Be A Beautiful Snowflake

Did you know that no two snowflakes are the same? God, in his infinite wisdom created each individual snowflake with its own signature that compound to fill the beautiful snow that we get to experience here in the North Country. We finally experienced our first decent snowstorm and it’s so soothing for me to watch. It really had me thinking God’s amazing design for this Earth and for us.

God doesn’t make mistakes. And He didn’t make a mistake with me or you either.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, my soul knows it very well.” ~ Psalm 139:14

I’ve always been somewhat of a people pleaser and i’ve always been so hurt when people don’t like me or approve of me, but over the years I’ve learned the hard lesson of being myself no matter what. Deep down I’ve often wondered what my parents would think, what friends and family will talk about behind my back, or how people will judge me for certain things that I do.

That’s certainly not fun and it’s no way to spend your life. Becoming a Mom myself changed so many things about me (as it should). I often reflect on how I’m living and examine it through their eyes. Am I demonstrating behavior that I want them to replicate and showing them a healthy way of living? I love my children for who they are and who God has destined them to be, not who I picture they’ll be. But I never want them to constantly stress about what others think so I need to be the example.

If you live trying to please others or change for who you’re dating, what your parents want (As an adult), what a “friend” wants then the world is missing out on someone truly amazing! You’re never going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay!

Most people hate the cold and the snow, but we LOVE it. A lot of people hate tattoos, and we love them. I’m sure people disagree with aspects of our parenting, my political beliefs, my sports teams, etc. In the words of Rachel Hollis in Girl, Wash Your Face, “Someone else’s opinion of you is none of your business!”

If people sit and listen to gossip about you (especially without defending you), those are not your people. If they hate the core of who you are, they are not your people. If they don’t care whether or not they miss out on important events in your life or if the relationship is always one-sided, they are not your people. If they don’t care about hurting you, not your people either. Surround yourself with those who love the raw, real you no matter what!

Now, I’m not one of those who believes that if it’s not harming others then it’s okay. As a Christian the Bible is my guide. My spiritual leadership aids in this. And, as a wife, my husband is my other half and I submit to Him as the leader of our household.

Life is too short. And the world deserves ME. Not a filtered chameleon.

My Calling

In April, I worked my last day of my career in national security/government contracting to fulfill my dream of focusing on my husband and my kids.  Long before we were married, Ryan and I discussed our joint desire to be able to reach a point of financial security to allow me to stay home with our future children.  Being a military family comes with many challenges and I wanted to be as present as possible in our children’s lives.  While I commend dual military families and those with multiple careers (seriously, that’s tough work to balance it all!), I always knew it wasn’t for me.

Often, reality can feel different from our dreams.  Since that time i’ve struggled to find my identity beyond being a wife and a mother.  We often find our self-worth within our career or chosen profession, and all of my dreams have or are coming true.  But was this enough?  Society often pushes us to “want more” for ourselves and that we should strive to have it all: the husband, the kids, the top of a corporation…and the white picket fence.  Was it okay to “just” be a wife and a mom?  Could I REALLY be the driving force behind my family?

What if it’s OKAY that my role IS to be a military spouse and a mom?  What if that is my calling and my “mission field”?  I know that God is using me to encourage and lift up/support my husband as he serves our Country.  I know that God is using me to be engaged in our children’s lives and to set the example.  And I know that He is going to use me to pour back into the lives of other military spouses and families.  How will my mindset change and what more can I do if I transform my thoughts into THIS being my calling?  God has called my heart since I was a young girl and wanted to marry a soldier and to stay in the only life I ever knew.

What if it’s OKAY that my role IS to be a military spouse and a mom?

I’ve recently joined a book discussion group with a friend that started it in her home and we are diving into the book “Wife of a Soldier, a Journey of Faith” and today I had the great pleasure of meeting the author.  It’s been speaking to my heart and I highly recommend reading it, no matter your situation as a military spouse.  Diana Jeurgens describes how God has called each of us to this role for a reason.  It’s no mistake that I grew up wanting this life, that I married Ryan, that these kids were given to us to raise.

This military life can be exciting and stressful, lonely and friendly…it’s all in how we view it.  I know that i’ll still be human and have my moments that I hate the separations, deployments, and LATE duty nights…but oh, what a wonderful life this can be as well!

