The Lifegiver Podcast for Military & First Responder Marriages
The Lifegiver Podcast for Service Marriages is hosted by Corie Weathers, a Clinical Military and First Responder Consultant. Corie started off her career as a licensed professional counselor serving families behind confidential doors. After a few years of working with service families, she found common themes that she wanted to address on a much bigger scale. The Lifegiver Podcast was launched as a way to start a much broader conversation. Each episode tackles a topic or interview that relates to the military and/or first responder lifestyle as well as marriage enrichment.
“The only thing consistent is inconsistency”. My husband and I coined this phrase 7 years ago when he left patrol for a full-time swat position. It has now become our family motto. It never ceases to amaze me how unsettling this lifestyle can be. Just when I think I’ve figured it out, just when I think I have all of the tools and all of the motivation…I find myself maxed out and stretched well beyond my limits. Like most supporting spouses, I love the good ole’ illusion of control. Structure makes me feel safe. Predictability helps me keep all of my bases covered. If you’re familiar with the Gallup StrengthsFinder, Consistency is number 34 of 35 on my list. To explain that bluntly, I’m terrible at being consistent…in anything. In my daily life, I have found two things that help me circumvent my lack of consistency: Personal accountability, and Routine (Not to be confused with a schedule). But what’s a girl to do when my number one personal accountability partner is absent and his service-filled lifestyle bombs my best effort to establish a routine?! Answer: scream and beat the tar out of a punching bag, cry, throw up and then watch Sleepless in Seattle all at 3 am. In all seriousness, I can tell you that when I am at my worst and overloaded with the waves of sabotage this lifestyle hurls at me,I quickly reach for change as an answer. “If only we could just quit.” “If only we could have a normal life.” My perspective focuses inward and my expectations become unrealistic. What exactly am I wanting? If I’m honest…I’m longing for a life free of suffering, pain, and hardship. I want things to be easy…I want them to be the way I dreamed they would be when I was a little girl fantasizing about home and life and marriage. When things get hard, I want solutions. I grasp at ways to control and when I can’t seem to find them, I turn to self-pity and resentment. But what if I choose a different lens? Life doesn’t turn out the way we dreamed or even the way we think it should go. But what if that’s okay? What if we stop trying to get rid of the things that disappoint us and instead hold them alongside moments of joy? What if I told you that your marriage could get better BECAUSE of the hardship the job brings? It is in the darkness of life that our senses can sharpen. We can learn to listen more closely, love more deeply, laugh more heartily. It is because of the hardships we can grow into something beautiful. So what can I control? I can control my emotions, my actions, and my words. Controlling my emotions doesn’t mean not feeling them. It actually means I need to be aware of them. Controlling my words doesn’t mean I don’t speak up. It means I need to figure out ways to communicate clearly, and kindly what is true. Controlling my actions doesn’t mean putting all my wants and desires on the back burner. It means making wise choices with my time and recognizing the season of life I’m in. Growth never comes without pain. Sometimes forging a new path or creating better habits involves the exposing and tearing down of old ones. Sometimes, to gain deeper intimacy, we must confront hard truths. Rather than seek to anesthetize the discomfort, let’s seek to hold it, sharpen the senses in our marriages and be better for it. ….and still punch a punching bag every now and then.
Are blogs dead? That’s the question we’ve been asking at Lifegiver recently. And honestly, I don’t know. More than that, I’m not sure I’m the best one to answer that question. You see, I am a lover of all things old. Antique furniture, pioneer ways, run-down farm homes…if it’s old and decaying I love it. Lately, I have found myself feeling so nostalgic. From longing for my old hip hugger flares, to missing 90’s wispy big barrel bangs, my heart aches for the past. I’m sure in some way or another, after these last two years, yours does too. I remember the good ol’ days, before social media really took off, I would sit and read mommy blogs while nursing babies in the middle night. I laughed. I cried. I felt seen and known in the midst of postpartum depression and spit-up sweatpants. But somewhere in the spinning, rushing world of technology and progress those blogs faded away. In their place came to the point, how to’s. Quick, concise, consumption. Sure it was nice for a while, and those type of blogs still have their place, but what happened to conversation? What happened to contemplation? Am I the only one tired of the echo chambers and quick fixes? Tired of everyone vying to give me as a consumer want I want versus what I need? Years ago, I was at the end of my rope with first responder life. It was 2016 and I remember googling “how to be a first responder wife”. You know what came up? Two things. The first, a to the point, three-step approach to packing lunches and getting sweat smells out of duty vests and the other, a very much drama-filled lament of a wife pining for the sound of Velcro in the middle of night so she could rest easy knowing her officer was home. My first thought was “I can’t live like that” and so I trudged forward into the unknown of this life determined to not let it destroy everything around me. When I look back and think of that woman, the one waiting for the Velcro, I can see past her lament now. Though her words were thick with theatrics, what she was really trying to communicate was that she just wanted to be seen. She, like myself and many others who have lived this life, was desperate for anyone to see how hard this life can be. How not normal it is and how very lonely and isolating it can all be. Does anyone know what it’s like to “hope” you make it to retirement with your serving spouse? Does anyone see how often I am alone, the sole bearer of consistency for our children? Does anyone feel that even if we physically make it to the end of this career… who in the world will we be? We may escape physical harm, but what the heck is this all doing to us psychologically and physiologically?? And mostly, does anyone know how to make a duty vest not smell of sweat?! First responder life is not for the faint of heart. Especially now. And even if blogging is dead, we as a community are behind the times anyway. For too long we have done this life alone, with little resource and little acknowledgment. We have been unseen. My hope is that Lifegiver can breathe life back into the blogosphere, Breathe life into the marriages of those who for too long have felt unseen and alone. My hope is to bring contemplation and conversation to this lifestyle and offer more than any quick fix consumption could ever give. Let’s not forsake the old and broken things, let’s breathe life back into them.
