Thursday, March 12, 2015

Racing Facebook Part II: Respecting the Power of Social Media

Yesterday a bunch of my USMC friends messaged me that a blog post I wrote last year about CACO notifications and social media was making the rounds again in the wake of the helicopter crash in Florida. It isn't lost on me that because of that post my blog gets very "popular" when tragedy strikes in the military aviation community. And honestly, I have very mixed feelings about that. On one hand, I don't want to become the face of loss in our community. I write this blog for many reasons - some selfish (it's therapeutic for me to write and reflect) - and some because I hope that every once in awhile someone reads my words and goes "me too!" or "thank god I'm not alone!". Not to be the one who pops up on Facebook feeds when the worst happens. That truly gives me the heeby jeebies in a macabre way. But I also think the message is important and worth hosting so I am coming to terms with the fact that this may become something I have to be okay with.

Theresa and I are both glad people are still reading her message about being gentle with social media and speculation in the wake of incidents in our community. The article was written to be read and spread and thought about. It is also meant to be discussed and debated. I still get emails from people who either strongly agree or strongly disagree with the message that Theresa and I are trying to spread. Some think that raging against the machine of social media is fruitless and we should all just accept that finding out via Twitter or Facebook that our loved one is missing or dead "is what it is". Some find comfort in the idea that we should try and remain quiet and sit on our hands until we know families have been notified properly. Opinions and debate are healthy and good. As for Theresa, she has been working hard with Gold Star Families to try and remediate the outdated and slow CACO process and bring it into the 21st century reality.

Last year I wrote an article for Military Spouse Magazine regarding social media and CACO notifications. Theresa helped me by generously sharing her thoughts and opinions (again) with the hopes of making this horrific time a little easier for the next men and women who will have to endure it. I never linked it here, but in light of the incident Tuesday I thought it was relevant.

Article in full:

My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the 11 service members killed Tuesday night. May they rest in peace.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2015: The Year of Work Ups

Happy New Year!

I hope all of you are doing well and setting into the fresh new year. It is a balmy 81 degrees right now (at 10 AM) and I still haven't quite gotten used to the no season thing out here in California. Don't get me wrong though, I love it. Aside from a grumpy October (too hot for my "basic bitch" pumpkin spice lattes) I have just adored the idea of always being outside, having windows open, and enjoying unlimited Vitamin D.

Every blogger I know wrote something about resolutions. I don't have any resolutions, really. As I become older I realize that resolutions never really stick for me and it is just a matter of making changes as they present themselves. I've started a 365 project to help keep me active with my camera, and hopefully, assuming my lovely editor doesn't fire me, will be writing more at "Military Spouse Magazine" this year. So my two favorite hobbies of writing and photography will grow this year.

The biggest change this year will come in the form of work ups. Or should I say Work Ups. It feels heavy on my heart so I feel like I should pronounce that phrase with more emphasis. Maybe in some spooky font.


There, that's better.

Work ups are the typical training rotation that happens before a Navy unit (air wing, carrier strike group, etc) deploys. The general public tends to think that the units are either home or away. Lots of fanfare over departures and homecomings, but not much about the long cycle of in and out that precedes them. It isn't just deployment that turns family life over on it's head and means a lot of time away. It is the preparation for said deployment that is really tumultuous. As of my veteran Navy wife friends said to me a few days ago, "if you can survive the tempo between now and November, deployment will be a piece of cake." Sadly, that's true.

This isn't our first rodeo. John has done three previous deployments and we've done work ups before. But as our kids get older and more aware of the presence of their daddy, the ins and outs of training and exercises tax them more and more. Which, of course, taxes me more and more.It sounds cliche, but the burden has shifted from me (mental and physical task of getting two babies through the last deployment) to my kids.  Connor, our four year old son, will call out for John in his sleep when he's away. Kate, our five year old, just pretty much wants her daddy around 24/7. Even the work day is an inconvenience to her. I've become more seasoned and definitely don't pine away for my husband (sorry, sweety!) the way I did when we were 23 year old newlyweds and facing down our first deployment, but having to carry my kids through this experience is going to be a new emotional experience.

I won't be changing any diapers but I will be wiping many tears.

And so 2015 will pretty much be defined by the ins and outs of work ups. It's condensed and complicated; he'll likely be gone a total of 6 months between now and the end of the year when they are scheduled to deploy. And then we have the, ya know, actual deployment. Right now that is scheduled to be about 8 months. Don't count all those months, it literally makes me nauseous to try and digest that all at once. One month at a time, one thing at a time.

