25 July 2010

Deployment by proxy.

So, Kid B and my daughter in law are about to embark down the long, sad, agonizingly annoying road of another deployment. Bless their souls, they are both about 21 and on their second one already. The D date is approaching fast and I hate seeing her go through all the pre-deployment build up... she is an Army brat herself, so deployments aren't new to her, its just that I can't help but think at the end of the day watching your husband leave for parts unknown, rife with danger, is something you never get used to. Wether you are 21 or 31 or 41. Wether you've been married a year or 20. Wether it is your first or last. My guess is that it always feels the same:

Gut wrenching. Fearful. Worried. Anxious. Uncertain.

Trepidation. Sadness. Exasperation. Anger.

Lonely. Oh Lord the loneliness...

Mentally and physically bracing yourself for whatever it is that will come your way in the ensuing year. Trying to be strong, trying to do it all yourself. Just trying to make it through.

And she is doing it with three small girls. I don't know how she does it, but she is a good girl and I know she will be fine. But I'll tell you what, watching her prepare, reading her Facebook updates brings back all those feelings, all the memories of those days leading up to the deployment. It puts me back in that gymnasium, choking back tears, trying to stay strong... not knowing how the following year would be, not knowing if we would come out of it for the better, ... not knowing if he would even come home. Ugh, I'm giving myself heartburn just thinking about it. I want to reach out to her, tell her it will all be okay, but of course none of us know that. I wish there was something I (we) could do other than simply offering to be there for her and the girls. But that is how these things go.

Swiss talked to Kid B yesterday, probably one of the last times until things get settled in theater, and even he didn't know what to say. From one soldier to another, it was only I love you and stay safe, send us your address once you get it. Because really, what else is there to say? It is an experience we have all been through, but it seems that no matter how many times you do it, we know there isn't anything we can do or say to make it any better. It is just something that has to be done, and all you can do is be there when it starts and gut it out until it is over.

I (we) pray that Kid B's deployment is depressingly boring and terribly uneventful even though I know that isn't what he wants. I pray for his safety, for his unit's cohesion, for strength of leadership, for keeping his nose out of places he doesn't need to be. I pray that he comes home safe and healthy, to a family that is anxiously awaiting his arrival. I pray that nothing falls apart, that everyone gets through this year with flying colors, and I pray that this year, for them, flies by.

Stay safe and come home soon Kid B.

23 July 2010

On being a scaredy-cat.

Woo Hooo!!!! The good news in our neck of the woods is that Swiss got final approval to be a JROTC instructor. This means we (and by we, I mean he) now get to call up the schools with openings and schedule interviews. Once an offer is extended, we pick is, schedule our PCS, find a place to live there and get on with getting out of the Army. Hopefully this process will also include a month or so of free time before work starts so we can spend some time with the families. Exciting, no?

Well, yes, exciting. But also nerve-wracking and bringing out my OCD tendencies in a big way. I mean, there is an Excel spreadsheet involved (which will in no way, shape, or form surprise those who know me best) for crying out loud! I think the issue lies in the simple fact that any of the options open to us are unknowns. Some are straight up enigmas to us, places we've never been or never considered living. Others are known only through the eyes of a tourist- which we all know involve rose-colored glasses. It is an interesting challenge finally having say over where you live, but still ending up having to choose a place that you frankly don't know much about. It is starting to feel like a business-as-usual Army move if you know what I mean.

Whats worse? Swiss and I have come up with a tier system of sorts for the locations we have to choose from. There was the tier one list. It only had 5 locations on it. And the two that were closest to home and family are gone. This has taught me a valuable lesson: Don't put your favorites at the top of your list because they will be gone! So now? The top of my favorite list is Bethel, Alaska. I'm hoping this hoodwinking of karma/fate works! In any event, there are still some good contenders in the top tier and if all goes as we hope, one of those will come through for us.

