getting that experience.

Worried about not having a degree? Keep in mind my first job out of college paid $200 a month. Every job, regardless of education, starts small but can build upon itself if you keep at it. I know someone who started out as a hostess at a restaurant and now pulls in $3K as an experienced bartender.

Also check out Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society volunteer opportunities. They will cover the cost of childcare and gas so you can get some professional experience. I volunteered with them and learned a lot. No requirement either. Anyone can do it. The American Red Cross has similar opportunities. Bonus, it actually goes on your husband’s record and makes him look better professionally.

No. 5 – I think I’ve disproved almost all of the rumors I originally heard as a Navy Girlfriend, but there’s one that has some merit, and that is the feeling that his career comes first. I say this has merit because it is really hard not to feel that way sometimes but that doesn’t mean it has to be true. The problem is, if you don’t fight for your dreams, it’s very easy for his career to take over.

I started writing my first book in Fallon while working two jobs. When I realized it was what I wanted to do with my life, I pursued it relentlessly. I started in 2008 and read every book in the library I could find about writing and publishing. I edited and rewrote my book more times than I can count. Then in 2010, I started sending out query letters to agents. I was rejected by every agent I could find on the internet. It was so discouraging, I almost gave up.

In 2011, we changed duty stations again, and I started working as a reporter, but after some deep reflection, I decided that if I really wanted to become a published author, I would have to put everything I had toward it. My husband and I worked things out so that I could work part-time as a tutor and part-time as an unpaid novelist. We took a pay cut at first, but each year my husband earned more money in the Navy, and I even earned raises as a tutor.

Then, finally, in 2013, my first novel, A White Room, hit the online bookshelves. There were difficulties and struggles and moments of doubt, but I think what made the difference was refusing to settle. Determination and stubbornness helped too. But  my husband was really key to this process.

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I can’t tell you how many times I felt like I was shackled to the Navy and forced to put my dreams second, a feeling which actually inspired my novel, but he did everything in his power to compromise, support, and encourage me every step of the way. I couldn’t have done it without him, which is why my book’s dedication reads, Never without Jonathan. . .

So communication, compromise, and support are important. Make sure your Sailor knows what you want and make sure you are willing to let his dreams come first sometimes too. When my husband decided he wanted to get out of the Navy after ten years and pursue his dream of owning a vineyard, you better believe I was behind him.

As I spent more time in the Navy Life, I learned there were plenty of women out there who stuck by their Sailors, but who also pursued their dreams. Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams even if they are really big dreams. I know Navy Wives who have become teachers, nurses, chefs, authors, reporters, and officers. They had to work for it, though. They had to work with limitations, restrictions, and obstacles, but those who ignored the rumors and went after their goals successfully reached them. If I can and they can, then so can you.

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About the Author

Stephanie Carroll founded and writes for the Navy Wives & Girlfriends blog Unhinged & Empowered and is the author of historical fiction novel, A White Room.

As a reporter and community editor, Stephanie earned first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and from the Nevada Press Association. She holds degrees in history and social science and graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno.

Her dark and magical historical fiction is inspired by the classic authors Charlotte Perkins Gilman (The Yellow Wallpaper), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights).

Stephanie lives in California, where her husband was originally stationed with the U.S. Navy. A White Room is her debut novel.

Sign up for Stephanie’s VIP Reader Newsletter to be notified of new books, writer tips, behind the scenes, and free goodies.

Learn more at www.stephaniecarroll.net or find Stephanie @CarrollBooks on your favorite social media site, including FacebookTwitterGoodreadsPinterest.

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Advanced Praise for A White Room

“A novel of grit, independence, and determination … An intelligent story, well told.”

—Renée Thompson, author of The Plume Hunter and The Bridge at Valentine

“The best historical fiction makes you forget it’s fiction and forget it’s historical. Reminiscent of The Yellow Wallpaper … the thoughtful, intricate story Carroll relates is absolutely mesmerizing.”

—Eileen Walsh, Ph.D. U.S. Women’s History, University of San Diego

About A White Room

At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be “the angels of the house,” even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family.

John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house’s grip on her mind.

Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled.

A novel of madness and secrets, A White Room presents a fantastical glimpse into the forgotten cult of domesticity, where one’s own home could become a prison and a woman has to be willing to risk everything to be free.

