blog series, FRG, military traditions, milspouse

Understanding, Participating, and ENJOYING the FRG

This week I’m starting a new blog series all about the Family Readiness Group (FRG).

For those of you that are totally new to the Army or Navy (other branches have the same programs but they are called Key Spouse program in the Air Force, the Family Readiness program in the Marine Corps and the Work-Life program in the Coast Guard) the FRG is a commander led program, typically at the company level, with the main purpose being to disseminate information to family members about soldiers and troop movement.

That is the most basic textbook definition of what the FRG is.  More often than not, the FRG does so much more.  FRGs plan social events, provide guidance and can even become support systems.

There is typically a key volunteer appointed by the commander who holds the title of FRG Leader.  In many units this is the spouse of the commander, though in the modern military this is happening less and less.  Either the spouses have a full-time job and don’t have the time, the commander doesn’t have a spouse, or the spouse is just not interested in volunteering on that level within the unit.  With these cases the FRG Leader is typically the spouse of a senior NCO or one of the other officer’s spouses.

Other volunteers that work within the FRG with “official” roles are key callers and the treasurer.  The treasurer is in charge of the informal fund account (more on that later in the blog series!).  The Key callers, also known as Point of Contacts, assist in disseminating information and roster call downs.

Non official volunteers do everything from participate in potlucks, man fundraiser tables, pick up pizzas… the list goes on and on.  Volunteers are the heart and soul of the FRG and without them, it really couldn’t work.

Make sure you check back often to get all the information you need on the FRG!

FRG, independence, milspouse

Do You Buy in to New Year’s Resolutions?

I never have.  But I think 2018 is going to be different.  I never do a New Year’s Resolution and you know what?  I also end up having a lot of regrets.  This year all those fleeting thoughts I have about things that I want to do are becoming New Year’s Resolutions.

I can see where this is going to be dangerous.  I’ve decided to stack the deck by mixing difficult resolutions with easy ones.  This way I can have a sense of accomplishment and don’t get discouraged as easily.  Clearly, I am not great at keeping myself accountable for all my ideas and notions.  If i were I wouldn’t end up with all those regrets. So I am also putting myself on blast by telling all of you what my resolutions are.

  1. I will go to the gym 5 days a week.  This one isn’t that hard, I already do it… now I’m just not allowing myself to ever dip below 5 days.
  2. I will post on this blog at least 2x a week.  I’ve started blogs before and I always peter out… Not this time, my friend!
  3. I will plan biweekly FRG playdates/spouses coffees.  I’m the FRG leader for my husband’s company and I was really crushing it during last year’s deployment… Ever since they got home, not so much.  Gunna get back on that.
  4. I will add at least one more Zumba class to my weekly teaching schedule.  This one shouldn’t be that hard since I’ve got an audition on Wednesday.
  5. I will declutter my home and continue on my journey to becoming a wannabe minimalist.  This one is my mother load.  This is the one that I am going to find difficult to stick to.  This is also the one that I want the most.

Please check back with me to see where I am on my journey.  And see how my husband’s crazy schedule gets in my way.

Are you making resolutions?  Have you made any that you think are unattainable?  What about easy ones?

independence, milspouse

Is the New Year Bringing Big Changes for You?!

holiday party-2

“Cause, man…. Do we got some stuff coming down the pike….

I think that everyone has some sort of reaction to the end/beginning of a new year.  Personally, I think that it affects milspouses the most.

With how hectic and chaotic military life can get, a new calendar year can bring A LOT of change.  Even when changes are expected the change of year makes it all seem so REAL, ya know?  I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed this year.  Very recently my husband came home with flowers and sushi…. aka bomb dropping gifts.  I was under the impression that he would be changing out of command in the spring and that he would then begin an 18 month MBA program.  Not only was my husband getting to continue his education, as a family we would have solid, non deployable, family time.  But then…. the sushi… and now we are waiting until the end of January to find out if he got picked for a high-profile aide position.  Did I mention the job comes with a 9 month stint in Afghanistan?  So there’s that…

For us, this position has so many implications on our future.  We haven’t decided on the military as a 20 year commitment yet.  The MBA would kick that decision down the road a little.  Which works for us, we like this lifestyle but are still on the fence.  But this job is amazing and opens so many doors for my husband’s career that we would pretty much be making the commitment to 20+years.  It would be silly to take this job and not continue to compete at a higher level in order to maximize his time in the Army.  I’m honestly happy with either course of action.

The not knowing though!!!  Holy Cow!  We have had so much not knowing over the years, that the certainty that I had before was so refreshing.  Having it yanked away hasn’t been easy to deal with.

What crazy things is the military throwing at you in 2018?

military ball, military etiquette, milspouse

What to Remember When Planning for the Ball

Planning Military Ball

Military balls are the most extravagant function that a military unit will put on all year.  For a guest at the ball, it can turn into a logistical nightmare!  Check out the previous post in this blog series, My Best Military Ball Yet, to learn the basics about what a ball is and some of the things you have to think about as a guest.  Now that you’ve figured out exactly what you’re going to wear, let’s figure out how you’re going to get there and where you’re going to stay!