I started writing this blog when John deployed in 2011. This was my safe place, a place to write it all out at the end of a marathon day. I love looking back on those posts. Hopefully, this place can be that haven again. Hopefully you will all bear with me. I'll be looking for silver linings, for growth, gratitude for the great community I have around me, appreciation for the fact that I live in a neighborhood that does my yard work, three cheers for two kids who will be in school daily. Lots of things I know not everyone has. I promise not to be a damsel in distress.

My friend Karen's husband left her a gift when he was going through an equally challenging time in the Army. Just a patch on the kitchen counter with a message that I will be using to help me through.

Our expectations form our experiences in life. I don't expect this year to be full of family stability. That said, I will embrace what I do have: lots of friends who understand what I'm going through, great schools that my kids love, a great neighborhood where my kids can play freely and safely, wine and coffee, and the deep understanding that this won't last forever. I've done it before, I'll do it again. 

New year, new set of challenges. That's life, right? If you have any tips on getting kids through with work ups without setting them up for a lifetime of therapy (or a major separation anxiety issue), please leave a comment!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Without Him

I've watched my friends this Christmas. Lugging trees into their homes, stringing lights while perched precariously on ladders, and remembering to hide the Elf on a Shelf every night. They are frantically shopping for gifts, planning breakfast with Santa, going on Polar Express train rides, and fighting the viscous shopping crowds. They curl up at night with their hot chocolate or their (much deserved) glass of wine, stare at their tree, and wish they weren't alone. Gracefully they navigate the happiness of the holidays with the sadness of the holidays during deployment. It is a balancing act. One that I've done, one that I'll do again, and one that I deeply respect.

Did you know that elves can get all the way to the Persian Gulf in time to visit with a squadron, get a makeover, check in with Santa, and get home in time for breakfast? I find myself absolutely in awe of my long list of military girlfriends traversing deployment this holiday season. They are so creative, so inspirational, and still making this a magical time for their kids. They take a situation that many would find unbelievably stressful and turn it into something even more magical. It's truly amazing.

I have been putting a lot of pressure on this holiday time period. The past two years we have been buried under boxes in the middle of a PCS move. In 2012, we arrived in Kansas on December 14th. We somehow managed to get our entire house unpacked and a tree up by Christmas, but I promise you that there weren't elves making that happen. It was time, and sweat, and stress. I was proud of that damn tree, complete with one of those moving sticker ornaments (since we were still unpacking as we were decorating our tree), but it was a very stressful holiday.

Last year, we arrived in California on December 19th. No tree. No decorations. When my husband came home from Home Depot with a peanuts Christmas tree that played the music, he laughed. I cried. It was funny but it wasn't funny. One of those moments when I loved my husband so much for his humor but wanted to punch him at the same time.

We know that my husband will be deployed at this time next year. So with that knowledge I have found myself placing way too much emphasis on this holiday having everything. You hear me? Everything. Last year and the year before were hard. Next year will be harder. This year? I want it to be perfect. Too perfect. And I need to stop it.

When you get down to it, holidays should be a time to slow down, reflect, and enjoy family. If you are religious, they are a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus or the re dedication of the Holy Temple. I think it is that emphasis on family that makes Christmas during deployment so hard. Last year and the year before, while I wasn't exactly comfortable in my nest, I had my whole family with me to hug on Christmas morning. That is so much more important than stuff, trees, or even cookies and hot chocolate. Next year I know it won't be that way, and it isn't that way for many right now.

Take time to acknowledge any friends who might be struggling this holiday season. They will wake up, dry their eyes, and put a smile on their face so that their children enjoy a nice Christmas morning. They will be resilient and beautiful and strong. But they are also human, and humans need love. 

So to all of my fellow military spouses with deployed loves, cheers to you and your family. May you still find joy in Christmas or Hannukuh. May your tree not dry out, your lights not fade, and your egg nog be strong. Most importantly, I pray that your loved returns to you safe and soon. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Keep Calm and Love a Naval Aviator

I don't typically advertise on my blog, but my OSC is doing a fundraiser and selling adorable shirts. We ship! Please email your order to Please share with your own spouse's groups, FB pages, etc. as we designed these to inclusive of the whole naval aviation community!

~ Jill
Sunday, October 19, 2014

So, Are We Screwing The Kids Up?

