“Oh God, Is This The Right Move?”

It’s officially official and I can now start sharing with the whole world that my little sister is engaged!! She and her (now) fiance got engaged on her birthday (June 13th) and it’s looking like they’ll be getting married in mid-August. Does the short turn around time sound familiar to anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Well, if it does sound familiar it’s likely because you had a short turn around too. And that short turn around might have meant that you were also getting married to a service member. That’s right, my sister is marrying a Marine. Though, unlike me and my husband (Army), they’ve known each other since they were kids. They graduated high school together. He was even her first real boyfriend in like middle school. After graduation, he joined the Corps and they kinda lost touch. Last year, while she was working the renaissance faire circuit with Inner Beast Leather they worked the Southern California Faire and they reconnected while she was there. For over a year they’ve been in a long distance relationship (he was in California for a portion of it as well as being deployed to the Middle East while shutting down bases) and now they’re getting married. Yay!!

Personally, I’m super excited for her. I know she is as well, but I’m like over the moon excited for her. Mostly because I know what her love life has been like her entire life and she deserves this. Her boyfriend is beyond good to her and gets the big sister stamp of approval.

When a normal engagement happens, the girl generally has no idea it’s going to happen. For military engagements though, a lot of the time the woman either knows when it’s going to happen or knows it’s going to happen soon just not when. So she’s always on the edge of her seat wondering “is he gonna do it now?”. The latter was my sister and I. With our boyfriends being so far away from us (admittedly, hers was further) we knew it had to be during one of those rare windows when we were together. We had an idea, just not a certain time. So in the days leading up to her boyfriend arriving back home for his summer block leave (he came back to Kentucky since it’s his home state as well), she was growing more and more nervous. Of course, she came to me for advice and I gave it to her the best I could.

And now that it’s all come to a head and there’s no more need for her to be nervous, I find myself wondering if those moments of “oh God, is this the right move?” is something a majority of mil-spouses go through. Whether it is or not, I felt compelled to write this blog. These are the things I told myself (since I didn’t really have someone to discuss it all with like my sister did) and things I told my sister — which also includes some things I wish someone had told me.

Despite What People May Say, Marriage Isn’t That Big A Deal
Or at least it doesn’t have to be. Nothing has to be a big deal in life unless you want it to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t think hard about the decision to get married before doing it, I’m just saying that making the decision to do it doesn’t have to cause you agony. In fact, if it does, that should be tip number one that you shouldn’t do it. I’ve lived with almost every boyfriend I’ve ever had in my life except Daniel. I can tell you that living with him now is a lot like living with all those boyfriends I’ve ever had. Yes there are differences, but those differences (for the most part) are the things you don’t constantly have on the fore front of your mind. For me, the biggest difference is that I’ve only had insurance through one boyfriend before (because we were technically common law married). My insurance is through Daniel (except dental, that’s mine) whereas I’ve always had insurance through my parents or myself (minus that one time previously mentioned).

You Can Keep Your Lives Separate
Do you have to take his last name? No. Do you have to get joint bank accounts? No. Do you have to completely erase your identity and become “Mrs. So-and-So”? Most definitely not. I took Daniel’s last name because I wanted to, but he had absolutely no issues with me keeping my own name. We have a joint account but our paychecks go into our personal accounts so we can pay our separate bills (phones, car insurance and car payments) and the rest goes into joint so we can pay other bills (cable, groceries, etc). But you don’t even have to do that. No where does it state that you have to share money when you’re married. It makes sense and it’s easier to run a household that way, but you don’t have to do it.

Your Friends =/= His Friends
While it makes sense that you’ll have friends in common, it also makes sense that you won’t have them. There will be people you’re close with that he isn’t and vice versa. And that’s okay. While you get along fine with each other, your spouse might not get along with all your friends and you might not get along with all of theirs. That’s human nature and by no means should you feel bad because of it. Now, when he wants to be friends with all of your friends or doesn’t want to know your friends at all… that’s when you have a problem and should probably consider not getting married. While you are thought of as a whole by the government when you sign your marriage license, you are still two very separate people and should live your lives as such. This kind ties into the previous point, but you can and should keep your lives separate.

