Deployment Diaries: What is a Deployment Like?

Deployment is… a whole mess of emotions that I don’t even have a word for. It was like going through puberty, it was like I was dating a ghost, the beginning, middle and end all had totally different vibes to them.

Continue reading Deployment Diaries: What is a Deployment Like?

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Wreaths Across America 2017

Bundled up in a miss matching scarf and coat, I hopped into my car with my boyfriend’s mom and we took a trip down to Abraham Lincoln Cemetery, a cemetery comprised of mostly veterans. I have never been to a veteran’s cemetery before but had seen pictures of Arlington and had a small idea of what it might be like.

My small idea was nothing of what it was like.

Continue reading Wreaths Across America 2017

An Open Letter to Those Trying to Talk My Boyfriend Out of Our Military Relationship

To Whom It May Concern,

“And everyone I talk to out here says to just end it now because these relationships never work.”

My heart, filled with anger and sadness, sank to the bottom of my gut after reading what my boyfriend had just texted me.

You told him that I wouldn’t be able to handle the 4,000 miles between us. I won’t be able to handle his busy schedule you said. It is a guarantee that I will cheat you said. Because I chose to not move in with him the relationship will surely fail you said.

I realize, that to the military, I am nothing. Not his family. Not his wife. I am just a girlfriend. I do not matter to the United States military.

Of this, I am fully aware.

But shame on you for assuming what kind of woman I am. Shame on you for filling my boyfriend’s head with worry and his heart with sadness.

And while I am filled with hurt, I also have gratitude towards you. Thank you for putting a fire in my heart and a determination in my soul to make this distance work.

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Watch me handle deployments with grace and love. Watch me have the patience and understanding to deal with our differing work schedules. I hope you get to witness the care packages he will get along with the constant flow of emails, letters and funny cards. I had the strength to stay back home so I could enhance my career and finish my schooling so that I wouldn’t have to rely on the military for money. So, watch me not cheat on him or use him for his military paycheck because I took the time to establish myself.

And, unfortunately, while what you keep driving into his head has an impact what I have to say to him has a greater one. Little do you know how strong my boy is and how much love he has for me.

You bringing our relationship down gave me the opportunity to relive with him all the beautiful memories that we have had, the ones that have made us laugh until we cried. And with those memories came the pictures: the happiest pictures of us on our anniversary, that one that I made a stupid face by the river, pictures from every single graduation he has had. All to remind him that even when we were thousands of miles apart we were never truly far from each other.

So, I thank you. For you made us stronger and you sparked a passion in me to be the best “girl back home” that I can be.

 

Love always,

A dedicated and strong military girlfriend

 

 

 

Five Tips on How to Handle the Distance

There is no denying that distance is hard and I would be silly if I told you that I have found a way to deal with it completely. I haven’t. But I have found ways to bring comfort during those times when I feel like my heart is literally tearing in my chest, those nights that I toss and turn and can’t fall asleep.

1.Grow yourself a support system

I think of my support system as a circle. The reasoning for that is because none of them come before the other and they are all there for different kinds of support.  I have my parents, friends, Taylor, his family, military girlfriend Facebook groups, I have pen pals I write to and of course I have His First Mate and the community that comes with that. My family and friends are there for physical support like hugs and an actual listening ear, etc. Taylor and his family are on there for the obvious reason that he knows better than anyone else what I am going through. I have my military Facebook groups in case I have questions or just need to see that I am not alone in this. And of course, I have His First Mate as my outlet to express myself and help others.

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Make a circle for yourself. Maybe yours looks different and that’s okay. Keep that circle someplace safe where you can look at it whenever you need to. Some good places are your wallet, a drawer at work or hung up in your room.

2. Become a Hoarder

Normally, I wouldn’t recommend this but desperate times call for desperate measures. Be a hoarder of everything that is your significant other. I can’t even tell you how many hoodies, t-shirts and blankets that I have of Taylor’s (some he may or may not know that I even have but that can be our secret). These things are pieces of Taylor and some still have his smell which is a huge comfort to me in times where I feel like I’m falling apart. And not to mention, men’s clothes are significantly more comfortable than anything in the women’s department.

Below is a list of things you can ask to borrow from your significant other:

-Bottles of cologne/perfume

-Blankets, pillows, stuffed animals

-Any clothing items

-Mix tapes they have or create for you

-Keychains they have

-Jewelry

3. Have Christmas in July

Not having Taylor here for holidays absolutely kills me. With Taylor’s first deployment coming up, I have made a list of every holiday that we will miss together. When he comes home in the next couple of weeks, we plan on celebrating every single one: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, both of our birthdays and a close friend’s birthday and Thanksgiving. It will literally be Christmas in July.

I think what gets me most is looking on Facebook during holidays and seeing all these other happy couples spending time together. Take lots of pictures during these “holidays”  that you’ve created together so you can post them to Facebook or look at them whenever the actual holiday rolls around.  My other piece of advice is to just stay off of social media as much as possible during holidays.

4. Save letters and text messages

Be a hoarder of their items and be a hoarder of their words. It helps a lot to hear their own voice and words come through a page to comfort you.