I’m not sure what the distant future holds for our family, but i’m so excited to serve God where He’s placed me for this season.  My husband has a very difficult role to play and I know that God has called me to be his supporter and to take care of our life on the home front.   I’m anxious to arrive at our next duty station in New York and I already feel led to a few areas of opportunity!

Melissa G.

PCS Organization

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I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with organization and it’s never come easy for me.  However, there are two times where my life is dress right dress: tax season and PCS time!

Moving at any point, much less with the military, can be chaotic and stressful; every little thing you can do to combat that is important!

I’ve kept a PCS binder on hand since our first move from Ft. Bragg to HAAF which has made it easier for other PCS’s.  All I have to do is purge the unnecessary info (which gets scanned and stored on the server, because i’m slightly a nerd) and update information that’s changed.  I also pull out the important docs that stay filed in locked fireproof boxes.  Now that we’ve added two kids and a dog since that first move, the included items have shifted a bit.

Below i’ve included a list of items that we’ve found to be beneficial for our family.  Bear in mind, my husband keeps his own storage clipboard with his necessary documents for in-processing so I haven’t listed those here.

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  1. Important documents: Socials, Passports, etc.  I also keep a clear pocket for receipts/loose documents.
  2. Local Info: Details about the installation and local area that we’ve found.
  3. Birth/Marriage Certificates
  4. Insurance Information
  5. Government PCS Rate/Compensation Info.
  6. Drum Housing Info & Paperwork.
  7. Outgoing Housing CHecklists, etc.
  8. Kids’ Vaccinations & Records (You could also carry hard copies of any necessary prescriptions until you get established).
  9. Pet Shot Records
  10. Notes (Loose leaf paper)

img_9172For this move i’ve also included a Do It Yourself or “DITY” checklist.  (The Army calls this a PPM now or Personally Procured Move).  There’s nothing worse than getting to a new house and realizing you have nothing to cook with!  Hopefully this will help to keep ourselves straight.

Finally, I take pictures of our furniture and electronics with serial numbers and keep the thumb drive in the binder with us for future claims.

On packing day, the kids and I mostly hang out in the “Don’t Touch Room” where we keep everything that we will be hand carrying with us.  This way we don’t have to worry about anything accidentally getting packed by the movers.

I hope this helps for your future PCS moves!  Do you have any additions that I have forgotten?

~Melissa G.

Flight School ~ SELECTION ~

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Life in an active duty Army family comes with many tear-jerking and monumental moments for your soldier and your family.  Some are sad and oh so difficult…while others can be some of the most memorable moments of your life.

Ryan (and TeamGrim) has had many of those!  Flight School on the Warrant Officer side (there are Commissioned Officers as well) goes through several phases which are best broken down as follows:

  1. WOCS: Warrant Officer Candidate School.  About 5 weeks of training that is worse than basic (according to Ryan haha) that breaks down the enlisted soldier to turn them into an officer.  At the end is a very special graduation where your loved one(s) can pin your new rank on you.  Logan & Emma (and I) had the privilege 🙂
  2. WOBC (A) Follow-on Training for their rank that lasts for about 3 weeks.
  3. SERE/Dunker: Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape.  POW training that is called the best worst school you can attend in the army.  Ryan already had this training so he able to bypass it.  Dunker/HOST teaches them how to survive a water landing and techniques for water survival.
  4. Finally, FLIGHT SCHOOL BEGINS: This is being revamped by the Army, but Ryan’s was broken into a few different sections of training where he had “check rides” showing his proficiency in each before he was able to proceed.

At the end of this first portion of training a very special and much anticipated day arrives that determines the course for the rest of their careers: ADVANCED AIR FRAME SELECTION DAY!!!!!!!

Up until Selection Day the active duty flight school students have no idea what air frames will be available when they walk into that room!  The board will be revealed (dramatically!) and each student is able to pick their bird from the ones that are available based on the OML (Order of Merit List: ranking by their grades in school, check ride grades, PT Test, etc.).  The OML is so competitive that the top people are usually only separated by .001 of a point!!!  These people are truly the best of the best in the army!

Since Ryan spent the first 7+ years of his career as a Chinook maintainer his heart belongs to the big girl.  We prayed so much over the course of our time here that he’d be able to have his number 1 pick.  Of course, he would have loved any rotary wing, but to get your #1 is incredibly special.  To add to the intensity, there are well under 200 slots a year so it’s the hardest airframe to choose!  Most classes have 1-2, if any, and Ryan’s class had 8 slots available for Warrant Officers!!!!