Forget Whatever Norm or Standard You Think There Is For Marriage
Everyone is different and because of this you can’t create a “norm” for how a marriage should work. So long as you’re both happy, who has the right to judge your relationship? No one, that’s who. So whatever you think a “normal” marriage is, throw it out the window. Do what works for you and your spouse. I recently altered my schedule at work so that I work all day three days a week and have two days during the week off. This allows me to be home to do the crafty projects I want as well as teach horse back riding lessons (oh yeah I started teaching those!) AND spend time with my husband since he’s home from work due to a medical profile. So that’s two days during the week and both days on weekends where I’m with him pretty much all day (minus the few hours I’m at the barn). While I love my husband and love spending time with him, I do like doing my own thing in my spare time. So the norm for us on my “days off” is making breakfast together and then him playing his video games while I work on crafts in the backyard or the other room. We’ll go hours without talking to one another. Strange, maybe, but it makes us happy. We’re not happy to be apart, but we’re happy that the other respects the things we do in our alone time and that the other allows us the time to do those things. Really, it all comes down to respecting the fact that your husband or wife might not want to spend every minute of free time with you. Or respecting that they do and accommodating to the fact that you might not want to.

Communication Is Your Best Friend
I’ve known this even prior to getting engaged, but talking about things that bug you is the most important thing you can do in any relationship. If Daniel is spending too much time with his video games, all I have to do is tell him that I want to watch a movie with him and he puts the controller down. It’s so much easier than sitting on the couch with my arms crossed and staring at him or the TV screen in silent hatred. There have even been times I didn’t care if he was playing or not but he could tell I was bored and he put the controller down anyway. Even if you’ve been with your fiancee for years before taking the step towards marriage, open lines of communication are the only thing that’s going to keep your relationship healthy and happy.

Your Big Day May Not Be What You Imagined, But That’s Okay
I know a lot of girls dream of the day they get married. They have thoughts of this big, beautiful party with all the trimmings. Well, when you get married to a service member, you might not always have the time to plan something like that. Daniel wanted the big wedding. I did not. So we agreed to instead do something small in the beginning and plan something bigger for a vow renewal. I don’t know what my sister’s plans are, but obviously she won’t be planning the party of the year either. I’m sure it’ll be small and just for family and close friends, but whether or not she does something later I have no idea. My point is, you likely won’t get the wedding you imagined, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have it later. Honestly, getting married is all about the legal part of it. You don’t have to have a ceremony and reception to get married. All you have to have is a piece of paper and an ordained minister (or the magistrate in your county seat can do it). The requirements vary by county so be sure to check the details before you get everything set. EITHER WAY… it doesn’t have to be a big deal. Honestly, if I could have met with the woman that married Daniel and I at a coffee shop and just signed the papers I would have… but our parents wanted a “ceremony” of sorts.

You’re Going To Have Your Best Friend In Your Corner. Breath.
I know I’ve been promoting the fact that you can still be separate and be married at the same time, but the biggest thing you cannot forget in this journey is that, no matter how scary it may be, you’re not alone. Chances are, if you’re taking the necessary steps to getting married, the person you’re with truly loves and cares for you and doesn’t want to see you fail. Ever. If that’s the case, they’re going to be there for you no matter what. I’ve never been the best at this thing called “adulting” and at 27 years old, I often look back on my life and wonder what the hell I did wrong. Why am I not better at this? I beat myself up a lot over it. A lot. Daniel kinda knew that before going into this, but he didn’t know that there were days I was beating myself up over it so bad that I literally wouldn’t want to get out of bed. Now, those days are very few and far between, but one of them happened to come up soon after moving down here with to be with him. Any other time I’ve had these kind of days, I’ve had to deal with them by myself. Even if I was dating someone, I didn’t want to bring them down with me. But Daniel literally wouldn’t let me shut him out. He pulled me up (again literally because I didn’t want to get out of bed) and forced me to go out and do something I enjoyed. He picked me up, dusted me off and gave me the “you don’t have to do this alone anymore” speech and it was in that moment that I realized it was okay to let someone else help me. It was okay to lean on him. He was my husband after all. It’s not that he was doing it because it’s expected of him. He was doing it because he hated seeing me like that. When you marry your significant other, you’re marrying your best friend and like a best friend, they never want to see you cry. They’re not going to let you fail.