Available in Print and eBook

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Book Review: Thrive by Arianna Huffington

Reviewed by Pastaveia St. John (Air Force)

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I first heard about Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive from Marie Forleo’s interview with her on YouTube. The video was amazing and I immediately went to my local library to get a copy.

Unfortunately, I had to wait a few weeks for the library to order the book. Once I got it, I couldn’t put it down. Arianna speaks in a way that is clear and easy to understand. Her voice in my head is that of a cool aunt sharing her lessons learned in life.

Thrive gives the best advice you could ever receive despite your age, race, gender or social status in the world.Huffington speaks about how society defines success and how that definition of success is literally killing the human race. She talks about fueling your curiosity in an uplifting manner, getting more out of life by enjoying the simple treasures life brings and ultimately being wise with the direction you take your life.

The book starts out with Huffington lying in the pool of her own blood (gasp!) because she passed out from exhaustion and sleep depravation, two pitfalls we can control but choose to overlook when we become obsessed with fulfilling deadlines. For me it was clear to see where she was coming from because I, too, have sacrificed sleep to “get the job done.” I’ve talked myself into pushing past my limits, telling myself that it was for the greater goodIn the end all it did was leave me tired and overworked. My former drill instructor once told me,“You have to work hard in life to get ahead.” As women, we sometimes feel as if we need to work twice as hard. However, despite the double standard that faces women, I’m recognizing that I will do my best within my lane and be happy with the results because I gave it my all.

Huffington discusses our addiction to technology, specifically social media and emails. “It’s celebrated as ‘personalization,'” she says, “but it often caters to a very shriveled part of who we really are.”

Last year, I did an experiment and got rid of my smart phone for nine months. I didn’t have the Internet at my fingertips at every minute of the day. I’ve got to say, it was liberating because I realized how much time I wasted “surfing the web” and “liking” randomness. Now, I can easily go online and to what I need to do then I’m off – to go read a good book, do some yoga or my favorite – nothing at all!

As of late, I have been very aware of how my day-to-day activities seem to be connected. Most people call it coincidence or synchronicity. I think my favorite part of book was the story she shared on page 198. It’s also about synchronicity and how her parents were going to terminate a pregnancy but got distracted (morning hanky-panky) the day of the appointment and in turn kept the baby. The baby is her younger sister, who is her closet friend. Everything really does happen for a reason.

I believe everyone will take something different from the book. For me it wasn’t one of those “read it once, then put it on my shelf for guests to ask me about later” books. I have found that over the past few weeks, I’ve re-read various passages over again. It’s a book to study, to apply your findings to everyday life. Happy Reading!

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Pastaveia St. John was with the Air Force for twelve years. She has a popular blog, PS Be Fearless. You can follow her on You Tube, Instagram and Facebook as well.

This is Marriage (Now, Let’s Get in the Truck)

Well, here we are, two days before Dave leaves. I wish I could say I’m full of wise thoughts to share, but really I’m mostly in a panic.

Susanna, our 2-year-old, who up until last week was a reliable little napper, suddenly decided to spend nap time teaching herself to climb out of her crib and running gleefully in and out of her bedroom. I really relied on her nap times to just get a grip on the day, clean up the dishes and have a quiet moment (sometimes even to get some writing done), but now I have to keep a constant ear out for her and make sure she’s not doing something dangerous —  because frankly, her common sense leaves a lot to be desired.
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What? Sleepy time? No, I’m more in the mood for a sing-along, stories and some s’mores, thank you

She hasn’t napped once since learning to climb out of her crib. But she’s too young to stop napping, so she’s spent all afternoon crying and whining because she’s so tired. And she’s only one of the three kids!

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Luckily, all three of them spend every waking moment reading quietly together on the couch without bickering while I cross-stitch and listen to NPR

I’ll admit, I feel tired most of the time even when Dave comes home from work, so I’m not sure where the reserves are going to come from to get through the next six months, but I guess they’d better come from somewhere!

I feel a bit like I am preparing for some kind of really slow solo marathon, and that I need to save all my energy for it.