The USO is launching a new virtual series with Corie and Matt Weathers on how military families can stay strong while apart. Corie and Matt Weathers will share how they are keeping their military marriage strong through a season apart – as well as tips for how you can do the same. Tools and concepts discussed during the series apply to all types of military-initiated separations; from deployments and trainings, to geo-bachelor tours, unaccompanied tours, and even third shift schedules. Intimacy is a HUGE topic, especially for service couples. In this episode, Matt and I address sexual intimacy and many of the other types of intimacy couples can use to connect. Believe it or not, experts say there is between 5 and 40 different types of intimacy. We take some of the most popular questions surrounding intimacy, especially for couples who have to spend time apart. Don’t miss this one! To access the Series dashboard, including the videos and handouts: https://www.uso.org/campaign/mvp-youre-leaving-again Part 1: Part 2:
The USO is launching a new virtual series with Corie and Matt Weathers on how military families can stay strong while apart. Corie and Matt Weathers will share how they are keeping their military marriage strong through a season apart – as well as tips for how you can do the same. Tools and concepts discussed during the series apply to all types of military-initiated separations; from deployments and trainings, to geo-bachelor tours, unaccompanied tours, and even third shift schedules. This episode answers some of your biggest questions about parenting- especially while apart. Regardless of which stage you are in, there will always be times where you parent out of an imprinting from your own childhood or clash with your spouse on parenting techniques. Listen in as we share some of what we have learned. To access the Series dashboard, including the videos and handouts: https://www.uso.org/campaign/mvp-youre-leaving-again Part 1: Part 2:
The USO is launching a new virtual series with Corie and Matt Weathers on how military families can stay strong while apart. Corie and Matt Weathers will share how they are keeping their military marriage strong through a season apart – as well as tips for how you can do the same. Tools and concepts discussed during the series apply to all types of military-initiated separations; from deployments and trainings, to geo-bachelor tours, unaccompanied tours, and even third shift schedules. This episode covers how you as a couple can stay connected and on the same page during especially difficult Holidays, whether it is Christmas, Birthdays, or even an Anniversary. Listen as Matt and I authentically share how we are doing and what tools we re using to stay connected. To access the Series dashboard, including the videos and handouts: https://www.uso.org/campaign/mvp-youre-leaving-again Part 1 Part 2:
The USO is launching a new virtual series with Corie and Matt Weathers on how military families can stay strong while apart. Corie and Matt Weathers will share how they are keeping their military marriage strong through a season apart – as well as tips for how you can do the same. Tools and concepts discussed during the series apply to all types of military-initiated separations; from deployments and trainings, to geo-bachelor tours, unaccompanied tours, and even third shift schedules. This episode talks about the feelings that come with having to say goodbye. Everyone knows it is hard, but what if you feel a little bit of relief? Is that wrong? How do you set your sights forward and get on mission? Plus a special guest joins in the discussion… To access the Series dashboard, including the videos and handouts: https://www.uso.org/campaign/mvp-youre-leaving-again Part 1: Part 2:
The USO is launching a new virtual series with Corie and Matt Weathers on how military families can stay strong while apart. Corie and Matt Weathers will share how they are keeping their military marriage strong through a season apart – as well as tips for how you can do the same. Tools and concepts discussed during the series apply to all types of military-initiated separations; from deployments and trainings, to geo-bachelor tours, unaccompanied tours, and even third shift schedules. This episode is about “The Tension Before You Go”- So many couples struggle with tension and emotions all over the place before you rip the bandaid to spent that time apart. Matt and Corie cover what they went through and what many other couples describe as one of the most challenging times a couple can go through in the military. To access the Series dashboard, including the videos and handouts: https://www.uso.org/campaign/mvp-youre-leaving-again Part 1: Part 2:
My favorite stories are ones of redemption and restoration. Every one of us experiences some level of pain… some level of suffering. As a clinician, it is always an honor to step into someone else’s story and walk with them from darkness into light. Healing, though I have found, is only when we evolve to a place where we can bring purpose from pain by serving someone else. That… is when we see that God can indeed bring good out of all things. “Healing, though I have found, is only when we evolve to a place where we can bring purpose from pain by serving someone else.” So… introducing Lifegiver Stories. A place where you can read and listen to real stories of other people who have seen light come out of darkness. You will not find perfection here. In fact you will hear some level of healing still to be found because perfect healing is something we will not see this side of heaven. But I guarantee, you will hear a little bit of your own story in their’s, practical steps that may help you turn a corner, and hope that light can shine out of the darkness. Would you like to submit your own Lifegiver Story? Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as you think and I will walk you through some tips on how to get it ready. Click here to get started. *I reserve the right to not publish stories that are not in line with the values of Corie Weathers, LLC and the Lifegiver Podcast. All content published is owned by Corie Weathers, LLC to be shared and used to encourage others.