A lot of these points tie into one another, but really that’s how all advice should be if you think about it. This huge problem you think you’re having often isn’t really that big and thusly can be answered in one go. But it is always nice to hear lots of things to back your decision, even if it would take less oxygen just to name one thing.

What things did you figure out after getting married that you wish someone would have told you before hand?

7 Things I’ve Learned in 7 Days of Living on Post

It’s normal to learn new things when you move into a new environment. Things like the fastest way to work, which areas to avoid because they’re just that sketchy or the gas stations that generally have the cheapest prices for gas. But when you move into a new environment that just so happens to be a military installation, I feel like you learn a lot of new things that you wouldn’t normally need to know.

In the seven days I’ve been on Fort Bragg, I’ve learned far more than seven things, but for the sake of your eyes and my fingers, I’ve narrowed it down to the top ones.

1) Hurry Up & Wait Applies To Everyone, Not Just Service Members.
When it comes to marrying into the military, it’s important to get things done quickly. The sooner you get a marriage certificate, the sooner you and your husband start collecting Basic Allowance for Housing (also known as BAH). The sooner you get enrolled in Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (or DEERS) the sooner you are eligible for Tricare and can get your military ID which is essential for getting on post and making purchases at the Commissary or PX (or BX). But despite the rush to get all these things taken care of, you are still at the mercy and the speed of the federal government and if you’ve ever had to deal with them you know they take their sweet time. Be prepared to wait for some things that seem like they should come pretty quickly.

2) Making Friends Is Essential.
Unless your spouse has been married while enlisted (or commissioned) previously, chances are they don’t have the answers to a lot of the questions you’ll have. They know things from a totally different aspect than you do. This is where making friends with other military wives/husbands comes in handy. They are more than willing to answer your questions to the best of their ability and if they don’t know the answer they can tell you where to find it. They get that this is something totally new for you, they were once in your shoes after all, and are generally pretty willing to lend a helping hand wherever they can.

3) Military Police (Security Forces) Aren’t Any More Or Less Unnerving As Civilian Police.
This may not come as a surprise to some of you, but MP’s (or SF) really aren’t much different than civilian police. They’re almost like county cops (if you have those where you live). Essentially, they have a jurisdiction that doesn’t go outside of a certain area. For MP’s that certain area is whatever post they’re assigned to. Now there are times where they can do things off post, but for the most part you won’t ever be in those situations (hopefully at least). But when you see one in your rear view mirror while you’re driving to the Commissary, or pass one on a two lane road, you’ll still check your speedometer to make sure you’re not speeding and your hands will slide to 10 and 2. No one likes getting pulled over. Period.

4) Calling Your Spouse’s Friends By Their Last Names Is Normal.
In the military, people don’t have first names. First names are reserved for spouses and children. Your husband or wife’s best friend will be solely known by their last name. You make never know their actual first name, but you’ll never question it. The weird part is you calling your spouse by their first name but their buddies calling them by their last name. It took me a little bit to get used to hearing someone, especially his friend’s spouses, refer to him as “Watkins” instead of “Daniel”.

5) There Are No Stupid Questions, Only Stupid Answers.
This is something I’ve said for years, but it was something I often reminded myself the first few days I was on post. If I didn’t know something but Daniel wasn’t around to ask nor could I present the question to any of the other military spouses, I would just ask. At first I felt stupid and often made the excuse that I was new to this whole thing, but then I realized it didn’t matter if I’d been in the game for years. If I didn’t know, I didn’t know and the only way to learn something was to question it. Don’t feel bad asking anyone for help. If they feel inconvenienced by you for asking, that’s on them.

6) Always Have Dollar Bills On Hand If You Shop At The Commissary.
I learned this day one. I had left a pretty bad snow storm in Kentucky when I moved to North Carolina and it followed me here. Whereas back home was getting inches of snow, it was predicted that Bragg would get one to two inches of ice. So because there was the chance we wouldn’t be able to leave the next day, my husband and I took a quick trip to the Commissary (which was supposed to be closed for President’s Day but had been opened because of the pending storm). The madhouse we dealt with is a story for another day, but it was in that trip that I learned those who work there as baggers volunteer their time and are paid solely in tips. Not only do they bag your groceries for you, but they push the little carts they load them onto out to your car and pack your trunk/backseat for you. It’s a great thing if you’ve got children to tend to but it’s a little pointless if it’s just you. However, tipping them makes sense. But if you’re like me and never carry cash, it can make for an awkward situation. You don’t have to let them take your groceries out of course. You do have the option of loading your own car so by no means do you need to feel obligated to have them do it for you, but keeping dollars on hand is still a good idea. Just in case.

7) Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff.
Another one that probably doesn’t need to be said, but it’s also another one that I’ve had to tell myself a number of times. Moving is stressful. And unless you’ve already lived on your own before getting married and moving in with your spouse, you’re likely going to be trying to furnish your house with the bigger essentials within the first few days to a week. I only had a few pieces of furniture that were mine before I moved, but not enough to make renting a moving van worth it and because Daniel had been in the barracks for three years, he had very little to his name as well. Housing comes with a fridge, range and dishwasher but those are the only appliances you get. It took us a week to get a washer and dryer (utilize the yard sale facebook groups for your post/base. They are a godsend) and I lucked out in finding a microwave for free. But not having much means you’ll be spending a lot in the beginning, but just remember that once you have those things, you won’t need to spend that money again. Don’t argue over it, just let it go. Life will calm down and things will get settled and it’s then that you can take a step back and enjoy the fact that you’re now married and living with the man or woman you love.

Like I said earlier, these are just the things I’ve learned that I feel are important. If you’ve gone through the trials of moving on post, what things did you notice in the first few weeks that you feel are important to keep in mind? I wanna know!

hurry up… and wait…

You would think I’d be used to that phrase by now. I worked for the Kentucky Educational Television network (KET) for two years and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) for the spring/summer and part of fall. State government work is full of “hurry up and wait”, and it’s no different with federal government. More specifically the military.

It’s been a little over three weeks since I married my husband and I’ll be moving into a house with him on post the day before we hit four. I am thankful, though, that I don’t have to spend the first six-nine months not living with him though. One of the guys in his unit got married January 2nd and deployed last Sunday. I can only imagine how his newlywed wife feels and my heart goes out to her. I dreaded being in her place. So I won’t complain that I have to wait a few more days to be with Daniel, no matter how much I don’t like it.

I’m just excited that I’m finally really getting to start this new chapter in my life. I got asked a lot at work how married life was and my initial guy response was always “it sucks”, but it didn’t suck because my husband didn’t love me or because I never got time to myself. It sucked (and still does for the next four days) because my husband is eight hours away. But in four days and an eight hour drive, he won’t be.

I feel like I should be more nervous about this. Like I should be even a little bit concerned about living with him. I’ve never lived with a guy who was more than just a boyfriend. I always had the option of leaving if it got to be too much. I still have that option I suppose, but it’s more difficult this time. It’s almost not worth taking, though I know if things end up getting beyond repair it’s worth taking it. That thought is mildly frightening, but what comforts me is the belief that it won’t ever get that bad. It’s not a delusional belief either. I really don’t think things will get to the point where we don’t want to be around each other. We’re both adults after all. I turn 27 in April and he turns 29 in May, and we both agree that if we don’t like something in our relationship, we’ll talk about it.

My biggest fear going into all of this was my want to enlist. He’s known about it since before we started dating, but I felt like every time I mentioned it he pulled away from the subject or ignored that I was even talking about it. It was a conversation I wanted to wait to have with him in person, but it was also a conversation I didn’t want to put off anymore than I already had. Should I have talked to him about it before we got married? Yeah, but hindsight is twenty/twenty. So I brought it up last night.

The first and second time I looked into it, I was in a relationship (two different people) but it was just a boyfriend/girlfriend thing. I told them both what I wanted to do and they both said “go for it”, but it never got more conversation than that. I knew they both supported my decision and would never try to talk me out of it. Besides, at the time it was just a thought.

The first attempt at enlistment ended before the relationship I was in at the time did, but the second time I looked into it, the relationship ended when the enlistment process got serious. My first go-around ended because of a medical disqualification (I had heart surgery at 17), but when I discovered the grounds of that disqualification were a mute point, I wanted to try again. At the time I started, my then boyfriend was behind me. He is a Marine himself, so he understood. But as things got going and I was days away from a trip to MEPS with a solid letter from my heart surgeon, he realized he couldn’t support me as a boyfriend. A friend, yes, but nothing more. And so we parted ways.