“You guys, God is an on-time God and His timing is ALWAYS perfect.”

This was totally a God thing!  When Ryan’s packet took a while to get a waiver and a few pieces of the puzzle to come together I told him it was all God’s timing.  I said “I’m claiming it and God’s trying to put you in a class flooded with Chinooks!!!  You guys, God is an on time God and His timing is ALWAYS perfect.  He’s taught us over and over again to lean on Him and one of these days maybe it will stop blowing me away.

From here Ryan will move on to his Chinook training that will last approximately 16 weeks.  After that he’ll got another short training to pick up his CW2 rank and he’ll be able to pin on those wings at his graduation!!

Home is where the heart is?

Let me start by saying that I am so thankful for the way that I grew up and for all of the many experiences that I’ve been afforded and above all else, I am an American. I am from Maine. My family is from Maine on both of my parents sides. However, when your entire life has centered around the military people sometimes don’t understand. In the first 30 years of my life I lived in 8 states and 2 countries. My husband’s family is from all over: California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida and a few relatives in Mass. However, on his first trip home with me he fell in love with New England! If home is where the heart is then he’s definitely from Maine. 🙂 The only reason that we do not live in New England now is because of his (our) service to the military.

There will always be a part of me that wishes that I could have grown up in Maine. It’s arguably the most beautiful state in the union, it’s where my family is, it’s the birthplace of a Nation, and above all: it’s home. Part of me will always be sad that I didn’t get to grow up near the rest of my family and that always hits me when we go home. It was all the more apparent when we said goodbye to my Grammy and Grampy Walsh. When someone passes, everyone shares fun memories that they had with that person, and it broke my heart to not have more of my own to share. I felt left out of a lot growing up when I didn’t have more memories with my family back home. It is still difficult to see my cousins’ wedding pictures with our grandparents and wish that we could have some.

There are many advantages to life as a military. I was afforded many opportunities that some never get: we were in Germany when the Berlin wall came down and I’ve visited almost every country in Europe, I’ve climbed to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa, I’ve lived in more states than some people travel to and visited 3 times as many, I feel much more resilient than I would have been and have an appreciation for other people and cultures. I also have a unique stance in that I know what it’s like to send my Dad and my Husband off to war. I wouldn’t trade the way I was raised and I am excited that our kids will grow up with their own adventures as Army BRATs. 🙂

However, it can also be difficult to always be the “outsider”. Yes, we have MANY southern friends and there are plenty who love us and don’t act negatively toward us, but there are still FAR too many fighting the Civil War. I’ve been discriminated against since moving to our current state as many (most certainly not all) people from the south still hate “Yankees”. We’ve been kicked out of restaurants since moving to our current duty station because they “don’t serve” our “kind” in there. We walked out thinking we were in some sort of backwards movie from the 60’s (which is even funnier because Ryan isn’t technically from the North).  I’ve had a few people tell me to “Go back where I come from”. There is a shrine erected in a park downtown always facing the “enemy to the North” and we were told that no part of this monument was allowed to even TOUCH Northern soil on its way down from Canada. Umm, what??!! I’ve never been exposed to such hatred in all my life. Even at a civilian doctor in Tennessee a nurse said, “Oh you must be so glad to be away from all of those a$$holes up North and down here where people are nice”…which is a judgmental and rude statement to make in and of itself. Now, it’s become even worse with the church shooting of 9 black people in Charleston (1.5 hours from where we live) and the North/South battle is heating up again. Funny thing is…you don’t see it up North. I was always taught that it was a dark part of our Nation’s history, that Jesus has called us to love all people as ourselves, and my family fought to keep the USA together after the slave (southern) states seceded.

On the flip side, some people feel as though i’m not “from Maine” because I didn’t get to grow up in one place. So, let me get this straight…no Army BRAT is from their home state since they didn’t grow up there? I’m a New Englander through and through and I will never turn my back on it. Our kids will probably be born in a few different states, but they will still be New Englanders since that is where we’re retiring one day.

Remember that not everyone grows up traditionally and some of us still sacrifice every day in giving up where we would like to be living for service to our Nation and ensuring our freedom and the freedom of others.  But we wouldn’t have it any other way and we appreciate experiencing other cultures.  We don’t want sympathy, but love and acceptance (or at least kindness) would be perfect.  Besides, aren’t we all Americans?

~Melissa, Army Wife and American