The challenge for me, right this minute, is that all of the other locations in the top tier are quite far from home. We are currently over 1,000 miles from home now, and it sort of sucks. All the things I got used to being only 250 miles away are gone. No weekends hanging out with Beth. No jaunts home just for kicks. No holidays with the family or meet-ups at concerts or sporting events. I worry about what that will be like for years on end. What will it be like to miss out on my best friend having her first baby? What will it feel like to miss out on most family get-togethers? How will it feel to miss out on what everyone else is doing?

I am certainly game to move far, far away. I am excited about carving out a home for us, free from some of the drama and expectations that come with being proximate to (some) family. There is an element of excitement in the adventure and unknown. New cultures, new foods, new lifestyles. But it is a challenge to find that balance of what is best for us and what is best for family. I am certainly not a believer that you make the decisions in your married life based on the others in your extended family. Especially when some show no signs of being willing to do the same for you. But where is that balance?

In any event, this decision will likely be taken out of our hands. We are dependent upon an offer and should there be only a few, that will make life and decisions easier for us. And for now, until something closer to home opens us, we are destined to move far, far away from everything we call home. Good thing the Army has already prepared us for this!

20 July 2010

DoD gets a big fat DO BETTER: MyCAA

I am sure you all have heard around the blog-o-sphere... but the DoD has reinstated the MyCAA program, only with some pretty massive changes. Here's the link directly to the press release: DOD to Resume Restructured Military Spouse Career Program

Okay, so first things first on my Bitch List (patent pending):
1.  What the heck is with restricting these benefits to spouses of service members with pay grades E1 through E5, WO1-WO2 and O1-O2? That is effectively removing any Senior spouse from any benefits.

According to their press release, this segregation was put in place to help the spouses with the greatest need. I, for one, wholeheartedly disagree. Now, that isn't to say that those spouses aren't in need. It is me saying what does my spouse's rank have to do with need? Swiss is an E-8 and I, for all practical purposes, lost my hard earned career (which required extra schooling on top of my Bachelor's degree- this will be an important point in a minute) when we PCS's this last time. No jobs in the area and no other careers that would allow me to use my Cytology degree.

I am assuming that this "need" is likely financial, which I sort of get. However, I would then like to point out that for some of us with previously lucrative careers, loosing that income can have just as big of an impact on the household finances as that of any Junior spouse. Me? Leaving my job in Minnesota meant that we as a family made over $60,000.00 less this year. SIXTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. Less. Try to tell me that isn't justification for "need". To me, it is so naive to think that Senior spouses who loose careers and their families are less impacted by the lack of extra income. And it is a slap in the face to most Senior spouses who have endured tens of PCSes and have had to leave numerous jobs, resulting in resumes that look more like vacation itineraries, that their need isn't high enough because their spouse's rank is too high. In some regards, I think the senior spouses are the more likely to need the career guidance, the tweaks educational paths and the ones more in need of funding to help get new state certifications/licensure for pre-existing careers.

2. What the heck is with the funding only being available to those seeking Associates degrees, certifications or licensure?

Now, at the risk of sounding like a degree snob, rarely is an Associates degree the pathway to ANY career. Mostly, it is a pathway to a Bachelors degree- which is not permissible under this new program. If the real goal is to get spouses into portable careers that will help lend financial stability to the family and increase spouse morale... this ain't the way to do it. I fail to understand how limiting the types of degrees available to these spouses is helpful at all. What about the spouse one year away from finishing up a Bachelors degree? Too bad. What about one looking to get a Masters in Education to increase their odds of getting hired at a DoD school after their next PCS? Nope, not you! The spouse who wants to get a degree to be a therapist or counselor or social worker specifically to work with and help military families? HA! Why would the DoD help YOU?

Many of the spouses that I know who have truly portable careers, have much more than an Associates. And that isn't to say that it is impossible to get a great job/career with an Associates... but the DoD is encouraging a culture of underachieving. They are pushing spouses to get lesser degrees and maintain the norm of under-earning and flooded career paths. Not all of us can be medical transcriptionists or massage therapists. I do not approve.