My relationship ended because of my goals and I didn’t realize it til last night, but I was terrified it was going to happen again. Here I’d found this amazing man who was perfect in ways I hadn’t even imagined possible, and I was terrified that my dream of enlisting was going to push him away. Forget that he’d made a vow of “for better or for worse”, I was still scared shitless and nervous as hell. I had no idea how to bring it up, so I just jumped right into it (in my normal “I’m nervous so I’m going to ramble” fashion) and looked at him over Skype as I waited for him to say something in response. I got nothing for a bit before he was like “And…?” so I just came straight out and asked.

“Are you sure you’re okay with me wanting to enlist?”

I’d said it. It was out there. Now was the time I was going to find out if he knew what this meant to me or if he just figured if he ignored it, I’d give up and never do it. I’m a habitual over-thinker, so of course I had almost convinced myself that the latter was the case.

Thankfully, I was wrong. He laughed at me lightly (in one of those “damn you’re cute” ways) and made sure to assure me that he was more than okay with it. He supported me and when I explained why I had been so nervous to ask he assured me that he wasn’t going to be that much of an ass. He also explained that he understood how important this goal was to me and that he’d never ask me to give it up. He wanted me to be happy and if that meant I had to enlist, then so be it.

If I really think about it, this whole “new chapter” I keep referring to has actually already started. It started before we got married, it started before we got engaged. It honestly started the evening we first met at a Starbucks and sat outside well past close talking about anything and everything we could come up with. It’s not even a new chapter, it’s a whole new book comprised of chapters.

“This Is What You Call Love: Adventures in a Dual Military Marriage”
Coming to a bookstore near you… in like twenty years.

dependa-what? (PG-13 rated for language)

So this is a post I’ve been sitting on for a few days (read: a little over a week). I’ve read a few of them out there that have been pretty on point, so I figured I’d throw in my two cents, even though I’m still fairly new to the scene. And by fairly I mean I haven’t really honestly ever been in the scene and only been married to a soldier for a little under three weeks now (this coming Tuesday is actually three weeks for us).

“What is this subject?” you might ask. Well, it’s about getting rid of the term “dependapotamus”. As per urbandictionary.com, a dependapotamus is “traditionally a service-members dependent who is a “stay at home mom” that doesn’t do a damn thing all day besides sitting on the couch looking remarkably similar to jabba the hut leaching off of military benefits and eating anything that gets too close.”

Now, I’ll admit to having thrown the term around before in jest with those friends of mine who are in the service, but I have never once called any of their significant others, whether they still be with them or not, a dependapotamus. This primarily stems from the fact that I would never want to be called one. I am anything but that. Now, the UD.com definition paints a very disgusting picture, but from what I have gathered from my various friends in the service, what they call a “dependa” (short for dependapotamus) is really just any woman who is looking to be supported and never have to work a day in her life. I come from a very hard working family with an extremely strong willed and independent mother, so I could never dream of letting a man provide for me for the rest of my life even if he wanted to.

Don’t get me wrong, if Daniel had the means to do so, I’m sure he’d want me to never have to work another day in my life, but I couldn’t (with good conscious) let that happen. But I digress.

Now, like I said, I’ve jokingly thrown this term around. I’ve told my friends to be careful of girls they’re going on dates with and to watch for signs of depends or tag chasers (which is basically a woman, or man, who is ONLY attracted to (wo)men in unform because they’re “hot”). But I’m never serious. They’re grown as men (or women) and can take care of themselves. They like who they like and there’s nothing I can do to change that. If they wanna be with someone who solely wants to be with them because they have some unrealistic fantasy of the military life, good on them. They will be unpleasantly surprised when their S.O. has to pull a 24 hour staff duty on some important date and can’t get out of it. Or if they’re in the field for some big event. Or one of the other thousands of reasons the military takes our S.O.’s away from us at the most inconvenient of times.

But the point of all these blogs I’ve read is that we need to stop throwing around that term. It’s kinda like calling a girl a slut just because she sleeps with several different men a week but doesn’t commit to one. It’s ridiculous and is generally only said in seriousness to make us feel better about ourselves. When I mentioned that I wasn’t “in the scene yet”, I simply meant that I don’t live on post (next week though!!) and I’m not surrounded by the drama that is created in any community setting. But I’m sure once I’m down there I’ll hear all about it.