Logistics also scare me. Recently, I earned my first paycheck in nine years, and it was a great feeling, and I used part of it to buy plane tickets to Minnesota to visit family this summer. So, that was liberating. But then I thought about what I had just bought and I felt terrified. The sheer act of mobilizing three kids with car seats and clothes and snacks, getting us to the airport with documents in hand (by 6:30 a.m!), checking luggage, and then having them BEHAVE for 4 hours on a cross-country flight (twice!) seems like some kind of crazy gamble. (It’s really all Susanna, again. I can’t imagine her sitting still for four hours. She never has, yet. What makes me think she’s going to want to on a crowded plane?)

And then I tell myself: Williams, that flight is more than a month away. Stop psyching yourself out. Live in the moment, like those Dove “Promises” wrappers tell you to do!

(Then again, a Dove “Promise” once told me, “You look good in red!,” and I am a redHEAD, something the Dove “Promise” was obviously unaware of, because everyone knows redheads look awful in red. So, Dove, I don’t think I can trust you.)
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Dove, you don’t know me.

Dove Chocolate
All right, Dove, now you’re just being a jerk.

I know most people have had much bigger hardships than this in their lives — this is, relatively speaking, small potatoes. But it’s still a lot to adjust to. And not just for me — I think Dave is particularly going to miss Susanna, who’s still changing by the day. Every day she trots out some new, funny phrase or goofy habit, and dozens will have come and gone by the time he gets back. Dave’s been jumping to put her to bed every night,  even to change her diaper — he just wants to spend every second with her.

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There’s been quite a bit written about the strain on marriages during a deployment and even after the service member returns home (Army Amy recently had some great thoughts on this topic), but what about the weird span of time leading up to deployment? Last time we did a full deployment, we had six days’ notice, it was wartime, it was all such a whirlwind that I hardly remember a thing. Well, the flip side was that it was a lot more romantic that way.

This time around, I’ve known about the deployment for four months — just long enough to put Dave through the world’s slowest, lowest-grade guilt trip for something that is not even his fault. I’m no angel. The sighs, the “Just-think-how-hard-it’ll-be-for-ME-in-two-months”-es — they’ve all been there.

The last few days, I just felt very dull. I didn’t really put out much wifely effort. Today, realizing time was running short, I knew I needed to step things up. I straightened my hair (God, what a pain that is), put on a “look-what-you’ll-be-missing, pal” dress and heeled shoes. (Let me clarify that in my case, “look-what-you’ll-be-missing, pal” devolves very quickly into a crabby housewife wearing a Cruella DeVille grimace, trying to wipe smeared avocado and grilled cheese strings from the fancy dress while she teeters in the unfamiliar heeled shoes, sloshing black coffee out of the mug she’s got her death grip on. In reality, “Average, Comfortable, Slightly Sweaty (for no good reason) Housewife” is probably the much more attainable look for me.) Also, when I dress up without warning I think it scares Dave. But all I meant this time was, Hey, I’m gonna miss you, so I’ll try not to look like a total slob while you’re still here.

Sometimes, everything just feels like a lot of work. But partway through the day today, I remembered the scene from the movie “Parenthood” (it is so worth watching. look, I found the clip for you) where Keanu Reeves crashes his little race car, and his pregnant fiancée Julie starts freaking out. When it’s revealed that 1989 Keanu will be okay (with his hilarious, “Did I win?” and cheezy wobble as he emerges from the car), Julie starts to back away, but her mom (played by Dianne Weist) grabs her by the shoulders to demand where she’s going. Julie shouts, “I can’t. This is too intense!” and her mother, who to this point in the film has mostly been everybody’s doormat, roars back, “This is MARRIAGE! Now, let’s get in the truck!”

And I just love that line. Even in such a funny movie, it has power. This is too much for me. I’m tired. But this is parenthood. This is marriage.

Now let’s get in the truck!

And what the heck, Dove chocolates — you should have put that in one of your little silver wrappers by now.

Many Forms of Service: An Interview with Caroline LeBlanc

Caroline LeBlanc is a poet, playwright, and nonfiction writer who’s also currently the Writer-in-Residence at the American Museum of the Military Family. She’s also an Army veteran, military spouse, and advocate for military families. She leads a writing group for women veterans, volunteers with Operation Footlocker, and is the producer of “Telling Albuquerque,” the local segment of The Telling Project.