I fail to see why the DoD is unwilling to let the spouses who qualify use the funds (which are fixed at $4,000 total, not to exceed $2,000/year) in any way they see fit. I would think that the end benefit from allowing these spouses get/finish advanced degrees would far outweigh any cons... and come to think of it, I can't come up with any cons. If the finances are fixed, it shouldn't matter what degree you get with that money.

And what is worse, is that the DoD is touting this as a vehicle to improve spouse morale and careers over time. Associates degrees and certifications WILL NOT do this. It is a band-aid at best on a wound that would be better served with stitches. To say it is shortsighted is not even the half of it. By targeting the younger spouses, it would make infinitely more sense to open the degree options up to the higher degrees to help create real career paths, rather than temporary ones, which is precisely what this format will do. Ask yourself: What will these spouses do in 5 years when advancement their field/career requires a Bachelors or Masters? You will have a generation of MilSpouses stalled out in entry-level careers. How is that fixing anything?

3. My biggest, over-arching problem with this re-vamp and the whole MyCAA debacle is that it is/was a failure to the greater MilSpouse community because the DoD just doesn't get it. There are promises of help and vows of caring... but the massive lack of useful, flexible, pro-active help for spouses only serves to illustrate how out of touch the DoD is with the problem

To say that they were caught off guard by the program's initial success and demand for services only goes to show that they never fully understood the MilSpouse career/education problem in the first place. I would guess that if any MilSpouse was asked if the program would be a raging success, they would have said yes without hesitation. Simply because we all understand how hard it is to get a good education or career that stays with you through years of military moves- and that the constant moves often lead to career do-overs and changes. The fact that the program was underfunded makes it ever-so apparent that the DoD has been (and still are) massively underestimating how big the issue is. Furthermore, by limiting the availability of the funding as well as the dollar amount AND the scope of its use, they aren't helping fix the problem for those who do qualify. They are only creating more of the same.

To say that I am frustrated by this turn of events is putting it mildly. I am not using this program and, frankly, even if I wanted to I couldn't (on like 3 counts). But, the bigger point is that in order to fix a problem, you first have to understand the root of it. Throwing money and restrictions at the problem will likely only lead to business as usual. Until the DoD chooses to TRULY understand why this is an issue for so many of us, why an Associates or certification isn't enough, why basing one's access to funding on their spouse's pay grade is just plain ridiculous, and that their idea of who and what a MilSpouse is (and what his/her goals might be) just might be stuck in the 50's, no augmentation to a program like this will result in true change.

I am disappointed in you DoD. It is one thing to bail on or modify promises, but it is an entirely different offense to fail (willingly or unwillingly) to understand the people you are claiming to be so committed to. It isn't help if it doesn't lead to change. And if you are so unwilling to understand our issues at their core, no number of programs, no amount of money, no level of "commitment" will ever improve the situation. So yes, you get a big fat Do Better. And don't expect a "Thank You" for the slap in the face either.

PS- for other takes on the MyCAA Hott Mess... check out the blog roll on the right. I think the top 10 are mostly posts on this very issues. The Natives are NOT happy folks! Pipe up and share you frustrations!

19 July 2010

Home sweet home...

So I've been thinking lately... we live on post, but most of my MilSpouse friends don't. Like I'd guess 90% don't. And that makes me curious.

We love living on post. Yes, Swiss's high rank allows for a larger house (though his BAH is also higher and could be used -perhaps- better off post), but we really like being close to everything here. Because we are so close to everything, it isn't an ordeal to run to the PX/Commissary/whatever and usually Swiss gets to come home for lunch. And the 'rush hours' (all 8 of them) on and off post here are RIDICULOUS so we figure it would be best to not have to mess with it. Plus we knew we wouldn't be here a whole year, so dealing with the housing office in regards to leases made a ton more sense than a landlord to us. Now, to be fair, I truly think that if we were staying in much longer or got Stop-Lossed we would still live on post. Swiss likes it and, oddly enough, so do I.

