Tag Archives: Military Spouse magazine

My kids are TOTAL BRATS!

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From the time I toddled around in droopy diapers, to the day I drove off to college in my VW Bug, I lived in one small Pennsylvania town. The kids who picked their noses next to me in Mrs. Rowley’s kindergarten class were the same ones who walked across the stage with me at our high school graduation. I had one hometown, one high school, one brick house, one yellow bedroom, and one best friend who I gabbed with each night on my one candlestick rotary phone while draped across my one mock brass twin bed.

By contrast, my son just started his senior year at his third new high school. By the time he drives off to college next year, he will have grown up in eight different homes, in three different states and two foreign countries. He has said goodbye to five different best friends, five different piano teachers, and four different Boy Scout troops. He will have played on three different varsity football teams, and his academic transcript will be almost as complicated as the US Tax Code.

Essentially, my son and his two sisters are total BRATS.

No, not that kind of brat. Although our kids have definitely displayed their fair share of unruly behavior, infuriating teen arrogance and near juvenile delinquency; I’m calling my kids “military brats,” which has an entirely different connotation.

HOW’D THEY GET THIS WAY?

Although it is fairly common knowledge that “military brats” are children of servicepersons, few know the true origin of this term. According to WilliamsburghMilitaryInsider.com, “B.R.A.T.” is an old acronym for “British Regiment Attached Traveler,” used to describe dependents assigned to accompany British Army members being stationed abroad.

Over the years, the term expanded and evolved to become a universal descriptor for kids who move with their military parents. Regardless of the technical definitions and historical origins, the term “military B.R.A.T.” means so many different things — both good and bad — to each military family.

The acronym B.R.A.T. might as well stand for all military parents’ fears that their kids will be Bewildered, Reluctant, Afraid and Timid after each move. We put them in new schools, worried that they will be Bullied, Ridiculed, Abused and Taunted. Wracked with guilt, we feel Blameworthy, Remorseful, Apologetic and downright Terrible.

THE UPSIDE

However, we military parents fail to remember that our BRATs are Brave, Resourceful, Amicable and Tolerant. After every move, they make new Buddies, form new Routines, find Acceptance, and feel Triumphant.

But kids will be kids, even the military ones, so they milk our guilt for all it’s worth, and lead us to believe that they are miserable.

They Bellyache, Refute, Accuse and shed Tears. They claim that all the students in their new school are Buffoons, Rednecks, Airheads, and Tramps. They tell us they might be able to cope if they were given Bonuses, Riches, Allowance and Toys.

And every time, we get suckered. As the Bills, Receipts, Arrears and Taxes pile up; the stress causes Balding, Reflux, Anxiety, and Tension headaches.  Before you know it, we’re stocking up on Botox, Rogaine, Antacids and Tequila.

But regardless of the challenges of our military life, our children don’t succeed despite their military upbringing, they succeed because of it.  And when they grow up and lead their own lives, they bring with them Beautiful Recollections of American Traditions.

And as I watch my kids go off to another new school in another new town, I’m proud to say my kids are most certainly, undeniably, complete and total BRATs.

Tips for helping your BRATs in their new schools:

  • It’s Child’s Play – Allow your kids to invite classmates and neighbors over to play often. It’s simply the best way for your child to make new friends, and by hosting playdates at your house, you will be in a better position to guide your kids’ choices.
  • Fashion Sense — Allow your kids to express their opinions regarding back to school clothes. Only they know which pair of jeans or which shirt will give them the boost in confidence they might need to get through those “new kid” jitters.
  • Take Pride — Remind your kids that, by serving their country, military families live uniquely adventurous lives.  Quell their fears about fitting in by giving them a sense of pride in being extraordinary.

 

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Culture or Torture? Lessons learned while traveling with kids

My column in the April issue of Military Spouse Magazine!

My column in the April issue of Military Spouse Magazine!

April is the month of Spring Break, and Spring Break is a time for travel!

The possibilities are endless: a Caribbean cruise, camping in the mountains, sight-seeing in Rome, hiking the Appalachian Trail, a B&B in the French countryside. Simple, adventurous or extravagant, a change of scenery takes you from the late winter doldrums into an invigorated spring.

But wait. Hold up. Just a sec . . . What about the kids?

Unless you have a team of well-paid nannies who will keep the kids entertained at home all week (not likely on a military budget) then the kids are coming along. And the presence of children during travel tends to change things a bit …. Ahem, that’s the understatement of the century.

