Bio: Nikki has been married for 11 years (8 in the military). Darling Husband (DH) and she have three little girls Allana, Angelina and Abbi. She has a Dual Bachelors degree in History and Political Science with a Masters in International Relations. Nikki is passionate about her family and empowering military spouses to become independant and strong, even in the challenging times that go hand in hand with being “married to the military”. She loves volunteering with AFTB, AFAP, FRG… basically anything that makes being a spouse a little easier.
Posts by Nikki:
Ick… today starts the “I really hate this part worse than deployment phase” of Army life. After three fun filled weeks of block leave (and some use or use thrown in there too), Army guy is back at work for what I like to deem The Long Goodbye. The Long Goodbye is even longer here at Fort Stewart where field problems seem almost an everyday (not really) thing. But it’s here and I am ready and staring it in the eye like we are in a boxing ring…
If you are like me, which I know most of you are not, these few months are the worse. Army guy and I both find that we start to build those dreaded walls in our relationship to shield us from the real goodbye. While he is working more, I am working more trying to separate and shield myself (and the kiddos) from the real goodbye. It doesn’t really work, but I do it anyway. Because of this, we argue just a bit more and communicate a lot less… and we both hate it. I know this, he knows this and we do it anyway. It’s our defense mechanism I guess you can say and it sucks. In the end, when the day is here, all of the emotions are still the same. All the fears come back and rob me of the reasons I built that wall in the first place. Last time, all sense of reality that I once had and all of those tough girl sensibilities drained like flood waters as I watched my little ladies hold that fence crying for the daddy as he boarded that plane at Hunter. No, he is not leaving yet, but I am trying to prepare myself for the long goodbye.
For me, this is the toughest part of being an Army Wife. I often find that I question Soldier guy about making this sacrifice, and yes I sometimes blame him too… like he is the one who makes the big “Army” decisions. I can’t help it, but I do it often. The other night, as we were sitting outside having a glass of wine, our biggie came out and began asking daddy some questions; tough questions. I sat there trying not to let them see the tears that rolled down my face as she asked him why he was choosing to go, followed by “I just don’t understand why you would choose to leave us to go there and maybe never come home”… I looked the other way, tears rolling down my cheeks and braced myself for his answer. In that moment I did not have the smallest clue how he would, or even could, respond to that. The words that flowed from his mouth seemed so practiced, if with the smallest hint of holding back his emotions… he said simply, “Bug (that’s his nickname for her, bug), if I don’t go, who is going to?” He allowed her time to pout and form an answer which was a cool “I don’t know.” He then sat her down and they had a conversation, actually THE conversation, the one I thought that only I would have with him. About sacrifice… the sacrifice of a soldier and that of his family.
I told you that little private story because in that moment my biggie sounded just like her momma, she asked questions that she has heard me ask soldier guy often; only I didn’t know she was listening. I was proud of her ability to take those answers he gave so maturely, and in that moment I realized how grown she was; graceful even. More than I have ever been. She did not cry… maybe a tear, but she listened and processed and, weirdly to me, maybe even understood why he loves being a soldier. I understand, but I always felt like, for my children, they would never be able to “understand” it because they did not choose this life… we chose it for them. Suffice it to say, I am one proud momma.
So, on we will march. This morning it began. The Long Goodbye. I hope this time I will take a sheet from my daughters playbook, and handle it with grace and integrity. But I know myself all too well. I know the walls will go up. I hate this… I hate it more that the actual goodbye. It’s the longest, most grueling few months of this Army Wife’s life, and in the end when he boards that long, ugly white bus those walls lie in shambles on the ground at my feet.
I’m so not good at being politically correct. I’m trying to get better about it, but there are some things that really just get my goat if ya know what I mean. Lately, it seems like in every single thing I do, I stumble upon someone who thinks that they are entitled to do something…anything. I walked into my kids school during testing week and found a mother screaming at the desk clerk that it was her “right” to walk to her child’s classroom and drop the forgotten lunch off. I was in the pediatricians office, and encountered a woman excitingly proclaiming that she should not have to wait two whole weeks for an appointment for her child’s physical (that she should have had the forethought to have done weeks ago) because she needs it done now so her child can play a sport that starts tomorrow. Even at the local Mexican restaurant there was a lady complaining about the military discount policy (which is clearly posted as Military in Uniform). I have a problem with entitlement… which, in turn makes me have an issue with enabling also.