I appreciated Caroline’s honesty and humor about her self-professed “problem with authority,” her long career as a “not very good Army wife,” and her work with military families. Enjoy! — Andria

Caroline_LeBlanc_2Caroline LeBlanc, left, with Gen. Judy Griego of the New Mexico Air National Guard

1. Mil Spouse Book Review: Caroline, can you tell us a little bit about your background, growing up?

Caroline LeBlanc: I grew up in a first to third generation Franco-American family.  My mother’s family had immigrated to Massachusetts from Quebec, Canada, one and two generations before, to work in the American mills, as did many French in Canada who wanted to escape economic, religious, and cultural discrimination under English rule. Mine was the first generation to have the opportunity for higher education, and I am sure our family’s Jesuit patron at Holy Cross College played a big role in my love of learning, and my chance at an education.

My mother married up, and out of her family’s restrictions—or so she hoped— when she married a Franco-American from another region of Canada. He was an Acadian, born in the Maritime province of New Brunswick. When my father was a child, the family moved to Massachusetts, where my grandfather became a successful builder. My grandmother, matriarch of matriarchs, saw to it that my father got an education. He left for service in World War II after he completed dental school. Through the war, he served as a dentist in Seattle and on small staging islands in the Pacific.

While he was in the service, my mother’s husband fathered a child with another woman—a fact I learned as an adult, and only when we thought he was on his deathbed. At that time, I had worked as a psychotherapist for about twenty years.  The news should not have shocked me. But it did, and I was bitter for quite some time—about her existence (I was no longer the oldest), and about the fact that her existence had been kept a secret from me and my brother. Eventually, I attempted to establish a relationship with her, but she was unresponsive.

After eleven years, my father divorced my mother and married his new dental assistant.  In the 1980s, family research and reconnections became my passion, due in large part to my studies as a family therapist. I discovered the differences between Acadians and French Canadians (now Quebecois), as well as both their Franco renaissance that accompanied a host of other ethnic group re-discovery and pride movements in the wake of the American civil rights movement. My genealogical questions to family have been met with kind, tolerant politeness, but little enthusiasm, especially if I inquired about anything sensitive.

Over the next twenty years, I gradually moved from the privacy of listening to people’s stories in my psychotherapy office to an interest in the poetry and writing of others with ethnic histories similar to mine.  I studied what Quebecois/Acadian writings I could find in English translations, since, despite many efforts, I have not become proficient in my ancestral tongue.  Irish poets, especially Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, and Thomas Kinsella have inspired me. I devoured the writings of modern day refugees–modern survivors of worse, but similar, sufferings to those I imagine my Quebec and Acadian ancestors lived through during centuries of oppressive English rule, including the Acadian deportations, during the 1700s.  It is a mistake, I believe, to dilute what our ancestors lived through in the optimistic Madison Avenue melting pot of the United States.

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“Coming from a working class background … I never did get comfortable with the chasm between the officer and enlisted ranks. I often felt like I was on the wrong side of the tracks.”

2. You were an Army nurse from 1982-88. What made you decide to become an Army nurse, and what was the experience like for you?

Caroline: I became an Army Nurse because I needed to support my family when, at the age of 37, my husband went to medical school on an Army scholarship. The story begins during the Vietnam War days when there was a draft, but also deferments for college students.  After he graduated from college, my husband, who had been in ROTC, became a Special Forces officer who eventually was in charge of an A team.  His team was based out of Okinawa. Against my new husband’s and the Army’s instruction, I went to Okinawa as an “unauthorized spouse.”  While in Okinawa, I worked as a civil service nurse in the Ryukyu Island Army Hospital in 1970. By 1972, my husband’s obligation was up, and he was a civilian again.

Caroline_LeBlanc_5Caroline and her husband with a palace guard in Seoul, South Korea

In my job in Okinawa, I had taken care of too many soldiers being medevaced back to “the world” from Vietnam. When my husband seriously considered re-upping, I could not see losing him in a war with which I did not agree.  And lots of people were getting killed in Vietnam. I told my husband I would not be an Army wife.  It was me or the Army. In those days, SF was pretty new, and the traditional Army machine looked down on this rowdy and glitzy step-child. Promotion meant paying your dues in regular infantry units.  SF guys and wives all had a rebel—dare I say renegade—streak. I might have been able to manage that—though the risk of widowhood still loomed large.  But the infantry wives’ (“spouse” not yet PC) hierarchies I had encountered were rigid, competitive, and unfriendly.  They were particularly unsupportive, even scolding, toward lower rank wives—especially wives who wanted a career of their own. Not for me, thank you.