It is the million dollar question. One we joke about at our book clubs and Bunco groups but then quietly mull over in our minds in a more serious way when it's 2 AM. We all know that our kids will inherit some of our imperfections. We all have them, we all do some quirky thing or project some strange habit that our kids will inevitably annoy their future spouse with. But what about the big picture? Like, will my kids just be okay? And even better, what lessons can I take out of our unique life to help build a stronger, smarter, more well-rounded child?

I can't say that I thought much about how the military lifestyle would impact my kids when I was a youthful 21 year old planning our wedding. I was just excited to marry my high school sweetheart and ready for an adventure. Ready, after 5 years long distance, to not spend an hour each night on AOL IM  from my dorm room and instead actually see his eyes on a daily basis. I was naïve, but I was also open to something new and fun and different. I think I considered the differences between my own upbringing and the life I was about to embark on. But you never know something until you are neck deep in it.

The old adage of "you signed up for this so you can't complain" is probably the single most ignorant and obnoxious thing I've heard thrown at military families. Sorry, you just can't tell someone that they should "suck it up" because they "volunteered". I'll go fist to cuffs with anyone who wants to fight me on that one. This life, or any life, whether it be the surgeon on call when he just wants to sleep or the trucker missing Christmas for the third year in a row, is constant learning experience. We are all winging it. You can tell me to "suck it up, buttercup" when I'm getting my eyebrows waxed. NOT when I am moving my 4 year old to her third preschool. This stuff is hard.

The editor of Military Spouse Magazine contacted me a few months ago to write an article on grit. Grit is a term that has become trendy when discussing resilience and factors other than intelligence that predict success. Grit is the thing that keeps one focused, helps them get up when they have fallen for the 10th time, and keeps them persevering in the face of resistance and fatigue. The million dollar question was: what is grit? And can the imperfections and challenges of the military lifestyle actually help mold more resilient kids?

The answer is complicated. The premier researcher on grit, Angela Duckworth, actually said during her TED Talk that she can't tell you how to grow grit. She just knows that folks who exhibit more of that hard nosed and hard charging attitude toward their goals tend to do better, even when controlled for things like IQ score, socioeconomics, and educational background.

While doing my research for the article, I dove into a lot of articles and studies on military children and resilience. Both the positive side (it turns out that you can harness a bit of hardship and turn it into success), and the negative side (resilience fatigue is a thing). If you'd like to read more, please check out my article, which is in print in Military Spouse Magazine's October issue and here on their digital site:

I'm happy to say that I will be writing regularly for Military Spouse Magazine going forward. Next month will feature an I wrote article called "Racing Facebook" which will dive into my most read blog post regarding CACO notifications and social media. If you are a military family, I highly recommend subscribing as MSM dutifully tries to cover many issues that are uniquely related to our crazy unpredictable life. The wonderful editor is a military spouse as are all of the writers.
Thursday, October 16, 2014

Adventures in LA: Dancing with the Stars

One of the most fulfilling parts of Navy life for our family is getting to experience new places with depth. It isn't a 2 week vacation or a weekend visit to a new place. It is a few solid years to grow some (shallow) roots, meet people, experience the food and culture, and leave with memories and a new place you will remember calling home.

Last year, we "did" the mid west. We travelled a lot, ate the food (BBQ or bust!), tried new things, and learned many fun facts about the heartland. We got to walk through amazing places like the Oklahoma City National Memorial and the World War I Museum in Kansas City. We got to see silly things like the (former) word's largest ball of twine. The kids experienced what it was like to not have a beach within 15 minutes (and I met grown adults who had never put their toes in the ocean). John attended a Nebraska football game. We scalped last minute tickets to the NCAA tournament to see the Kansas Jayhawks play basketball in their home town. We made an effort to make Kansas memorable and fun; not just a year where we were counting down to return to the coast.

Now we are on the west coast for the first time. My husband is struggling with the idea of "doing LA". He isn't excited about movies, Hollywood, celebrities, or anything glitzy and glamorous. He truly doesn't get starstruck or excited about the idea of people watching in Malibu or attending movie premiers or seeing if some young starlet is hanging out at the local Kitson. He just.doesn' (insert blank no-fun face). To the point where he has a visceral reaction to all-things LA (and will snidely remark about the smog or traffic even though I haven't seen any smog and we don't have much traffic where we are). It is like he has judged the place before we lived it. In my (humble) opinion, if I was supposed to be open minded about driving 75 miles in a straight line (**cough** Western Kansas) or trying Kansas wine (eeew) then he can be open minded about attending something Hollywood-ish.

However, I can have fun without my partner in crime. And just this past Monday, with the help a new local friend, I drove into Hollywood and experienced a flashback into the 80s and 90s courtesy of "Dancing with the Stars".