But. I know we aren't in the majority. Loads of folks live off post for a litany of reasons. Heck, most of the folks we know down here at Fort X live off post and, like I said before, most of my MilSpouse friends live off post too. So what gives?

I guess I am wondering why you choose to live off post... what is it that drives your decisions when you PCS somewhere new? Is it based on the deployment schedule, availability, location, intense desire to get away from the bugles and Humvees or do you love waking up to the sounds of Reveille and Apaches flying overhead? Does it very depending on the post you are at? Do you rent or buy if you live off post? I am super intrigued to hear your responses and reasoning!

So you tell me! You can choose multiple items in the poll... first choose where you live (one of the first 3 options) and then tell me why... either in the poll or the comments.

Home sweet home is... and why?
On Post
Off Post (own a home)
Off Post (rental)
Housing can be had for less than your BAH
Need a break from all things Military
Love the convenience of living near everything on Post
Other, I'll tell you in the comments

pollcode.com free polls

Thanks for humoring me dear Readers! Hope your weeks are all off to a great start!

17 July 2010

Rachel on Afghanistan.

Regardless of your political persuasion... take 10 minutes and watch this piece by Rachel Maddow. She brings up a littany of of great points and really crystalizes many of the things I've been thinking about this war but unable to articulate. And lest you think this is some sort of liberal push... Swiss is a pretty conservative guy and he agrees 100% and thought the piece was very well done. In any event, take a few minutes, set aside any notions of partisan media or liberal sway, and watch this with an open mind, because it isn't about politics, it is about our men and women who serve and sacrifice, and if it is really worth it in the end.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

And thanks to LAW for posting this first.

15 July 2010


So, I finished the orange and aqua quilt and I lurve it! The straight line quilting took fooooorever and it isn't perfect by any means (mostly because I haven't gotten around to purchasing a walking foot yet- for shame!) but I think that makes me love it even more... it really feels handmade and has a sort of organic vibe from the imperfections. I did the bobbin thread in orange so the back has a contrasting stitch that I am so in love with, I think that gives it a modern feel too. I'm gonna be so thrilled to give this away one day!

Anyway, on with the photos!!!

12 July 2010

What a tease!!!

So, happily Swiss nailed his JROTC interview. He did such a great job, the interviewer gave him his information and offered to be a personal reference. And though he said it would take 2 weeks to get his summary/opinion to Cadet Command, he had it there the following day. How's that for Hooah?

All this means that we should know wether or not he is accepted within a month (nothing like government efficiency, right?) and we can start applying to positions. To which we both say Goody Goody Gumdrops! We've been eyeing these positions for so long now, I've done research on every town- from crime rates to real estate to shopping, we've even planned some trips to our theoretical front-runners. (I say theoretical because many of these places we haven't actually been to, they just seem really nice.) For the longest time, there were 5 top locations as far as we were concerned... nice towns, good schools, reasonable home prices, the works... and admittedly, we were already sorta hanging our hats on those places.

And then yesterday, Swiss was reviewing the postings and two of our top 5 are gone. Poof. Vanished into the night. Sad Tucker and Swiss.

Now, in all fairness, none of these places fall into our vision of Utopia, so it isn't really *that* big of a loss... but one of the ones that got filled? It was close. Really close. I was ready to move there tomorrow. Rolling hills, horse farms, sweet little downtown area and a old time neighborhood/community feel... it would have been perfect, or as close at JROTC will let us get to perfect. But alas, not to be. I can officially say that Swiss and I were big time bummed for at least a day. We moped and pouted and lamented the loss of the future we had already started building there. I know, I know... this is what we get for getting our hopes up too soon. Ah well.

So we are sort of back to square one. Recalibrating our top 5 or 10 or whatever... trying to decide if the artificial boundaries as to what regions we would and would not live in are still appropriate (for us) or just silly. I mean, do we really want to live in Alabama or Alaska or Texas (no offense to anyone from these fine states, I just am not sure how adventurous this midwestern gal is when it comes to relocating)? In any event, heres to hoping none of our other top places disappear any time soon- or at least not until we snag one for ourselves! Keep your fingers crossed for us! And Happy Monday everyone!!!