After a whirlwind trip to the Middle East with the Secretary of Defense, Matt and I sit down just three days after I returned to talk about what the project was like for both of us. Although I hoped to make a difference in spouses’ understanding of their service members, I could not have anticipated how much Matt’s voice would also have an impact. Of course, I think he is amazing, but his perspective on what it was like to stay home while I was away resonated for so many military spouses. Here in our Reintegration Video, we discuss our thoughts together and answer questions you submitted on what it was like to reverse roles.
I had the most awesome day ever! I got to ride in a MH-53 Helicopter – like 4 times! I got to ride out to the Charles De Gaulle a French Aircraft Carrier Vessel in the Gulf. What’s funny is that the press that I was with was playfully arguing over whether it was the Persian Gulf or the Arabian, so we just agreed its best to call it the Gulf. The Charles De Gaulle was filled with mostly 2,000 French Navy and Marines which is significant in the current war on terror and our efforts to partner with our Allies. This trip was an opportunity for me to be part of history enfolding, watching policy and strategy in our Department of Defense. For the first time in history, the French have more than partnered, they have come up underneath the task forcing of America in order to complete the mission against ISIL. The Charles De Gaulle is part of the nightly air strikes on Syria and Iraq to push back ISIL. The french on board were so gracious and excited to greet us. They took us to their Officer Bar where we drank french coffee and marveled at the swanky bar. It was a beautiful ship in and out. I had the honor to speak with a French fighter pilot who is one of the service members helping us make a difference. We talked about how much he loves his job, the favorite part being his love of taking off on the aircraft carrier. He was also vulnerable about the pain of dropping bombs but that it is part of the mission. They were so excited to partner with America, that we had so much they could learn from. It was also a wonderful opportunity for me to see how international military families also have benefits and programming with help them with needs the family might have. The ship’s hangar was filled with French fighter aircraft and the Secretary made sure to thank them before we had to jump on the elevator, a huge platform that lifts you to the top deck. That was a fun ride, actually. We got on the helicopters and I was thankful for the crew chief of ours that once I told him who I was and what I was doing, took me under his wing. Everyone has been excited when they hear a spouse has come to see what things are like. They want to show me things, talk to me about what deployment is like and make sure I am where I need to be. True gentlemen and I know Matt appreciated their protective spirits. Honestly, though, most service members I have met- especially those who are married are like that. It’s built in them to be protective. I honestly was amazed at everything I saw today since it wasn’t my branch. The helicopters were smooth, fast, and I sat back and pictured them full of Marines going into a mission. I thought how I don’t think I would have wanted to be on the front line, maybe helicopters were the better way for me. But then I thought about how many of them take our service members past the front line into dangerous situations, and I pictured them sitting across from me as we flew over the water. I would go into danger if it meant bringing them home. Then it clicked why so many, when asked why they do it, say they want to take care of the one next to them. At the USS Kearsarg, another US aircraft carrier, we got to eat in the mess hall. It was a lot smaller than I thought. I was able to speak to two Marines there who were missing their wives and children for Christmas. Overall, talking to all the troops and seeing their eyes light up when they talk about what they love to do was the best. Like one General I spoke with at the end of the day said, “We are a volunteer force. People feel bad for us when we are deployed, but we get to do what we love.” That was a well made point. Here is my #PowerofMarriage for today: 1. Today, I was reminded of the power of purpose. We all need it and we all need the support of our spouse to do it. Whether it is being the best stay at home mom or working on our career, you were built for something and it usually is the thing that gets you most excited and ramped up when you get to do it. If your spouse doesn’t have that light in their eyes, talk with them and find out why. You have incredible influence into speaking life giving hope and support in your spouse. Don’t misuse that power by neglecting to use it. 2. Try to remember that the “long work days” that your deployed service member says is the reason that they cannot call really may be a long work day. On the ships I went on to, internet/computer time was limited to 30 min for some, leaving the phone the best option. This was the answer I got most often when I asked what spouses don’t understand “They can’t comprehend that we work sometimes all day.” 3. Taking care of yourself is more important than what you get done at home. With Matt and I reversing roles this week, I have seen him tired- all because he wants to make the house perfect for me. I can see now, from this side- that what I really want is for him to take care of him- sleep, exercise, and doing things that make him happy. Helping with the house when I get there will be easy. I wish I would have listened and thought he meant it.