Instead of leisurely lunching on brie and wine at a Parisian street café, you’ll find yourself at nibbling nuggets at the McDonalds on the Champs d’Elysie. Rather than braving class 4 rapids on Pennsylvania’s Ohio Pyle Gorge, you’ll be splashing the sticky cotton candy off your face on the log jam at Wally World. Forget about scheduling your couples massage at the spa, because you’ll be wading in a suspiciously cloudy kiddie pool at a motel off the interstate, asking yourself how this could be happening. Again.

BEEN THERE, ENDURED THAT

Take it from me, I know. While stationed in Germany, I planned family trips to Ireland, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, France, England and Scotland during our three-year tour. I wanted to jam-pack our time overseas with cultural and educational experiences that our kids would appreciate for the rest of their lives.

Problem was, I forgot. They’re kids.

Oh, yea. Bummer.

I soon learned that kids — my kids, at least, and very possibly yours — don’t want to wait two hours for traditional indigenous foods at an authentic local restaurant. They could care less about mountain scenery or sylvan country settings. And they absolutely hate lingering in art and history museums.

We discovered the hard way that, unless we were planning a trip to the Threshold of Hell, we’d better figure out how to keep the kids happy. First, we learned the Cardinal Rule of Travelling with the Kids:

LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS

Sure, you want to think positive. I’m all for that. But don’t envision life-changing authentic ambiance, edifying cultural experience, thrilling adventure, romantic interludes and indulgent relaxation. Family trips have the potential to turn out to be as relaxing and cultural as chaperoning a fifth grade field trip to Bowl-O-Rama. With that mindset, you’re bound to be pleasantly surprised.

Now, in order to avoid the brink of insanity while traveling with the kids, I’ll share some strategies we learned.

#1 Oh my gosh, gross!

My kids are so cultured, they have thrown up in six states and seven foreign countries. Nothing kills ambiance like the lingering scent of upchuck on your shoes, so keep gallon zip-lock bags and wet wipes in your purse at all times.

#2 Take appropriate steps, literally.

Bell towers, monuments, castles, forts and tall buildings are great places to run the “squirrelly” out of kids. Beware that you may need a portable defibrillator for yourself, but a coronary event may be worth it if it means your kids will be so tired that they’ll sit through dinner peacefully tonight.

#3 Kiddie comfort food.

Pommes fritz, furai, chips, papas fritas – whatever you call ‘em, don’t even think about sitting down at a restaurant that doesn’t have French fries on the menu.

#4 Space out.

No, I’m not suggesting that you take sedatives while traveling with the kids, but find wide open spaces where you and hubby can soak up local ambiance while the rugrats spread their grubby little wings and fly. You can nibble local cheese and bread while they scare pigeons in the piazza, or chase bumble bees in an alpine meadow, or roll in the grass at a city park.

#5 Wet them down while you wet your whistle.

When deciding where to stop for a glass of wine, look for a nearby fountain, stream, lake, pond, or tropical fish tank. If they can splash, throw rocks, feed ducks or tap on the glass, you have a decent chance of sipping your wine in peace.

#6 Capture the memories.

Be sure to take lots of photos, because no matter how torturous family vacations may seem, someday you’ll look back and wish you could do it all over again. 

Pick up a copy today!

Pick up a copy today!

I can’t wait to move!

My column in the March Issue of Military Spouse Magazine!

My column in the March Issue of Military Spouse Magazine!

Well, first, there’s the heat. The year-round, thick, hot, humid, gnat-infested, sweat producing, Florida heat. The lousy palm trees certainly don’t do much to shade us from the relentless sun around here – I swear, it shines about 300 days a year! I don’t know how the locals can take it.      

And then there’s the sand. Not just any sand, but that fine, sugary Florida sand that you don’t feel until you’re back from the beach and you find out it’s all over your house. It’s a real hassle, I tell ya.

Of course, we can’t forget the local culture, and all its slow cooked “southern charm.” I swear, if another person opens a door for me or calls me “ma’am,” I’m gonna lose it! I’m sick and tired of sweet tea, cornbread, barbecue, fried chicken, coconut shrimp and tropical drinks!

Thank goodness, we got orders out of this place! Good riddance!

Part and parcel of the military experience is The Military Move. Every few years, we are forced to “pull chocks” – say good-bye to what has become familiar and settle in a new place. It’s tough, and sometimes we develop subconscious strategies to help us cope with the stress.

We settle our families into every duty station – be it Kentucky, California, Alaska, Arizona, Italy, Japan, or Florida. Even if it’s difficult at first, we eventually find our groove. The kids make friends, we get jobs, we find a pizza place and join bunco groups. As time passes, we incorporate local foods into our meals, we adopt local customs, we use local lingo such as “Yes Ma’am,” “You betcha,” “Prego,” and “Aloha.”