09 July 2010

In case you needed a visual...

Have a super stellar weekend everyone!!! And let me know which of the above songs is now playing in your nugget? Me? Midnight train to Georgia... woo woo!!

Quilted for your comfort.

So I've been a busy sewing bee lately. These quilts are fun to make... something about making something so utilitarian and comforting with you own two hands. In any regard, I think I am getting better, though not 'good' by any measure. In any event, here's the one I just finished...

And here are the projects in the queue...
For my Mom (Christmas)

For my MIL (again, Christmas)

For us (with the fabric I won over at FabricWorm- so lucky and so excited!!!)

For one of my lucky friends who gets preggers with a girl first. Its a stash quilt... make it and keep it til it is needed!
This is the one I am working on pining and quilting now... so yes, off I go to pin until my fingers cramp and quilt until my back aches!

07 July 2010

Interview with a...

Vampire? No.

JROTC Instructor? Yep.

So, tomorrow is a big day in the Tucker and Swiss household. Swiss has his preliminary interview for the JROTC application process. If he nails it, his application gets approved and his information will be passed on to the schools with openings in the states we have selected and we can get on with planning the rest of our lives. If not, well, our Battleship will be at least semi-sunk.

No pressure, right?

Now, I'm not worried about it per se. Swiss is a champ and quite personable, plus he has that whole "Johnny-on-the-spot" thing going for him. He interviews very well and always has the right thing to say on the tip of his tongue. (Unlike me, who once actually said "SOL" in an interview and then was asked to explain what that means. Whoopsies.) Plus he has great experience with positions like this and his record is impeccable. I am relatively confident that this interview will go well and that we will be able to move forward in the process and hopefully have concrete interviews/job offers in the coming month or two. But, if you like, feel free to send any good ju-ju our way tomorrow mid-morning!

In other Army news, Swiss's unit has hit the "glide" path for the next deployment. I suppose you are wondering why we should care, seeing as how Swiss has an approved retirement set for the end of this year... am I right? Well, the deal is this: Swiss is cutting it close as far as wether or not he will fall into the  stop-loss window. Wha? You thought they did away with that pesky stop-loss thingy? Well, not really. Not for guys trying to retire! Jokes on us! In fact, the douchey lovely Army can still stop his retirement and keep him for an additional year (which of course would be far more than a year because of the deployment) if they deem him necessary to the unit and their mission.  Hahahhahahahhah. Head*desk. And bring me a box of wine with a reeeealllly big straw. Of course there are exceptions, but none of them apply to us unless we somehow manage to get our household good shipped to a new location before the stop-loss window hits, which would require a job so send that good ju-ju for Swiss' interview please!!!

I'm, surprisingly, not freaking out just yet. Swiss claims the odds are in our favor since he's sort of an 'extra' in the unit and isn't directly responsible for anyone/anything in light of his pending retirement so the odds of him being deemed essential to the unit are low. But then again, this is the Army we are talking about and nothing is ever logical or predictable when it comes to this stuff. And you never know when he'll be tagged to take over a unit or some other insanity, thus rendering him unit essential. In any regard, I'm sort of trying to ignore this little tid-bit for the time being and will save the panic and anguish and devastation (not to mention mourning for the 'normal' life we've been fantasizing about) for a time when the situation is set in stone. Which hopefully won't ever happen. Cross them fingers folks!

So yeah, now you are all up-to-date with the insanity here. Keep that good ju-ju coming ladies... we need it!!!

** Note: If you comment and don't see it show up... its because there is something awry with blogger... but rest assured, I'm getting your comments. I am sure they will show up on the blog soon! Thanks! **

06 July 2010


Oh man the yard *just* dried out....

What the eff Fort X weather??? I can't tell what's worse... 100 degree weather or solid weeks of rain and muddy dogs/backyards.