Today was emotional for me. Maybe it was the anticipation of knowing this day would resonate the most for me, maybe it was the jet lag. I only had 2.5 hours of sleep. There is a little bit of a lengthy backstory on why this was emotional and there is no way I can explain it all. If you read “The Outpost” by Jake Tapper, you would understand how Matt’s experience during that first deployment made this visit special. I think there is going to be a specific place (or couple of them) for a lot of military families where if it is meaningful to your spouse then it is meaningful to you. Today, FOB (Forward Operating Base) Fenty was the closest I could get to the story of 4th Brigade in 2009-2010, specifically our unit 3rd Squad 61st Cavalry. Fenty held one of the greatest commanders I’ve ever known, and that is from a family perspective. The Colonel (now General) Randy George led our troops through a very tough fighting season where we lost amazing soldiers killed in action. I assisted the senior wives in working with the Gold Star Widows back at home. While Matt wasn’t at Fenty very much, leadership that he will always hold in high esteem was. IMG 3350 copy When we first landed the E4-B in Bagram, I already felt emotional just to be in Afghanistan. We were only there long enough to switch planes. I took my own advice from yesterday and took some video of me transitioning. F-16s were racing down the runway as we walked. Service members on the tarmac were fully kitted up for extra security. I have never flown in a C-130 before and definitely not like we did today. It was screaming is all I can say. Rapid decent, sharp turns, and a fast landing. I can’t believe I haven’t been nervous once during this whole trip. With all the plane rides, landings, etc- I have felt very safe. window SecDef400We were only in the air 30 minutes. When we got off the plane, we did a quick photo with the Secretary and Mrs Carter for Military Spouse Magazine (hope it comes out- it was quick!). Then we were able to go to the USO there at Fenty where whey had Wi-fi. A forward operating base (in my spouse language) is kind of like the main base for the higher headquarters for troops that report back from other more remote places out there, especially in the mountains. You have a lot of remote places where our troops live where they have even less than what I saw in Erbil or here at Fenty. If you have ever seen the documentary Restrepo, this is the kind of area we are talking about. USOReginaI was surprised to see a USO there. I thought it was remote enough that it surprised me. Even more surprising was the sweet woman named Regina who is a USO worker who has lived out here for 5-6 years, just serving our troops. Can you believe that? I had no idea that we had USO workers embedded. I hugged her, teared up and said thank you for the service she provides. She has sacrificed a lot to do what she feels called to do. She brought me out to the memorial where I took a couple of pictures with my 4th ID shirt that Patty George (Gen George’s wife) made for us during the deployment. The troops there were amazing. They are with 10th Mountain Division, several of them scouts or advisors. Regina took me over to them so I could ask them some questions about their families. I think my 4th ID shirt broke the ice a little. When I asked if I could do something, one said, “You’re wearing a 4ID shirt, you can do whatever the hell you want to do.” When I asked what they wished spouses understood, they said that they feel that sometimes family doesn’t understand the sporadic schedule they have, how they can have hours one day to talk and other days can only send a text. Trying to explain what they are doing gets a little difficult too. Overall though, they said that things are better here at Fenty than they were even when we were there in 2009. Now they have stronger Wi-fi and have noticed that some of the younger soldiers stress more when the internet is “slow” when to them they may only be able to talk to his family three times in a deployment. Now he has a routine where he calls on the weekends. brave1 Brave2 One troop in particular told me this was is 6th deployment and that was hard on his wife. He took me to some of the buildings and showed me what a B-hut is. This was important to me because during a particular battle we had where we lost 8 soldiers they were living in a very remote location and had buildings like this, small shacks made of plywood and barbed wire underneath. Matt was right, it took some getting used to seeing everyone carrying their weapons, but I loved it. You don’t see soldiers carrying their weapons around on post, other than in ruck marches (at least that has been my experience). Most of the time they are using them on the firing ranges or the field away from family housing areas. When I went back in the USO, one soldier spent a considerable amount of time talking with me about how he and his wife have learned how to manage the emotions of deployment. For them, he said, they had learned to take advantage of the support system each of them had to vent so they weren’t venting on the phone. “Venting only makes me want to fix it, and I can’t. Neither can she fix mine” he shared. If they vent to others first, when they get on the phone they are able to then talk about everything else. Everyone seemed thrilled to see a spouse there. fentycallRegina said I could call Matt from the phones and I couldn’t resist. The guys there said it would be part of the experience for me. I knew I would be waking him up, but how many times did he call when he “could” and wake me up? I picked up the phone and dialed- I knew on his end it would read “Maryland” calling. “Chaplain Weathers”, he answered. “Guess where I am? I’m calling you from Fenty.” He woke up right away, kinda. I asked if he wanted me to let him sleep. “No, it is so good to hear your voice.” He put my son on the phone and I knew this was definitely a role reversal moment. The helicopters outside beat the air and I told I wished he could hear it. fentypress400Afterwards, the Secretary was doing a press conference with acting Afghan Defense Minister Masoom Stanekzai. Local Afghan journalists where attending as well. I will let you read up on some of the incredible press articles that came out from that conference to hear about policy, but to actually be present as one of our military leaders and one of theirs spoke together on their desired partnership to continue to build up the Afghan Army and listen with a translation ear piece was really cool. We walked to the hangar where the Secretary wanted to speak and thank the troops. Here are the tall cement walls that I also saw in Baghdad. The extra helicopters, state security, and troops guarding everything was to protect the Secretary. For some extra video, watch my Youtube video and you can get a better idea of what I saw today. Here are my #PowerofMarriage tips for the day: 1. It is a normal temptation for either spouse or service member to disconnect to do the mission. It can sometimes feel like there is little to talk about except the daily grind. I can see the monotony they live in. I can see how everything looks the same every day. Even their minimal Christmas decorations don’t make it really fell like Christmas. I believe most want to hear those details about your day when they have the time, but want understanding from you when they don’t. Do your best to stay connected. Find things to talk about. Schedule things to talk about or work on a book together so you can be growing together. 2. When your service member says they feel safe somewhere, believe them. I know it is hard when they say they are going to Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey, or anywhere else close to the fight. But a couple of them told me that they not only feel safe in these places, they want their family to believe them. One yesterday in Erbil said he felt safer there than in Baltimore. Again, stay educated and try to relax unless you are told otherwise. 3. It says nothing bad about your marriage if you have someone you trust (not of the opposite sex) that you can vent to and not always take it to your spouse. When you have limited time on the phone, save it for more positive and productive conversations. Resolve conflict quickly. Deployment is a time to take care of yourself too. You won’t be able to help or fix problems your spouse is going through. You both need others to help you.