And just as we begin to embrace our new lifestyle, we get orders to someplace else. It never fails.

However, military spouses won’t allow themselves to wallow in self pity for long. After shedding a few tears – usually over a little wine and copious amounts of chocolate, or vice versa – we pick ourselves up and simply start seeing things differently. Our new orders may dictate that we must move from Paradise to Poughkeepsi, but somehow, we convince ourselves that we need a fresh start.

As for me, our new orders say that we have to move from the secluded southern beaches of Naval Station Mayport, Florida, and settle in the chilly north, at the Naval War College, Rhode Island. In the coming months before we pull chocks, I’m sure I will shamelessly blubber and hug my Mayport friends at a neighborhood fire pit. I will most likely feel no guilt as I gorge myself one last time on southern fried chicken and biscuits. And I’m pretty sure I will get misty when I take one last shell walk on what has become “my beach.”

However, to ease the pain, my subconscious mind will say, “This duty station is the threshold of hell, and the new one will be WAY better. Seriously.”

So, I can’t wait to move to Newport. The quaint little towns. The ocean-splashed cliffs. The lobster. The quirky New Englanders with their funny accents and old-school mentalities. The Technicolor falls and the frosty white winters.

I’m 100 percent certain. There’s not a doubt in my mind. No question about it: our new duty station will be WAY better than this one . . . [gulp, sniff] . . . Seriously.

Try these tips to ease the pain of constant change

Look for my column about traveling with kids in the April issue!

Look for my column about traveling with kids in the April issue!

Another year of yo yo dieting?

Feb MSM

My latest column in the February Issue of Military Spouse Magazine!

What’s the most commonly broken New Year’s resolution? You guessed it – LOSE WEIGHT. You start out with the best intentions, but along the way, something always goes wrong…

After emerging, bulging and gassy, from the egg-nog-spiked holiday season, with a veritable cheese ball lodged in your ever-expanding gut, you decide, enough is enough. You resolve to lose that 10 pounds ONCE AND FOR ALL. And this time, you’re going to do it right.

BEST LAID PLANS

At first, your new regimen feels almost pleasurable. As the scale’s needle begins to drop, you start bragging to fellow milspouses about how many veggies you’ve been eating and the new classes you’ve tried at the base gym.

Everything is looking up, until you glance at the calendar. You made it through the playoffs without so much as a drop of queso passing your lips, but the Super Bowl is coming. Eating a salad on Super Bowl Sunday would be nothing short of sacrilege, and besides, you’ve learned how to eat sensible portions, right?

The morning after the Super Bowl, your stomach is still sloshing with a mixture of half-chewed chicken wings, chili, sausage dip, beer, and about four thousand Peanut M&Ms. Guilt and self-loathing send you into a week-long tailspin of binge eating.

One night, while polishing off a can of Pringles, you notice that the calendar on the refrigerator indicates that Lent is coming. Religion aside, you realize that this is your lifeline to get back on track, and make a promise to give up junk food until Easter.

Aside from sneaking a few morsels from the heart-shaped box of chocolates your husband sent you for Valentine’s Day, you keep to your promise and begin to envision yourself looking trim when he comes home from deployment.

Just when you think one of your rolls has disappeared, Easter creeps up on you. How can you stay on track when you’re surrounded by pastel miniatures of every candy you’ve ever loved? It’s entrapment!

Feeling guilty about the plateful of ham and scalloped potatoes you had for Easter dinner, you give up and shamelessly pilfer candy from your kids’ baskets after they’ve gone to bed. The sugar coma drags you down to rock bottom again, until the calendar offers the next lifeline to climb back out of the abyss.

AND SO IT GOES….

This yo-yo diet cycle continues throughout the year, bottoming out through the guacamole of Cinco de Mayo, the ice cream of Independence Day, the potato salad of Labor Day, the candy extravaganza of Halloween, the gravy-smothered Thanksgiving, and the seasonal smorgasbord of the winter holidays.

Before you know it, it’s the New Year, and you’ve got another cheese ball lodged in your gut.

Are we too weak to overcome our calendars? As long as peanut butter cups come in heart, egg, pumpkin, and tree shapes, are we doomed to fail? Should we just resign ourselves to muffin tops and lunch lady arms for the rest of our lives?

No! The fit people I know enjoy a big slice of wedding cake, or wings on game day, and don’t give it another thought. But when many of us indulge, we plunge into a crevasse of guilt that is too hard to climb out of.