04 July 2010

Happy Fourth of July!

Fireworks, originally uploaded by Awesomesauce Studios.
Here's wishing everyone a very wonderful Independence Day! May the food and drink be plentiful, may the fireworks be beautiful, may you all be safe and may you all remember how lucky we all are to live in this glorious country! Happy Birthday America!

And may you all have pets that make it through the thunderous onslaught of explosives without incident. Fletcher, for one, will be sedated and hopefully sleeping it off.

Happy 4th Everyone!!!


So a while back, Swiss, Fletcher and I hopped in the car and drove out east to a different Army post to visit Swiss's eldest son and his family. My eldest step-son (not Kid A), who we will call Kid B just to keep things simple, is married with three girls, all at the tender age of 23 (if you are struggling with the math here, Swiss adopted him when Kid B was 5, and yes, he is only 8 years younger than me). It boggles my mind and I don't know how they do it, but I digress, I'm getting off track...

While we were out there visiting, Fletcher stayed with us at their house and the three girls (who, yes, if you want to get technical are my step-granddaughters... stop laughing and pointing... I know, I'm only 31 and I have 3 grand-daughters. I don't even know what to say to this. But you are totally allowed to ridicule me mercilessly in the comments. 100% fair.) fell in love with our quirky dog. The girls played with him and were always asking where "Fwetcher" was. Tres cute.

So, on to the point of the story. Kid B and his wife bought the girls a new puppy (a cute black lab) and for the first few days they had her... the girls would only call her Fletcher instead of her real name. How cute is that? I think Fletcher would feel so honored! So yeah, big build up for a little story, but it was too cute not to share.

So that is all. And now you all know that at the ripe old age of 29 (when Swiss and I got married) I became a grandmother. Ha! In any event, I'm using this as an excuse to post photos of our cute furry baby who gets  me up too early.

01 July 2010

Wake up call.

Holy crap! It is July 1st. Already.

Did you know that we could be officially out of the Army in as little as 14 weeks? FOURTEEN WEEKS!!!!??!?!?!?!!??!?!?! WTF? Where did the time go? No, seriously? What happened to it?

Dude. We have no plans. NONE! Directionless!!! Oh okay, to be fair, we have plans, just nothing concrete yet. Applications are in, we are waiting on scheduling some interviews for JROTC jobs which should (fingers crossed, knock on wood, etc) yield a job offer or two. Something solid should come up in the next month or two and then the plans will start to fall into place. I hope. I mean, I really, really, really hope.

Now, the back up plan is that we just stay in until his actual ETS date (December) instead of leaving early and using up vacation as terminal leave. That tidbit soothes my neurotic, over-planning, beginning to panic little soul. But the shock of it all sort of hit me full-bore today when I flipped the calendar. Wow.

Yes, this is all exciting and the promise of a 'normal' life of our own choosing is titillating. But the not knowing and my nearly obsessive need to start planning things MONTHS ahead of time? Killing. Me. I actually suggested to Swiss that we get things moving on lining up movers and whatnot. Then I stopped and said, wait... how can we plan and organize movers if we don't know where we are moving to? Cue panicked breathing. Well, not really. But close.

I've been working on the job/career hunt too- but all of that seems a bit premature given that we don't have a location yet. I mean, how much time and effort do you put into planning grad school applications when not every town on the options list has schools with those programs? And how much time do you log into each state's education website trying to navigate the madness when you don't even know if you'll end up there? But I'm not complaining... just noting that the logistics of planning a life when you don't know the setting can be a bit daunting.

In any regard, we are balls to the wall here, trying to get our post-Army plans in order. The biggest consolation is that since Swiss is retiring, there will be a paycheck every month come rain or shine. Which means, if need be, we could have a really nice place in a van down by the river. Hahahahhahahahahahhaaaaaaaaaaaaaa head*desk. I can't tell if I'm laughing or crying... but all my unnecessary dramatics aside, things are going to get crazy here again, are y'all game for the ride?