Today I got to fly into Erbil, Iraq and spend a lot of time getting to know what deployment is like with our female soldiers there. Seeing deployment living conditions for them was quite eye opening. Not that they were poor, in fact our service members are well taken care of, but there are so many things we are told that they try to describe to us that can’t convey it accurately. Honestly, it has been a challenge to figure out how I could convey them to you in a new way. There are some things that you can only understand when you see them, but there is still a lot to learn. For example, I remember begging Matt to send me photos of where he was living. I appreciated what he sent so I could visualize him sleeping and eating there. The problem with photos is that it is only within a frame. You don’t get a panoramic view of the scope of the land or layout. I have done my best to try to capture pictures of things that stood out to me and surprised me instead of things you may have already seen a lot. So Erbil’s living conditions are a more rough than I expected. Honestly though I didn’t have an expectation to begin with. I am embracing my overall ignorance of a lot of things. Being one military spouse in the Army community, I am continuously reminded with how much I don’t know. Our spouses and families need to be a whole lot more educated! It’s like we need a good history lesson and monthly briefing on what is happening in the world. I am more appreciative than ever of our press that come along on these trips that ask the right questions, think it through, and then form it all into words for our culture’s short attention span to absorb in 30 seconds or less. For heaven’s sake, we are training and sending our service members out to dealwith the evil in the world, we owe it to ourselves to learn about it. I’m especially glad my husband gave me a briefing on Syria a couple months ago, cause I still feel naive. That being said, I was honored to be grouped up with the Secretary’s wife Stephanie Carter and her staff to see a lot of how our soldiers live and spend their down time. We saw their barracks that were tents filled with bunked cots. I can’t imagine sleeping in tight quarters there for 9 months, even though they are nice. The cots were lower to the ground than I expected and you have to roll out of bottom bunk. Going off of yesterday’s conversation, the care package issue of family sending trinkets for their living space made complete sense now. They literally owned a bunk. One woman was thrilled to get a bathmat though where she could at least put her feet on carpet in the morning. When we walked in, it smelled like peppermint. Not because it was a female tent, though, but because it keeps mice away. Snakes are another issue for them getting into the tent. Showers and latrines were interesting with only a curtain separating them from the next stall. When I went to the restroom in the main building the wall didn’t go to the ceiling and I could hear the men on their side talking. The USO was a small tent with a TV getting a poor reception of the Today Show, a barber shop chair and Star Wars playing on another TV. It was filled with books and DVDs, understandably the most comfy place there. The mail room was a friendly as you would think it would be. A truly happy place with Christmas lights, goodies from care packages, and smiling faces when you walked in the door! The gym was also nicer than I thought, though walled with fun house mirrors that were not glass- just in case anyone might want to use broken glass for weapons. I was not expecting that. I honestly didn’t think they would have mirrors, but plastic warped mirrors at least made it look like a gym. Otherwise, gravel, gravel, gravel, gravel. I understand now the appreciation of carpet and bare feet. I saw service member trying to run on the gravel, several of the girls wth me who wore flats struggled slightly through the walk. Even in the room where I joined the press again where there was carpet, I thought about how no one was likely to ever take their boots and socks off and walk around. Hard cold floors, wood platforms, and gravel are about all you will see. Here are my #PowerofMarriage tips for today: 1. Service Members: if you are deployed- take videos (if possible) to give your family a better picture that is more accurate than a photograph. That may sound obvious with today’s technology, but families will only be able to picture exactly what they see. 2. I underestimated the power of “embracing the suck”. Often said by service members who have to live/exist in rough situations, embracing the suck is something that surely changes a person. Perhaps service members get a bad wrap for being cold or brash, not as compassionate when we might think the situation could use it. But the amount of grit and perseverance that is built in one’s character in situations like these can lead a family through the toughest of times. Lean on them during seasons of difficulty. Service members can typically lean on their spouse when an assessment check on the relationships in the home are needed. 3. You are serving and loving your spouse by knowing enough about the world’s events that effect his/her job. You may get weary of hearing what they do over an over, but it is part of a bigger puzzle and plays an important part in the system. Understand as much as you can what is happening in the world so that they don’t have to keep explaining it over and over again. (Sorry, hun) I’ll have more for you tomorrow! Stick around, you never know where I’ll end up next!