So then, the key to preventing the calendar from sabotaging our weight and fitness goals is to banish guilt forever! Don’t hate yourself for breaking your resolutions. It’s OK to fall off the wagon every once in a while, because you’re in the driver’s seat.

Just climb right back on, stay on course, and resolve to never look back.

4 Milspouse Diet tips that actually work!

  • There are no forbidden fruits. Unless you have a food-related health condition such as diabetes or celiac disease, don’t think of any foods as off limits, because you’re setting yourself up for guilt if you violate your self-imposed prohibitions.
  • Concentrate on eating healthily, not on eating less. Keeping track of fruits, veggies, water and protein will keep you from obsessing about too many carbs or calories.
  • Cut yourself a break with that slice of cake.  Know ahead of time that you’ll indulge on special occasions like birthdays, weddings, holidays and homecomings. Enjoy yourself and don’t think about it too much.
  • Sidestep the splurge. Just because you had a little ice cream, doesn’t mean you should eat the whole pint. Skipping exercise one day doesn’t justify the couch potato Olympics the rest of the week. Don’t get sucked into the binge mentality – keep moving forward!
Don't forget to look for my March column, where I'll explain why I CAN'T WAIT for my next military move!

Don’t forget to look for my March column, where I’ll explain why I CAN’T WAIT for ANOTHER military move!

If you liked this post, remember to vote for Meat & Potatoes of Life as a Top 25 Funny Moms blog on Circle of Moms – only two days left to vote! 

The Keys to Happiness in 2013

My column in the January Issue of Military Spouse Magazine!

My column in the January Issue of Military Spouse Magazine!

As we milspouses board life’s runaway train for another year of twists and turns and ups and downs, we can’t help but wonder, “Will this ride be better than the last?” We make resolutions, set goals, and hope for the best, but so many factors are simply beyond our control. The economy, deployments, orders, our health, the future – how on earth are we supposed to ensure our happiness in the coming year?

After much analysis, I’ve formulated a hypothesis to address this fundamental question. My research indicates that there are three basic lifestyle choices that positively correlate with human contentment.

In other words, I’ve discovered the keys to happiness!

#1 Wear comfortable underwear.

Ever had one of those days when your knickers keep inching up your derriere? You dig your skivvies out of your crevasse, but they creep back in. The constant wedgie adds a subtle undertone of discomfort to your day, making you grumpy. When you’re grumpy, you snap at your boss. When you snap at your boss, he fires you. When you get fired, you go broke. When you go broke, you are not happy. See how that works?

It doesn’t matter if you prefer the near-commando feel of a thong, or the maximum coverage of cotton briefs – wear comfy undies if you want to this to be a good year.

#2   Install a new shower head.

Does your shower head emit a wimpy trickle, making it difficult to lather, rinse and repeat? Do you dare to condition, only to find it impossible to rinse it all out? Do you spend the rest of the day feeling greasy and lacking self-confidence?

When you lack self-confidence, you can’t decide what to cook for dinner. When you can’t decide what to cook for dinner, you make frozen chicken nuggets. When you serve chicken nuggets for the third time this week, your spouse gets annoyed. When your spouse gets annoyed, you argue. When you argue, he sleeps on the couch. When he sleeps on the couch, you are not happy, and neither is he.

So dash to your nearest hardware store, and find a shower head with a water output similar to that of a regulation fire hose. The therapeutic massaging action of the pelting water will blast away stress, tension, toxins, troubles, soap, conditioner . . . and sometimes the first layer of skin. Regardless, you will emerge clean, refreshed, and ready to face the year with confidence.

#3 Attain digestive regularity.

Have you ever had one of those days when your pipes are clogged? Do your intestines occasionally go on strike? Does your digestive tract stubbornly maintain a holding pattern, hovering with no landing scheduled on the flight plan?

Let’s face it – if the “magic” doesn’t happen, it can ruin your day. You feel full, heavy, lethargic, bloated. When you feel bloated, you are irritable. When you are irritable, you yell at other drivers when they cut you off. When you yell at other drivers, they stop to give you a piece of their mind. When they give you a piece of their mind, you swat them with your purse. When you swat them with your purse, you get arrested. When you get arrested, you are not happy.

Eat leafy greens, guzzle copious amounts of coffee, get new reading material for the bathroom — do whatever it takes to convince your nether regions to declare a truce. Succeed in attaining digestive regularity, and you will face the challenges of this year with a cheerful spring in your step.