From what I’ve read, however, is that military significant others/spouses (I’ll probably end up saying “milso” at some point in this so I’m just gonna go ahead and connect the two. milso = military significant other) are the biggest proprietors of this term. If the show “Army Wives” is any kind of look into the life of a milso, then the community I’m moving into is in for a world of truthful hurt because I don’t play those games. I won’t throw around words like “dependa” and “tag chaser” but I will straight up call you a bitch to your face.

I haven’t been a milso long, but so far all the other milsos I’ve met have been the most supportive and understanding women in the world. They get it. Better than your best friend from high school, better than your sorority sisters, better than your actual blood sister… even better than your mother. The other milsos in your husband’s unit all get it. They’ve been through the same shit you have. The 24 hour duties on important dates, the week or more long field visits that happen at the worst possible times… the six to nine month deployments that feel like they’re never going to end. They understand it all better than anyone else you’ll meet, so why would you want to ostracize yourself from that kind of support?

That’s honestly the biggest issue I have with labeling other milsos as “dependa” and what not. Who cares if the benefits are all they’re in it for? Who are you to judge that? Clearly, their husbands/wives love them and that’s all that should fucking matter. Their marriage works for them and that’s all you should care about. The second you start judging their lives, you start blocking them out when they could be the only person you have to turn to at some point in the possibly very near future.

It really all comes back to the phrase “treat others as you would want to be treated”. I try to live by that 150% every day in everything I do. From work to interacting with the clerk at the grocery store or tipping the woman who served me lunch while I was out with my girlfriends. No matter how they treat me, I take a step back and think about how I want them to treat me, and I replicate that. So far, it’s never not worked out in my favor. If the person is rude, they generally realize they’re being an ass and apologize. Or if they don’t, they start getting even more frustrated that I’m not putting up a fight and walk away upset that they didn’t get what they wanted out of the altercation, which is more satisfactory to me than being an ass right back.

I feel like I’ve rambled a lot and honestly gotten no where. So if you’ve read all of this, I thank you greatly. If you’ve skipped all the juicy bits and jumped to the end, shame on you. Everything I said up there is important so go back and read it.

auld lang syne

happy new year, interwebz! so what i’m like three days late on this? it’s been a busy week for me. but i joined wordpress’s “blogging 101” class and today’s assignment is “introduce yourself”. i only kinda did that in my first post, so here’s more of an introduction on me.

my name is samantha wintz. i’m 26 years old and from central kentucky. i’ve been riding horses since i was roughly five years old, i work at target and own a pitbull named athena. i’m engaged to a united states soldier named daniel (for those of you who have read past entries… I GOT ENGAGED!) and i’m looking to enlist in the united states air force reserves. my plan is to do reserves until i finish my bacehlor’s degree in psychology (i have an associates in radio and television broadcasting already) and then go active duty as an officer. from there i plan to put in 20+ until i finish a phd in psych and then retire military to open my own practice treating ptsd victims and helping service members transition back into civilian life through equine therapy.

my life has been a pretty interesting one. well, it was boring up until the summer before my senior year when i was in a near fatal car accident that pretty much changed my life. i mean, who wouldn’t walk away from nearly dying a changed person? but it’s made me who i am today and i wouldn’t change that for the world. it was a rough journey getting here, but every step and misstep has been worth it ten fold. the spring after my accident, one of my best friends died in a car wreck and that helped shaped me as well. greatly. then this past spring another high school friend of mine was murdered and that helped put me back on the path i’d sorta strayed from (enlisting).

2014 was definitely an interesting and brutal year. from having my heart beaten up and my trust broken by the last person i thought would ever do those things to me to losing an old friend to moving to a completely foreign place to me and then finally meeting the man i will one day call my husband… it’s been one hell of a ride.

and 2015 promises to be one hell of a ride as well! this blog, and my vlog, is my invitation to you to join me in this adventure. i want you all to take a peek into my journey of becoming an army wife and enlisting in the air force. i want you to share in the ups and downs of it all. so grab a seat, buckle up and let’s go!!