My husband Matt calls the experience of being in theater “Bizarro World.” As I got off the C-17 into the dusty air of Baghdad, I was immediately in just that. It smelled like my husband when he first got home from deployment. (Sorry hun, but its true for all of you!) Granted we were forced to change our plans due to fog that limited helicopter take off. Still, so many things were notable. I hear from soldiers that coming home they are hit by the sensory overload of colors, carpet, and noises. Baghdad is crawling, at least today, with secret service or other security detail. Every door is guarded by at least 2 stern looking men. Outside the tall 10-15 ft cement walls provide weapons security as well as walling off sections that make large alleys to walk to and fro. Outside is nothing but gravel and the sounds of incoming and outgoing aircraft is constant. I can understand why it became Matt’s white noise when deployed, why he “goes to another place” when he hears a bird. Still, I noted that there were indeed, no colors. Much of this trip has included making sure that I am following the group of press so that I am where I’m supposed to be. Today as I was talking with the Secretary’s staff, I somehow got separated from the press. Soon I found myself close to entering a meeting that I was not supposed to be part of. Once we all realized, I was grateful to be walked back to the press group by a friendly security guard/state security who basically looked like special forces in civilian clothes. It actually gave me a great chance to ask him about his assignment here. I think one of my favorite things about all of this is getting to see the branches working together. Seeing the Air Force, special forces, and today our Army doing what they do best. It seems that so many of us live within the community our service member serves in and become incredibly proud of our branch. Seeing them work together is a whole new perspective. We know they exist to work together like a machine, but seeing it happen is different. I have to admit that although we got grounded today, it was not a wash. Talking to the crew on the C-17 and those that work here is enlightening. When I asked what they felt family most misunderstands, they expressed the need to decompress after they come home. They said that doing what they do takes incredible mental and physical energy. Giving them a day to decompress and get their energy back will help so they can re-engage. As I look back, I asked Matt to engage again way too quickly. I asked him to make big decisions before he had recovered. I’ve always told couples to avoid big decisions during reintegration but I know now it’s more than that. In fact, I think back to our reintegration that was so difficult and see that he needed time to rest and heal and I was ready to move quickly- that caused a lot of tension that could have been avoided. A little part of me is healed today because I look back on that experience with new eyes. Talking with troops right before Christmas helped me understand the care package issue. After eating in the DFAC and having tons of options and yet seeing them live minimally- they really don’t have many needs. But that’s the issue, the have all their basic needs (depending on where they are) and are living so minimally they agreed they don’t let their minds stretch outside of that. So a “what would you like for Christmas” gets a “well I don’t need anything.” We decided on items you use up like toiletries, food, and snacks they can share. I know that sounds cheesy, but when you eat the same things everyday or have to order your favorites online- getting them from a loved one is great. Living in small spaces though makes it hard when you keep getting stuff that isn’t disposable or used up. There is simply no room to put those kinds of things out. Here are my big take aways (listen to my journal for an expanded edition): 1. We need to appreciate other branches more, the puzzle fits beautifully together to complete the overall mission- which is fantastic to see! 2. Understand that your service member really may not “need” much during deployment, but they also may not know “what” they want. But that shouldn’t mean we send random box fillers that they won’t know where to put. Above all, a box from home that doesn’t look like grey walls, gravel, and camouflage could be heaven filled with the right things. 3. Military Leaders: you may not be able to send a spouse over seas to paint a picture of what you do, but there are plenty of ways you can show them an accurate picture. Bus them to the field for a couple of hours, tell them (educate them) on the actual mission. Family days, even if it is just your leaders can reduce anxiety and give them a cause to get behind. Some of those may sound simple, but I am trying to take into account the things that are really simple to do that we don’t realize are quite big in understanding your service member. When it was time to fly back, the flight crew of the C-17 brought me up into the cockpit and explained the brevity of this kind of mission involving a VIP. The coordination is incredible. We talked about their families and how much they are excited to be home for Christmas this year. I looked out the cockpit window to see the night sky and the lights of Saudi Arabia in the distance. The handed me night vision goggles (NVGs) and I could see every cloud like it was day and ships on the water. I asked what is the most beautiful thing they see out the window that they look forward to. “Home.”