And, coming from a working class background myself, I never did get comfortable with the chasm between officer and enlisted ranks.  I often felt like I was on the wrong side of the tracks.

Fortunately, my husband chose our marriage. For the next decade, we made multiple moves for jobs and school. Eventually, my husband became a Physician’s Assistant (PA) in a rural health care clinic, and I became an Assistant Professor of Nursing at a rural university.

Now, my husband is an Alpha male. The PA thing did not work for long. In 1982, when we had a 3 & 4 year old, he received an Army scholarship to attend medical school in Philadelphia. It covered his tuition & other school expenses, but not family living expenses.  Since I had worked in an Army hospital in Okinawa, I felt comfortable with the idea of working in one again. At the time, the Army was short of nurses and was pushing their “Dual Career” program, which promised “concurrent” assignments to married couples in the military. With my Master, and my experience as a Lieutenant in the US Public Health Service Corps (1972-4), they gave me the assignment I wanted (a promise I got in writing), as well as the rank of Captain. It was peace time, with no wars were in sight, so I took the calculated risk.  In Nursing School, I had thought I’d like to take care of troops in combat areas, but it had never happened. Now, I was a mother with two young children, so my priorities had changed.

I did well in the Army, got both rank and assignment promotions, despite what my husband calls my “problem with authority.” After working a year on the Psychiatric ward, I became Head Nurse of the Family Practice, and  I carried a psychotherapy case load of my own. My nursing supervisor, a dear woman, even asked me if I thought I’d like to be Chief Nurse one day. I most humbly say that I think she was sincerely offering to help me move through the right slots to make that a possibility, if I had such ambitions. I did not. Plus, I soon discovered that the Army’s idea of “concurrent” assignment was different than mine. Often couples were assigned to duty stations hours away from each other—which is what the Army personnel office eventually offered us. My husband would be at Fort Gordon, and I would be at Fort Benning—4 hours apart.  Both posts are, after all in the same state.  After 4 years of active duty at Fort Dix, I finished my obligation as a reserve IMA officer at Fort Gordon, Georgia where I was promoted to Major.  However, I resigned my commission before the 3 years required to make that my discharge rank, so my DD214 states I left service as a Captain.

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“My affection and loyalty are to the individual service member and his/her family members, rather than to the military as an institution.”  

3. You were also an Army wife for 20+ years. In your beautiful poem “Mission Creep,” you write

This is mission creep,

he grumbled.

After all, I had asked him to help me

do one thing. Now I had him doing

 

his fifth garden chore. He seemed to forget

the five deployments he’d gone on in ten years.

For them, he had been an unusually keen volunteer.

 

I could identify with some of the residual soreness of the poem — not being part of that connection your spouse feels to his job and his unit. Can you speak to this a little bit, and to your experience as an Army wife, overall?

Caroline_LeBlanc_1Working on the script for “Sacrifice & Service: The American Military Family”

Caroline: After medical school and training, my husband owed the Army 6 years, which he paid back at Fort Drum, NY.  By the time he did his payback time, he had over 10 years of service, so he finished out his 20+ years as a Reserve Officer, which is when he went on most of his deployments. Somehow, I had become a military wife, living through one war after another.

I must say, though, that the hoops for a medical officer’s wife were not nearly as strenuous as the hoops for an infantry officer’s wife, so I had it much easier than I would have 10 years before. We lived off post. I had my own professional practice as a nurse psychotherapist, and I did very little with my husband’s units, even when he was active duty.  Once he was a reservist in an IMA slot, I had almost no connection with the military, except for living through deployments and losing my husband to the post gym for at least 20 hours a week.

Fort Drum is the home of the 10th Mountain Division, one of the most deployed units in the Army. Unless you are HOOAH, or at least in uniform, you don’t have much visibility.  Beyond the VFW, there was no veteran’s community and certainly no community for women veterans in the area. In our civilian neighborhood, it simply went unnoticed that I had been in an Army nurse, and that I had a spouse in the military.