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When Taylor deploys, I am asking him to write me some “Open When” (read what these are here!) for me to read when I get upset or I miss him, etc. so I have that handy.

5. Make a Deployment Bucket List

Stay busy! One thing that I like about military/long-distance relationships is that I get a lot of time to work on myself and my dreams. So, make a list for you! This keeps you busy and always gives you something to look forward to.

What are things you have a ways wanted to do? You can add in things that you like doing but haven’t done in a while. When you are feeling down or feel like you have nothing to keep you busy, turn to this list.

 

How to Budget Your Travels into Your Monthly Expenses

 

For two years now, Charleston has become my second home and it wasn’t too traumatic on my wallet most of the time. My airline tickets averaged around $300 and if I couldn’t do that I could drive.

The next stop on our military journey, however, is going to be Hawaii, a trip that will most definitely not be too kind on the old wallet. But I have recently put in place some tips and tricks that will get me, stress-free, to Hawaii and back… I might even be able to afford a nice dinner while I’m there.

The key to making all of this easier on you is to answer four questions:

How much will your trip cost?

The first step is knowing how much your trip will cost for the big stuff such as hotels, rental cars, gas, plane tickets, food, souvenirs, etc. Keep in mind that it is best to over guess prices than under guess. Also, keep in mind that many places, if you are married to the military, you can get discounts! You can make a rough calculation based on these prices…

Food: I know that, personally, I spend about $20 on each meal when I go on vacation. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it is less depending on where I am going and what meal it is. All in all, I give food about $60 per day. Take that and multiple it by how many days you are staying.

Plane tickets: A round-trip ticket to Hawaii is about $850 give or take. Look around on Google or there is a really helpful app called Hopper that will tell you pricing and pick a median price that sounds good to you.

Gas: If driving is your choice of transportation, find out how many miles it will be and find out what your car’s miles per gallon rate is. Divide the miles it will take to get there by the miles per gallon of your car. Then find the average gas prices in your area and multiply it by the numbers you just figured.

EX:) It used to take me 923 miles to drive to Charleston, SC. My little Honda Civic drives about 33 miles per gallon.

923/33= 27.97 gallons of gas to get to Charleston

I usually round up just to be safe so we’ll say about 30 gallons of gas. (I tend to get lost a lot.)

The gas prices around Chicago are about $2.20. So, 2.20×30=66. It will cost me about $66 in gas to get one way to Charleston.

Also, keep in mind that you will be driving around while you are there. Take that into account when finding out how much you will spend in gas.

Rental Cars: This one you should do a bit of research on. This all depends on the company, the type of car, the size of the car and how many days you will be renting it for.  This will require a bit of your own research to figure out, however, USA Today wrote a good article to see what the averages are.

Hotels: Again, this will require some research on your part. Based on where you stay and how nice you’d like your hotel or motel to be, these prices can range greatly.

Ex:) Whenever I go to visit my boyfriend, I already have my transportation and sleeping accommodations taken care of so really that just leaves my plane ticket, food and souvenirs and money for the things we want to do.

Plane ticket: I averaged this out to $850.

Food: I will probably spend about a week in Hawaii so my food will come out to about $420.

Souvenirs/things to do: I gave myself a budget of about $75 a day for things I want to buy and things we want to do. This adds up to about $525.

 

All in all, my trip to Hawaii will cost me $1,795.

When are you planning to go?

Whew! You’ve now have the first and maybe hardest step done! Next comes planning when you’d like to go. Pick a month and calculate how many months that is from today.

Ex:) I would like to go to Hawaii at the beginning of September. That is about 3 months from now.

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How much money do you make a month?

Take your paychecks and add them together! If you are a bartender, waitress or anyone who has varying paychecks a month, figure out an average. About how much a day or a week do you normally bring home in tips.

Ex:) One of my paychecks a month is about $800 and the other one is about $900. I also freelance a little so I added in about an extra $50.

Turns out to be about $1,750.

After paying your bills, how much “fun” money do you have to spend?

I have a whiteboard next to my desk that lists out all of my bills that I have to pay, when they come out and have a space for me to check mark them when they have been paid. I know, I know, I’m a really big dork.

But it helps! Write out all your expenses, take what you make monthly and subtract them.

EX:) I make about $1,750 and lets say, for the sake of this post, that my bills come out to be $1,000 a month. That leaves me $750 to spend on whatever my little heart desires.

Put it all together!

Take how much your trip will cost and divide that by how much time you have between now and then. Take that number and look to see if you can feasibly afford to put away that much every month. If not, you may need to think about moving your trip a little farther back.

EX:) My trip is going to cost $1,795 and I have three months to save up.

$1,795/3= $598 per month that I need to save.

We already figured out that I have $750 to spend on what I would like every month. With that being said, if I put away about $600 a month toward my trip I would still have about $150 dollars to spend on going out with friends, new clothes, etc. which is fine for me.

 

Once you have figured out a good monthly budget for you, now it is time to start saving! Once a month, place that money into a savings account, under your bed, a piggy bank, and save up for that trip you’ve been dying to take.