Hello Air Force! My first day started off with the bright lights of day when it should have been 2am. I got about 4 hours of sleep thanks to the “sleepy pills” the on-plane physician handed out. I am your normal everyday military spouse who happens to be a clinician, but I am going to do my best to share with you what I experienced today. My hope is that I can take this experience and translate it in a way that coffee will encourage you to invest in your marriage. We landed at INCIRLIK Air Base in Turkey which conducts many of the airstrike missions in Syria. US Families (mostly Air Force) are stationed here much like any other OCONUS assignment but because of the rising tensions in and around Turkey and its border with Syria, families have been placed on lockdown and cannot leave base. Many of the families that were here before the lockdown remember what it is like to travel into the city, which makes it even harder. I imagined that many of them feel isolated and trapped. Can you imagine some of the new spouses getting an assignment to Turkey and then finding out they can’t leave the base once here? While here, there was a town hall for military families where they could ask Secretary Carter questions. Most of the questions were on the lockdown, how long it would continue, and would there be an upcoming forced evacuation. Secretary Carter was very encouraging that he did not foresee a forced evacuation and hoped that things would improve. My mission here is to understand what it is like for our service members. Seeing our Air Force in full force was intimidating, in a good way. They are putting in long hours both on the ground and in the air. Many of the spouses here described how much better they understand deployments now that they are watching “at home deployments” play out in front of them. Their service member is tired but determined to complete the incredible mission given them. The threat of ISIS is very real. It already feels real to us there in America, but here our military families can’t even leave base to go into town. The importance of building allies and coalition partners is necessary and our leaders are working hard to do it. It was incredible to see Airmen from Germany, Spain, and Turkey all joining our personnel for the same cause. Some of the coalition airmen stood up to thank our US airmen for their hospitality and how proud they were to be fighting ISIS with us. Turkey was warm for December. Not as hot as it would be in the summer, but the families there are enjoying 70 degree weather. Seeing the city in the distance made me wonder how safe some of the families are out there. One spouse here is Turkish and cannot get off base to see her mother. I can’t imagine who scary that is! Since I am an Army spouse, I have to give a shout out to the incredible power we have in our aircraft. I saw every plane you can imagine lined up, many of them loaded with the bombs that are ready for the next mission. As my heart rumbled in my chest as the fighter jets took off, I couldn’t help but be thankful for what they do and the amount of skill and precision they develop to do it. I totally get it Air Force Spouses- it is pretty incredible to witness. From the moment I stepped on this historic plane, refueling in air, and then visiting Incirlik, I am so proud of our Air Force. My father was a pilot in the Air Force and I feel like I am seeing him in his jumpsuit around every corner. Today’s #PowerofMarriage message is this: 1. The mission our service members are called to do is not only real, but more important than ever. It is a noble cause whether it is to protect our lives or someone else’s. Keeping their mind on the mission is paramount to success in that moment. As hard as it is to let them go and not heap unnecessary stress on them- it is the right thing to do. This doesn’t mean that we don’t communicate. On the contrary, it means that we learn to communicate better, quicker, identifying the root issue so that it can be resolved or processed. Striving not for perfection, but for peace, is not only good for us, but beneficial for them. 2. Our military tempo is very different than it used to be. Deployments aren’t going away, if anything we are adding a new component that keep hearing about from spouses. It is the deployment from home- the long work hours that feel like a deployment. I’m not sure, perhaps some of you would say one is easier than the other. Both are stressful on the relationship. Be intentional with your time together. Decide together how and when you will decompress by setting a specific time and time limit.
Matt and I fell in love at Gardner-Webb University. This fall, we had the opportunity to go back and speak with students who are just starting out like we were. With our intention to ease anxiety for students who are still unsure of God’s calling on their life, we encouraged them to be diligent with what God has already asked them to do- today. In this interview, Gardner-Webb’s radio show asks about our start in working with military families and why we love what we do. More than anything, we feel a calling to heal brokenness in others individually and together. I am thrilled to share with you my husband Matthew and his love for me and others. I hope it encourages your marriage and inspires you in your own calling. This is the beginning of #PowerofMarriage.
If you haven’t caught on, there is a pattern developing here! From now until January, Lifegiver will have a new episode every payday which means two a month! I will be bringing you tips and topics from me during one and the other episode will be an interview with an inspirational military spouse. This week is no exception! Erin Whitehead has achieved what many spouses dream of achieving. She is a Marine spouse who loves her husband dearly and followed him everywhere the Military sent him. In this episode, she shares what it was like right after 9/11 to be a military family. As a counselor, I know the power that journaling and writing can have during difficult times. Erin describes how writing helped her get through several deployments, each unique in their difficulty. She also opens up about how military spouse community surrounded her and helped her through loss and moving forward. Seeing the power of finding her own words, she created Many Kind Regards, a blog-writing and coaching business that has helped hundreds of writers including military spouses find their voice on paper- if not the computer screen. “Our goal is to help writers create meaningful, effective content that engages an online audience. ” Erin WhiteheadFollowing her dreams didn’t end there. Her volunteer work earned her the 2010 Armed Forces Insurance Marine Spouse of the Year and a spot on The American Military Spouse Choir that performed on Season 8’s America’s Got Talent. I encourage you to take a moment and watch their performance here. In this candid interview, listen to Erin’s story of how she got through difficult times separated from her husband, the power of the military spouse community, and the wisdom she has to share as her husband is about to retire. You wont want to miss this one.
I have had many opportunities to address the “resilience” of military families. Like many of you, I don’t relate to this word. In fact, I don’t want to even say it anymore. I don’t feel like I “bounce back” from things. Often, I feel like I evolve more than anything else. In today’s episode, I walk you through my last few months of Jackson Pollock “manic” research on what do military couples really need to get through difficulty. Get ready to put your thinking caps on as I help you understand why we feel like we are knocked down to the ground after minor obstacles. This content is fantastic for understanding how to help you walk your children through stress, but more importantly how to understand what is going within YOU. Secondly, I am thrilled to share with you why marriage is the answer for how we can become more resil…. I mean healthy…. You will hear me reference Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do- please share it with your friends. I’m all about saving marriages, so I hope you will join me!