When we first started this journey ten odd years ago, we did so in the Air Force. We had a Family Support Center (FSC), not an FRG. The FSC was a single building with a lending locker and some computers, a room with VCR tapes you could check out to learn about the installation you were being transferred to and to clerks there to assist in answering questions you might have… that’s it. When we transferred over to the Army, I was inundated with information about everything, literally everything. Looking back now, I was sort of enabled to learn about anything I wanted to learn about, but I was also enabled to be reliant upon the services of ACS or the FRG. You see, in many cases, enabling someone to learn something on their own is powerful, but sometimes it has an adverse affect. After doing this life, for so long now, I can see how the Army’s training module, which is straight forward and lacks in personal dialogue, can give some spouses the idea that they are not only enabled by the information but also entitled by it. And that, my friends, is what gets my goat!
You see, in my opinion, there is a humongous difference between enabling and empowering. When you enable someone, you give them the info that you think they need and allow them to do what they will with it. When you empower someone, like Army Wife Network does, you encourage them to sort trough lots of information and learn how to use it in a way that would best benefit their needs. You give someone the tools to get the job done without telling them exactly how to do it. It encourages learning and, in doing so… in learning how to use the information and resources available you can also discourage the feeling of entitlement. I believe that when you are made to work for something, especially something you truly believe in, you forget about the things you “may” be entitled to and realize the value of them instead. Y es, we are “entitled” to healthcare as the family members of military hero’s, but we are not entitled to express appointments because we did not have the forethought to schedule one prior to the day we needed it.
Don’t get me wrong, the Army has a ton going for it in the way of family readiness, they just need to tweak the way they put the information out there. Rather than teaching from a scripted piece of paper; rather than allowing for courses taught through an impersonal computer program, the focus needs to be placed on positive personal connections. They say it can’t be done… well, folks, I KNOW it CAN be done. We at Army Wife Network do it daily. Jump on the wagon, it’s fun, I promise. Do we encounter daily negativity and skepticism? Why, yes we do. But we know how to combat it because, honestly, you are not entitled to our information. It’s there for you to use, to be empowered by it, not enabled by it.
Not so very long ago there was a girl. A city girl. From Detroit. When she was very young her parents packed her and her big sister up and moved the family to Florida. No, not po-dunk Florida; Tampa. a city. A big city. For years she grew happily doing things city folk do; namely shopping and eating and shopping some more. While in college this girl had dreams of graduating, going on to Law School and living in an even bigger city. Then she met a boy. A Soldier boy (well, not really… he was Air Force first, but Airman boy sounds stupid).
Soldier guy and I married and soon after had our first little munchkin join the fam. Our first duty station was not bad at all. We were at Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson Arizona, which is a big city with all of the necessary outlets to make me a very happy girl. For, not only did Tucson have a Target, but also a mall. I had no idea at the time how greatly I should appreciate that glorious mall. I guess I was spoiled because just after Davis Monthan the Army called and said head East fair friends towards Texas. And, so it was that we made our home just within Texas at fort Bliss for 4 very loooonnnggg years. Again I was blessed to be in a larger city. for El Paso also had a nice selection of 5 Walmarts, 4 Targets, 3 Food Warehouses (costco-sams), 2 Shopping Malls and 1 nice Border cross~ing. I had no idea what I was in for because, apparently, there is no other base with those amenities.
Since the years of big city living, the Army has really thrown a wrench in this city gals plans. Not only did the soldier guy who makes all the plans for soldier moves grace me with life on the prairies of Fort Sill, Oklahoma, but within the very same year he thought it would be good to move me to Fort Stewart, Georgia. Just so ya’ll (I like to use the term ya’ll now cause I feel like I fit in) know for future reference, neither Fort Sill or Fort Stewart have a Target within 45 minutes. No really, I’m not joking. AT ALL. Do you know how hard it is for me to find things to do with my time? This town has two mecca’s of browsing glory and they are Walmart and Bealls Outlet. On the plus side, it is a definite money saver.
I think, in the grand scheme of things, now would be a very good time to tackle that Law degree. But, oh yeah, it is guaran-dern-teed that we will inevitably move again within the next three years. School is outta the question. Anywho, the purpose to this seemingly purposeless blog is to ask you all for some ideas… the great ladies of the world need to get this girl outta this small town funk. Because, it seems that in the Army, small town may be as good as it gets.
Guess… no, really, try to guess what.