When Desert Storm came along, all kinds of people who thought they were done with the Army got called up.  Fortunately, when I finished my original obligation I took the advice of a kind soul who told me to fully resign my commission, unless I wanted to be subject to re-activation in the future. Many women and mothers my age were totally, and sadly, surprised when they got orders to deploy to the Middle East.  My hardship was limited to living through my husband’s deployments. I often thank that kind soul for his advice. While, being a non-combat vet gives me less status in the veteran community, I am glad that my children did not have to live through having two parents deployed.

In the end, I was a military wife, despite my ultimatum, and my husband’s decision to choose our marriage over a military career immediately after his Vietnam era service.  As Carl Jung insisted, we cannot escape our fate.  I can’t say I’ve enjoyed all of my association with the military, but I am grateful for the opportunities and life experiences it gave me—and for the many wonderful people I met. My affection and loyalty are to the individual service member and his/her family members, rather than to the military as an institution.

Clearly, I was not a good Army wife. Nor was I a good doctor’s wife.  I’ve always had a great need for my own identity in the world, and the two roles felt mutually exclusive.  Years ago I decided that I would not join any organization that granted me no more than an auxiliary status.  In my opinion, my husband had to succeed at his career on his own, just as I did.  What we did together was raise a family and share a marriage. We were supportive of each other’s careers, went to each other’s important work related social activities and ceremonial events.  But he had his network of work relationships, and I had mine. When I went away for work, he took care of the children and visa-versa.  We could always reach each other. Combat deployments were the game changer.  No longer were our contributions reciprocal. No longer could I reach him if I needed him.  This is the subject of my poem, “Not Just Another Business Trip.”

After my husband left Active Duty and became an IMA (Individual Mobilization Augmentee) reserve officer, we lived like other civilian families except for his 3 weeks ADT (which were really like a business trip) during peacetime years, or his deployments during the war years.  I don’t think the deployment experience for reservist families is any worse than for active duty families, but it is qualitatively different because their lives are much less intertwined with the military community.  Many reservist-families understand little about how the military works—its benefits and restrictions.  The realities of deployment, especially if they never lived through any active duty service, can be mind boggling.  Civilian family members and friends understand even less.  Even when well intentioned, the teachers in the civilian schools not located near a military base do not understand what the children of a deployed reservists’ member go through.  As an IMA spouse, I had no unit to turn to for information, even if I needed to.  Someone, I think from Army One Source, called me once or twice, told me I could call if I needed anything.  But I’d have had to be desperate to call. Though I never served in combat, I had lived through the Vietnam years and, later, had been in the Army, so I was confident about taking care of my end of business while my husband was gone.  And I had a pretty clear idea of what my husband had to take care of at his end.

I hope this does not sound judgmental of women who find fulfillment in helping their husbands’ succeed in their military careers, because I am well aware of and appreciate the important contributions many of these women make in the military community.  For better or worse, it was just not something I wanted to do.  Maybe because I had a single mother, maybe because in my family, it was the women who were stronger than the men, but who still had to pretend the men were stronger.

I feel great loyalty and devotion to my marriage and family.  I don’t know what was harder about my husband’s deployments:  the actual deployment, or the fact that it felt as though he was often more devoted to his “army family” than to our family.  I understood that when he was deployed, he needed to dedicate undivided attention to his work.  I just wanted him to tell me that he’d miss me/us, or that he wished he didn’t have to go, instead of being so obviously psyched about leaving for his next adventure.

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“For the first time in years, I remembered [that] I am a woman veteran.”

4. Nowadays, you are still very much involved with the military community: you host a Women Veterans Writing Salon every other week, and you are a Writer in Residence at the Museum of the American Military Family. Can you tell us a little more about these commitments, why you undertook them, and what the experience has been like?

Around the time I was finishing my MFA at Spalding University’s low residency program, I wondered how I would make the transition from psychotherapist to writer.  My husband had also retired from the military a few years earlier.  One day when I was using the indoor track at the Fort Drum gym, I watched a group of soldiers from the TBI program play an adapted form of basketball—sitting down, scooting on their bottoms, as do children who are just learning to walk.  That day, I decided that I wanted to offer writing programs to the military population. As a psychotherapist, I had worked with many military families, particularly wives. First, I started WFYL meetings for family members at the library, because the sentinels at that gate were less suspicious and more welcoming. After a while, I chanced to meet the post Occupational Therapist, an enthusiastic and open minded woman, who facilitated my leading a writing group with the soldiers in the TBI program, which ran in cycles—6 weeks if I remember right. During a delay between cycles, I started working with soldiers marking time in the Warrior Transition Battalion. While the family members were all women, the WTB soldiers were all men.