Until now, I haven't encountered any celebrities here. Maybe I'm not paying attention because I spend a fair amount of time in Malibu eating and shopping. Everyone I know just happens to see Paris Hilton in the Sephora or Harrison Ford in the grocery store. Me? Newp. My sister visited for five days this past spring and ran into Steven Tyler at the airport; actually, he ran into her. And flirted with her. She had been in Los Angeles for 10 minutes and had Steve Tyler pulling on her braid and calling her "cutie". 

I on the other hand have been here for 10 months and nada.

On Monday, I got to see my first batch of LA celebrities.

My first celebrity?

Nicole Eggert of 90s "Baywatch" and "Charles in Charge" fame. She actually pulled her ice cream truck right where my friend and I were waiting to go into the studio to see DWTS. I had no idea she had an ice cream truck but the Inside Edition crew filming my friend buying a rainbow sherbet was a tip off that something was unusual. Of course I texted my husband all smug about seeing a chick from "Baywatch" but he swung back with a sarcastic "an actor with an ice cream truck? stay in school, friends". Party pooper.

Anyway, after a few hours of waiting, we were led into the "Dancing with the Stars" auditorium. We had to surrender our cell phones prior to entering so I wasn't able to take any photos. My first thought was that it looked super small. My next thought was that I needed to start paying attention to people around me. And the array of celebrities I saw truly brought me back to middle school.

Candace Cameron, my 80s hair idol, was right across from us. I haven't thought of her in probably two decades but seeing her in person made my 9 year old heart skip a beat. I mean, what kid didn't want her hair in the late 80s?!

Right behind her was Danica McKeller. Better known as her character on "Wonder Years", Winnie Cooper. One of the dancers is Alfonso Ribiero, also better known for his character's name, Carleton on "Fresh Prince of Bel Air". When one of the other guests was asked who their favorite dancer was they simply yelled "Carleton!" and when the host tried to correct her that his name was actually Alfonso she seriously seemed to roll her eyes and wave his ridiculousness off. He's Carleton. Just like Candace is totally forever and ever DJ Tanner.

Once the show started my nostalgic reminiscing was given a swift kick into 2014 when Jessie J performed her hit "Bang Bang". Is it bad that I thought Ariana Grande sang that song? Or are you proud that I even know who Ariana Grande is? Either way, it was quite the dichotomy seeing my childhood girl crush dance to this...

And can I just say? Those leather bra and underwear things those dancers were wearing were incredible. Like, their bodies are even better in person than on TV. I was literally kelly green with jealousy and knew that while John might be playing it cool in the Hollywood department that he would have LOVED to see that performance live. Oh well, you snooze you loose.

Overall, while I am not a habitual DWTS watcher, seeing it live was a blast. The production is incredible. Watching the dozens of stage managers and producers make sure the sets are switched in a timely manner (the show is live) was very impressive. The live band and professional dancers were very talented. And the vibe was just positive and fun. It was a long day (about 7 hours from the time we got to the studio to when we left) but it was absolutely worth the effort. It was some of the best people watching in my life.

Since I wasn't familiar with how to get the tickets to these things, I'll share here. If you are interested in DWTS, American Idol, The Price is Right, Tosh.0, and a smattering of other shows filmed in LA, NY, and Chicago, go here:  If you are interested in The Voice, Jimmy Kimmel, The View, ESPN Sportsnation, and others, go to Other popular shows like Ellen require going on that specific website and registering.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Beauty in Farewell

There is beauty in the farewell.

It comes in the strength of those left behind. In the kindness that we share with one another. In generosity. In the village that forms and the relationships that are bred when we lower our walls and let friends become our family.

When one woman comes to another, drill in one hand and baby in another, to fix something that didn't quite get fixed before deployment loomed.

In treats and notes left anonymously on porches, wine bought and shared to ease the transition, in babysitting and breakfasts and pity parties. Late night text messages and phone calls.

There is beauty in missing our loved ones. In the reminder of their presence in our lives despite their absence. Even after decades of marriage, it is possible and wonderful to long for their warmth and the comfort of their just being home. I have said before and still believe it; I am grateful I get the opportunity to miss my husband sometimes.

In our little Navy world, we have built the village that other mothers crave. We do care for each other's kids, make each other meals, and spend holidays as "framily". It is because of these goodbyes that we get to form such amazing bonds.

Saying goodbye is excruciating. But it is also beautiful.

Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We live in the land of palm trees and Pinot Noir. For now.

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