In this episode, I interview Lena Steiner. I met TeamSteiner in Colorado during one of the most significant seasons of my life. That deployment changed a lot of us, including my own husband. But it was the support of Corey and Lena Stenier that carried an entire squadron through dark days. TeamSteiner served military families by Corey taking on the heavy responsibility of the Rear Detachment Commander- staying behind while the rest of the Squadron deployed and Lena supporting him and becoming a leader herself. Lena talkes about how losing friends in war has affected her marriage and her process of embracing the military lifestyle. lenafamily When it comes to leadership, Lena describes the impact on marraiges when leadership considers families as priority. Key spouse leaders changed her life by their willingness to create community and introducing her to running. She is now qualified to run the Boston Marathon and has trained even through her current second pregnancy! I have always admired Lena for her compassion for people, but also her fierce approach at life that earned my nickname for her “The Beast”. Here is a picture of pregnant Lena smoking me on a 5 mile run.
You would think that this would be easy for me as I have been using the term “lifegiver” for years to describe the kind of person I want to become. Yet when it came time to work on this episode, not only did I have a loss for words- I also went through a challenging week that completely changed my perspective. The military has a way of taking everything you put nicely in an organized box in your mind and then dumping it out and walking on it. Or maybe that’s just me… I have a feeling you have been there, too. I admit that I am not especially strong at adapting to change quickly which you can imagine makes being a military wife tough. Yet, in that moment, I thought about all of you. I was reminded of how much grit it takes to be a military spouse, regardless of branch or circumstance. Some days are easy, others can feel excruciating- yet we find a way to push through and find a silver-lining. In this episode, I describe what a Lifegiver is and the three things that I have found in common with every Lifegiver I have ever met. If we want to make a difference in our home and in the world, these are three things we MUST do. I hope it challenges and encourages you to work towards your purpose and potential. She must know her current passion and calling. What is it you love to do? What fires you up and makes you angry with the world? A Lifegiver must define or begin to define what she is currently passionate about and then be working towards her future purpose. What can you do right now to keep growing despite where the military sends you or whether it takes your spouse away? Creativity is crucial, knowing your purpose will help provide the hope as your place, the people, and seasons change. Secret: Our calling is rarely tied to things like your business, your crafts, or your ideas. The most fulfilling calling will always involve people who need the lifegiving hope our wisdom carries. Here is a short talk from Brene Brown on understanding the power of empathy. A Lifegiver must be able to protect her calling. Protection involves both offense and defense. You must first be able to know how to take care of yourself. Each of you likely know what state you are in and what you are “needing to do” or being asked to do to take care of yourself- so do something today that moves you in that direction- at least one thing. But a Lifegiver must also work in Defense. Once you know your calling, it is much easier to say no to the energy wasters be it tasks or people that suck the life out of you. Knowing your calling gives you the words you need to say no to other things. My challenge to you is to make a mission statement if you haven’t already. A Lifegiver must give her marriage and family her first fruits. As much as I hate hearing the phrase often used by the military to “put your household in order”, there is much truth in that no person can be mission ready if those she is responsible for are neglected, in conflict, or in trouble. The place where you have the most impact and influence is at home. Think of it this way. What you may have to offer someone else, multiplies when you invest in it at home. What someone else might walk away saying, “Gee that was nice of her” gets a “That was exactly what I needed in my life today” from our husband or children. Our calling is something that is a life journey, we will often need to take sabbaticals to give our first fruits to those that mean the most to us. This does not mean you lose your calling, but if you don’t take care of your first responsibility, you CAN lose your family. Bring life to the garden in your own backyard before starting a greenhouse business. Here is a great TedTalk by Benjamin Zander on how to define whether you know you are making a difference. He is a Classical Musician and uses music to make an incredible point.
It is one thing to go through the constant change in my life, it’s another thing entirely to watch my kids struggle. I feel responsible for their well-being, but how do you know when your kids are really struggling with the constant transition of moving, making friends, and leaving friends? Kids and adults feel stress in similar ways, but sometimes their expression of it may look different. This is a season of transition for #TeamWeathers. We spent a year and half in Georgia and will only spend 6 months here in South Carolina. Knowing this, I saw my youngest begin to struggle. When school started, he picked up a cold that kept him home for a few days. When I noticed his cold was not getting worse and he was avoiding school I felt in my gut that something was off. Mixed with frustration and selfishness (to be transparent) I needed to figure out what my child was feeling but could not express. In this episode, I walk you through my own experience of working with my son. The heartbreak of hearing his stress and the battle of guilt I had to walk through myself. I will give you some tips on behaviors to look for in your children if they are trying to tell you they need help as well as what you can do to help them. Even more, I will address the internal struggle moms go through when we sometimes get it wrong. – Here is a little bit of what I cover: – Hidden Clues to look for when your child is struggling – Why we can’t read their minds- no matter how hard we try – How kids control their world when it feels out of control – How to not spiral into guilt and shame when you miss the clues you child is giving you Special thanks to Kelly Keesecker and her son Carter for the incredible “Shout Out” thanking an important friend who supported them during transitions. This one is definitely worth listening to and sharing with other moms you know. Let’s all be honest… Parenting is hard and you will never get it right every time. But we can all begin to be pick up some tips and be graceful with ourselves. Most of the time (if we allow it) imperfection leads to breathing hope into someone else’s life. Hopefully this will inspire you to do this in your child’s life.