Then we moved to Albuquerque. There is a small Air Force Base in Albuquerque, a large VA, and a very active community of veterans, including a network for women veterans. For the first time in years, I remembered I am a woman veteran. Various feature articles about how female veterans discuss how they often don’t think of themselves as veterans, or even realize they are eligible for the same services as male veterans, so I was not alone.

Through the Albuquerque branch of the national Veterans’ History Project, I was introduced to several remarkable women who work at the VA. Two ran the Recreational Therapy Department’s weekly writing group for veterans, most of whom where men who had served in Vietnam. They were a nice bunch of guys, but I soon realized that women, especially women with military sexual trauma issues, would not feel very comfortable in the group.  So, the Recreational Department staff member and I started a writing group for women veterans. That evolved into the Women Veterans Writing Salon, which I plan to open to family members in the fall.

Simultaneously, I met another woman, Circe Olson Woessner. Circe was a DOD BRAT and the wife of a retired Army officer. When I met her, she had already started the virtual Museum of the American Military Family (http://www.museumoftheamericanmilitaryfamily.org/ ).  The first leg of the MAMF has been its Operation Foot Locker traveling exhibit (contained in a foot locker).

mil_family_museum1

OFL was started by a military brats’ organization, which eventually turned it over to the Museum. Mobile foot locker exhibits have been shipped around the nation.

Mil_fam_museum_2Caroline, left, with Circe Olson Woessner

Circe and I started working together on mutual interests. As the Museum took on greater form, Circe invited me to be the Writer in Residence. We’ve hosted a number of book readings as well as films viewings,  including Service: When Women Come Marching Home, Brats: Our Journey Home, and Brown Babies.   

Sacrifice & Service: The American Military Family, an exhibit mounted by the MAMF at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Nuclear Science (here in Albuquerque), opened on Memorial Day and runs through Labor Day, 2014 (http://americanmilitaryfamilymuseum.wordpress.com/ ). Part of the display is a mobile constructed of postcards collected from individuals connected with the military over the previous 9 months (http://www.southwestwriters.com/newsletter/past-issues/ , March).

Caroline_LeBlanc_4

 

The exhibit has been very well received. I had the honor of writing the script. On July 4, I will be one of three military wives, and one Navy Brat, performing our collage spoken word piece, “4 Voices on the 4th.”   Currently, I am also the local producer for TELLING ALBUQUERQUE, our local production of The Telling Project (http://thetellingproject.org/ ), a performance by veterans and military family members who are ready to perform their stories on stage.  TELLING ALBUQUERQUE will premiere on 9/11/2014.

telling_project

 

As I look back at how I have gotten so involved with veteran and military family activities after so many years of distancing myself from the military, I repeatedly arrive at the same explanation. I believe I felt trapped by my husband’s dedication to the military while he was active duty and, later, as an enthusiastic reservist. Once he retired, I could breathe without the worry about deployments or command expectations.

My Acadian ancestors were libertarians of sorts, and I am more and more aware of how their blood runs through my veins. I’ve met many wonderful people because of my connections to the military, people who make outstanding contributions despite government bureaucracies that often undermine their efforts with inadequate funding, support, and questionable leadership. It is these individuals—service members, veterans and family members—I hope to honor with my service now.

Caroline_LeBlanc_3Caroline at her son’s wedding in South Korea

Gradually, especially as my husband’s deployments slowed down, my son’s deployments increased, and my writing skills developed, I began writing my own poems and non-fiction pieces about my heritage and my experience as a military wife and mother. Recently, I’ve branched into more playwriting and fiction.

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Thank you so much, Caroline, for taking the time to talk with me. Best of luck with “4 Voices on the 4th” — coming up tomorrow!

And I respectfully beg to differ when you say you were “not a good Army wife” — anyone who has done so much for other military families has served a hundred times over.