As soon as your spouse comes home and tells you there is a ball, get stoked!  It’s something that can be a lot of fun!!  The second thing you should do is ask what venue it’s at!  This is going to open up a gigantic can of worms that you’re going to have to sort through.  I have been to all sorts of locales.  Everything from the on post convention center to Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans NFL team.

Please keep in mind while reading this blog series that every person is different as is every military couple.  Some of you are hardcore partiers that are going to be shutting the dance floor down and keeping the party going long into the night at a local bar or club.  Others of you will be checking your program to see when the formal portion will be over and whether or not you will be able to sneak out without drawing any attention to yourselves.  These posts are meant to bring things to your attention that you may not have thought about.  By keeping in mind your own personal wants and needs, you’ll be able to take some of my ideas and make them work for you!

If your ball is being held at the on post convention center your life is pretty easy.  Chances are you live within 20 minutes of the venue.  You don’t need a hotel room unless you’re looking for a carefree big event experience.  Transportation is pretty simple.  Either you or your date is the designated driver or you can take a cab/Uber.  If you’ve got children you can get a local babysitter and you very well may already have a tried and true date night sitter on speed dial.  This goes for any venue local to your home.

When the venue is further out, things tend to get more difficult.  For us, this year’s ball was held at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.  At just over an hour from home, it was easy enough to plan but created a lot of questions that needed an answer.  I knew that we would be staying at the ball until the very end.  My husband is serving in a leadership role within the unit and not only played a significant role in the formal portion of the evening, but would be expected to spend time with donors, mingle with soldiers and just act as a major player overall.  Meaning that our ball wasn’t ending until 10 or 11 o’clock at night.  Knowing that my husband would definitely be drinking, I knew I wouldn’t want to drive home at midnight.  So a hotel was definitely necessary.

My mother-in-law came into town to watch our kids and I knew that we would have to do something to make her flight from New Mexico worth it.  I know she did it out of the kindness of her heart and she had a blast with the kids, but seriously…  I couldn’t not have a good weekend planned for her.  So my husband and I decided that we would get 2 hotel rooms for the whole weekend so that we could explore Nashville at Christmas time.  I did research on what activities were happening downtown that would be appropriate for both small children and AARP cardholders (haha).  Most of the activities I found were centered around The Opryland Hotel so I decided to just but the bullet and stay there.  It was well worth it, though it was on the other side of town from the ball venue and no one else was staying there.

The battalion had a block of rooms at a Marriott closer to the football stadium.  90% of the people we knew were staying there.  Part of me felt like we missed out on something by not staying there.  It was definitely the place to be for sharing Ubers, meeting up for a drink, or getting ready together. The hotel was being offered at a discounted rate which made the nightly rate more reasonable than all of the others in the area.  Keep in mind that often these hotels in downtown areas charge a daily rate for parking which can drive the price of the room up steeply!  I know a few people chose to split a room with another couple by upgrading to a 2 room suite.  While it may seem more expensive up front, when divided 2 ways it was even cheaper than getting a basic room!

My husband and I chose to take an Uber/cab.  I knew I wasn’t going to be drinking excessively (I don’t like to in front of his coworkers) but I still wanted the option of having a drink or 2 without feeling guilty.  It was also one less thing for us to think about.  We didn’t have to worry about finding parking at the venue, walking a few blocks in my heels, or finding parking when we got back to the hotel.  And, of course, there was the obvious safety issue.  I avoid any mingling of alcohol and cars at all costs!!  For those of you who are just going to sneak out after the formal portion or know that you are not a drinker, drive!!  It’s in and out without having to wait around for your ride to arrive.  This may also be your only option if your venue is far from home and you are choosing not to get a hotel.  Far cab rides get expensive very quickly!!  After one really expensive cab ride, my husband put his foot down.

What I can’t express enough is to shop around and explore all your options!  The ball can be so much fun but it can also be a massive financial burden.  From the cost of the tickets, a dress, accessories, hair and makeup, hotel, cabs, to the bar tab, it can really rack up.  Fast.  $500 can go by like water through your hand and I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me that your ball cost you $1000 or more.  I hope this series gave you some food for thought and that you feel a little more prepared!! If you haven’t checked out the previous posts in the series learn what a military ball is, what some of the customs and traditions of a military ball are and figure out just what to wear!

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military etiquette, military traditions, milspouse

My Best Military Ball Yet!!

that crazymilspouse

 

And believe me, I’ve been to more than my fair share of battalion and brigade balls.

I am so happy with how this year’s ball went!  From my dress, to the hotel and childcare, everything went off without a hitch and I would do it all again!