Life is way too short to not travel. Don’t let your financial status stop you.

 

 

DIY Pencil Holder for Father’s Day

My parents are the kind of people that literally have everything which makes holidays a bit of a challenge. Gift cards get old. Clothes are boring. And this year for Father’s Day I wanted to do something different. Something hands on and from the heart.

My father owns a business and his office is right next to my bedroom. I went in there the other day and noticed that he has absolutely no place to put pens or any other writing utensil for that matter. They all kind of just hung out in a pile off to the side.

Hence, a pencil holder… which is inexpensive to make and actually kind of fun (I spent an hour and half at Michael’s planning this thing out!).

What you’ll need:

A jar or can- I chose a mason jar but you can use cardboard, go to the craft store and pick up a wooden container, anything!

Paint- I chose to use acrylic.

Paintbrush

Decorations- This is where you get to be extra creative! I thought about putting a picture of me and my dad on there, you can grab extra paint and paint on decorations, get ribbons to tie around the top, glitter, stickers, etc. I chose to buy some decorative gears at Michael’s to paste on along with a sticker that I can write, “I Love You” on.

Glue- Make sure to buy something that dries clear in case you get glue somewhere that it’s not supposed to go. Tacky Glue worked wonders for me!

I bought everything at Micheal’s for a grand total of $15.28. Print out a coupon off their website and it’ll be even cheaper!

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Step one: Paint your container

Lay out some newspaper on a table and get the paint ready to use on a plate. I wet my brush and painted on one layer, waited an hour and painted another layer. I continued to do this until I was satisfied  with the color and what it looked like. Let it completely dry over night.

Step two: Add the decorations

Pretty simple step. Start adding on you decorations! Plan out where you’d like things to go, whip out the Tacky Glue and start sticking!

Let the holder dry for another day before handling it.

 

 

How I Became A Military Girlfriend

I was in a really shitty relationship. That’s how this story starts.

And when I say shitty, I mean really, really shitty. I met that guy through OK Cupid, a dating app, and it started out healthy. He was my age, worked for $10 an hour as a mechanic, had tan skin, dark hair and was covered head-to-toe in tattoos.

Our relationship was fine until I noticed he was getting snapchats from all these different girls. Then came the texts from other girls. He liked their half-naked Instagram photos too. He tried and tried to convince me I was absolutely crazy and told me that I was a bitch for accusing him of ever cheating.

I told my family and friends and made a million excuses for this boy. Then one night, I was venting to two of my friends, friends who have known me since I was maybe 3 feet tall, when one said, “Hey! I work with this kid that is the boy version of you. He even likes the same shitty music you do.”

Hm, a boy that listens to heavy metal? I had Austin, my friend, give me his name and I lounged across his bed scrolling through Facebook to look for this boy that likes metal music. Taylor. I thought it was a beautiful name.

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He looked normal enough to me and did like my kind of music but I wanted to stay loyal so I didn’t pursue it much.

 A few weeks later, Austin invited me over to one of his work friend’s house to play games one night and I met Taylor. I thought he was cute but I didn’t really see myself with him. He was painfully blunt and didn’t seem to give me much thought. He talked a lot about how he was leaving for bootcamp in a few weeks and that sealed the deal for me. Taylor was a definite no go. I never could see myself dating a military man. I introduced myself to him, played some games and then said goodbye as I walked to my car and he smoked outside. The story was supposed to end there I thought…

A couple weeks later, my relationship got even worse. My tatted, cheating boyfriend decided to invite me to a concert after I got off of work. So, I closed up at my job as quickly as I could, ran to Target to buy a cute shirt and drove half an hour to this concert. I paid for parking and then texted him to ask where he was and how much to get in.

He replied that it was probably best if I went home because he was talking to a few other girls there. Bitch was maybe the nicest name that he called me that night.

Needless to say, I left him and after that I was kind of just wandering through life working my job and hanging out with family and friends.

Then one night I got a text from Taylor. He reiterated that he was leaving for bootcamp in a week and just wanted to go on one last date with a girl. Nothing serious. Just going out for drinks and that would be that. Maybe we could be friends and write some letters to each other at best.

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Revisiting our first date spot over a year later!

I picked Taylor up in my car (the deal was if he paid for dinner, I’d drive) and we went to Friday’s. We drank mudslides, ate cheeseburgers and I met my best friend.

He had the most lovable laugh. He was ridiculously smart, adventurous, he loves his family, hard working and oh my god his eyes. I was absolutely sold.

On the drive home, I knew deep in my heart what I wanted…but I had doubts. You see, I am a very cautious person. I don’t jump without knowing exactly what I am jumping into. I didn’t know what Navy life was like. Could I handle the distance? How was I so sure about a boy that I had officially hungout with once?

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I saw him twice after our date. Once at a going away party at the bar that he and my friend worked at and once more the morning he left for bootcamp. He ran up to doorstep, gave me the Navy shirt they gave him when he enlisted, kissed me and left.

And from that kiss on there was not a doubt in my mind. I wanted all of this. I was writing him letters daily. I was texting him daily. I met his family. I made him care packages.

I was going where this kid was going.