Ok, never mind, I’m only kidding. You don’t have to guess what throughout this whole blog. I love having Wayne on our team because he gives us that “guy’s” perspective that, so many times, goes unnoticed in Army Wife land. I mean how many of us ever thought about the ability to pee outside when deciding whether to live in military housing? I can guaran-darn-ty you, not many, if any, of us.
I sat at Panera Bread by my lonesome today eating lunch and going over my “blog” notes. Reading my blog, which I wasn’t feeling, I thought about how darn funny Wayne’s “no More Peeing Outside” was. I read it again. Still funny. But, this time, something clicked. his blog was pretty darn close to giving the full reality of living on post. No, you probably should not walk around shirtless (ladies too…i know that stinks), and no, you definitely should not pee outside. I will not, however, say that my soldier has never done “it”. You know what? After living on post for the past ten years, I’m over it.
Yes, living on post has been great most of the time. In fact, most of the time covers every installation aside from Fort Stewart. In fact, yesterday, I received a citation for having beautiful gray curtains (no, really, they were 40 bucks a panel). In one room. Apparently I did not read the housing manual that the lovely Balfour Beatty lady gave me when I moved into my newest house. The new house that does not have white mini blinds because they don’t feel like providing them. For those who have not paid attention to their housing manuals, do it. There is a lovely new clause that BBC has added that states our window coverings have to be white or cream colored. Lovely. I have never, in 10 years, been told what color drapery I can have, but that’s beside the point.
My point is; I think I want to pee outside! My reasons for living on post are varied, but mostly I felt that post was a safer place to be for my kiddos. By the way, so not true. As with everywhere, trouble can find kids on post just as easily as off. In the past few months, I have really been contemplating moving off post. I think that every installation is different, though… i loved living on post at Bliss and Sill, but here at Stewart I feel like so much could be said for moving off. Richmond Hill and Savannah sure have their draws (like, being closer to the Ocean). I want my own space… I want to be able to have a garden, which is also not allowed on post (they don’t want to draw rodents…oookkkaaayyy?), and I want my hubby to feel comfy walking around shirtless cause he’s hot and I like it; and I prob. would not mind it if he did pee outside once in a while (:P).
So, folks, just like with everything, each and every installation is different. In some places I know that on post housing is the place to be, and in some places, it so isn’t. Check out the area, and most definitely, READ that housing manual. I wish someone would have been able to give me that advice when coming here…aside from Tara, who told me exactly where I wanted to be while at Stewart (I just did not listen). Let me rephrase that, when people offer advice, listen to it. There are lots who have been in the same predicament and have tons of advice…filter through it. And finally, “home” is where your soldier is… but you better make dern sure it’s a good place to be cause if you ain’t happy, chances are, your soldier won’t be either.
So, I have this dream. It’s a dream that I think every normal, and possibly not so normal, people my age dream about. I want a home…. not just someplace to live; commonly referred to as “quarters” on this military journey.
This is the home I am talkin’ about….
I found this home on my many journeys through coastal Georgia to find said perfect home to live in while stationed here. Then Soldier guy came and ruined my hopes because of the distance of my dream home from Fort Stewart. Well, I say he ruined my dream, but not really…. I still have the dream, I just have to wait a bit for it. But through the process of realizing that sometimes we have to wait for the things that we want, rather than need, I came to the conclusion that for ten looooonnnngggg years now, I have been chasing a dream rather than chasing reality. The here and now, the enjoyment of what I have been gifted, the excitement of the unknown things this life will bring.
This is the home I live in now… we call this our “quarters”.
Our quarters, are to say this least, not stellar. I would be okay if this was, like, some great historical home with real wood floors and great arched doorways, wood doors and trim. But, it’s not. In this house lived past General’s, Colonel’s and such but, seeing as how Fort Stewart is not that historical, I’m just gonna have to deal with my reality. the vinyl wood floors and all. Hey, at least it has a fireplace, right?
All that said… the point of this blog is to tell you all that I am overhauling my quarters. Cabinets and all. Because, honestly, I have to live here and my cabinets are about 50 years old (the work guy who comes and fixes our stuff said they were built in a workshop here a looonnnggg time ago) and I just cannot live with them. I have faced the fact that my children will never have the most awesomely decorated rooms, that were built just for them, in the home they would live in forever; no matter how much i wish they could. My fireplace won’t have the mantle I really want, and my bathroom does not (and will never have) that awesome stand alone tub and great shower with eight shower heads. But I’m gonna try and make this home almost as great in a “portable”, moveable way and I’m taking you all on this journey with me, like it or not.