Military balls are the crown jewel of military events.  They are a celebration of a job well done, the anniversary of the forming of the branch of service or the dedication of the unit.  In reality, they are the Super Bowl of social functions, especially for spouses.  The attire is formal, no children are allowed and it is all anyone is talking about for a solid month before and after the event.  There are so many parts to plan, it can make your head spin.

For new spouses planning for a military ball can be daunting.  For my first ball, I was not only concerned with doing everything affordably but I also wanted to make sure everything was done appropriately.  Military etiquette can be a tricky thing to navigate.  Every battalion and brigade commander brings a different vibe and behavior can skew depending on who is running the show that year.

Over the next few days I will be posting about all the different elements of a military ball.  There will be posts on attire, hotel and transportation, and childcare options as well as common military ball traditions and etiquette!!  I look forward to sharing one the best (and most daunting) aspects of military life with you!!

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field training, independence, milspouse

How I Learned to Crush Training Exercises

I have such a love hate relationship with field training.  I hate how much time the army takes away from my husband.  It’s time that could be spent with me, it’s time that could be spent with our children.  Hell, it’s time that he could be fixing things around the house and giving me a break so that I can take a shower.  When my husband is in the field, I not only countdown to my kid’s bedtimes… I count down to my own.  Or at least I did, many moons ago, before I learned how to crush this crazy milspouse life.

I had to make a conscious decision to create my own life.  It felt so odd at first, counterintuitive to the vows I had just said.  While newlyweds all over the world are dealing with how to merge their individual lives military spouses are treading a much more difficult path.  Military spouses must learn how to create a beautiful married life as well as developing a new independent lifestyle.

To some that may sound super easy.  Duh! Just keep doing what you loved to do before you were married… But it really isn’t that simple.  The military isn’t a 9-5 job.  My husband wakes up every morning between 4 and 5am.  And that is because we live on post, when we have lived off post it’s even earlier.  At best he works 14 hours but often he works much longer.  Every once in a while he is home much earlier.  So basically his schedule is completely unreliable which means I have to have dinner ready on either a moments notice and also have it be easily reheated.  Since my husband is gone so often it is really important to me that he gets to spend time with the kids before bedtime.  A lot of times, its only an hour, but that hour may be all the time they get all week.

When you’re living your life revolving around another person it is difficult to carve out your own identity.  Mix that with parenthood and Poof! no more you!  When my husband’s first field exercise cropped up on the training calendar, I was completely lost!  I had to fill 4 straight days.  In a new city, with no job, no friends, no hobbies.  I felt like I was in solitary confinement.  I was miserable.  I would spend hours on the phone with my best friend from back home.  I truly began to feel like an appendage of my husband, not my own person.

One of the best decisions I ever made was reaching out to spouses of soldiers in my husband’s unit.  I literally went onto the group FRG Facebook page and posted:

“Hi!  I’m (relatively) new to the area and I have no friends!  Is anyone interested in grabbing a bite to eat next week? I’m normal, I swear!”

And guess what?  There were 2 other spouses in basically the same boat. We went out to dinner and it was great.  Were they both the lifelong soul sisters I dreamed of? No.  But I ended up becoming very good friends with one of them and keep in touch with both of them to this day.  More importantly, I now had friends who were in the same boat as I was and were on the same schedule.  When my husband was gone, so were theirs.  I know how people in the area to come over and watch a movie with, to go shopping with. They also understood when I went into friendship hibernation.  When the guys are home its pretty common for us to fall off the radar.

Those friendships came with so much more than convenience.  They allowed me to explore my new home through “girl” eyes.  We ate at restaurants I could never drag my husband to.  We saw shows he would have hated.  We took cooking classes, went to Zumba, and countless other things.  I learned a lot about myself.

And I took all those things I learned with me to my next duty station.  And the next.  And the next.  And at every duty station I did the same thing.  I posted on that dang Facebook page.  I had those awkward friend dates at Panera.  Sometimes I had several before I found my crew.  I never felt like it was a waste of time when I had those lunch dates with people I knew I wouldn’t be besties with.  I knew that there would always be a friendly face at the next FRG meeting or Battalion potluck.

I no longer looked at the field training exercises as terrifying black holes.  I had friends to call who were also dealing with empty houses.  And when they weren’t available, I knew of cafes I could have dinner at and fitness classes I could go to.  I wasn’t selfconscious about being seen alone, because I knew I wasn’t TRULY alone.

I am by no means saying that the only good friends you will ever have are milspouses, but they have a special place in my heart.  You could substitute the FRG with any group and I can almost guarantee your results will be the same.  Some of you may be more comfortable with a MOMS group, church or your gym.  The point is, you are never alone!  There is always at least one person who could use a meal, a friend, or both.  So get out and connect.  It will change your day and it may even change your perspective on this crazy mil-life!

Tell me about your tricks to making yourself comfortable in a new place or how you fill those long training nights!