In all seriousness, I’m sure that none of us will end up broke, on the outs with our spouses, or in jail in the next twelve months.  Nevertheless, if we want to be happier this year, we need to remember that, sometimes, it’s the little things in life that matter the most.

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Little things that make us happier:

  • Good morning, Sunshine!  –Not only will 15 minutes of exposure to sunlight three times a week boost your body’s supply of vitamin D, but sunshine (even in artificial forms for those of you stationed in Alaska) can have a positive affect on people prone to depression and anxiety.
  • Get to bed – According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep. Lack of adequate sleep negatively affects physical and mental health, attention span, memory, learning and even body mass index.
  • The Dog Days aren’t over – For the last 25 years, research has shown that living with pets lowers blood pressure and anxiety. And some new studies actually indicate that children who grow up in households with pets are LESS likely to have asthma and allergies. Who knew?
  • Mange, mange! (Eat, eat!) –Overindulgence during the holidays may have you wanting to eat less, but “grazing” throughout the day really can make you happier. Eating six healthy meals/snacks spaced evenly throughout the day will keep your blood sugar, energy level, weight, and mood on an even keel.

I give and give, but what do I get?

Click on this photo to see a larger version of my column in the October issue of Military Spouse Magazine!

I’m going out on a limb here and say that the majority of you have a bottle of mustard, a can of cooking spray, a stick of butter, or some other food item in your kitchen that you did not purchase. No need to bother with FBI profiling, exhaustive research or statistical analysis. We all know it’s true.

You did not pay for that jar of Spanish olives or that bag of frozen meatballs, did you? Now don’t get your cammo undies in a bunch here, I’m not accusing you of being a thief. To the contrary, I’m merely pointing out what’s unique about us military spouses.

Unlike most in the civilian world, we military spouses are accustomed to people coming and going in our lives. Deployments, PCSes, and frequent change are part and parcel of our military lifestyles.

And every time your neighbor or best friend PCSes, she bestows to you memories of afternoons chatting on the patio during deployments, of the times she took care of your dog when you visited your parents, of the night you brought her wine and Dove Bars because she was crying over her husband’s new orders.

Finally, she bequeathed something that will last for months to come: that bottle of cocktail sauce she had in the pantry.

You really don’t need her half-used tub of margarine, but after all the support and friendship you gave each other, this was her final act of friendship. She gave these things to you because that’s what we do in the military. We support each other because we share a common experience and understanding.

So, every time you see that bottle of French dressing on your refrigerator door that no one in your family likes, you will remember that being a military spouse is about giving.

Give strength, community, camaraderie, and that is exactly what you will get back. Well, that, and a half bottle of ketchup.

Sure, the monthly potluck dinners can be a real bore. Yes, watching your friend’s kids while she goes to her prenatal appointments can be a real pain. No doubt, getting another phone call from a worried squadron wife right in the middle of the Survivor finale can be really annoying.

But think of it like this – The bottle of balsamic vinegar your fellow military spouse left you only cost about $3.75. The gas you spent dropping her family off at the airport set you back at least $7.50. However, the common understanding and support she offered you when you were in need was priceless.

Give and you shall receive.

Read the PDF version here: October Column.

What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson?

My column in the September issue of Military Spouse Magazine!

 

Dear Mrs. Molinari,

Thank you for your completed application.  However, the work experiences you listed in section C were all prior to 1996. Without work experience from the last five years, I will not be able to offer you employment with our company.

Best of luck,

Ms. Julie Robinson,
Employment Manager
 

Wait, what? No WORK experience? Seriously? Ms. Robinson, do you have any idea what I’ve been doing the last 19 years as a military spouse?

Have you ever lived in 7 states and two foreign countries? I have. Have you ever completed the complicated paperwork necessary to file two successful Household Goods Claims? I have. Have you ever flown Space A as an unaccompanied dependent without getting stranded at Wright-Pat Air Force Base for three days? I have.

Have you ever moved three children, a 110-pound dog, two hermit crabs, a car and 15,000 pounds of household goods to a foreign country while your spouse was gone and you were suffering from a lingering sinus infection? I have. Have you ever read a set of military orders and understood them? I have. Well, sort of.

The point is, Ms. Robinson, that anyone who has ever lived military life has “work experience,” no matter whether he or she has an employer or stays at home to manage the family. In fact, ask any military spouse which she’d rather do — spend a day working in an office, or find another new gynecologist after her umpteenth PCS move – and I’ll bet she’d be running for her briefcase.

Despite its rewards, military life is hard work, and military spouses must necessarily be resourceful, resilient, frugal, independent, and mentally stable (most of the time, anyway.) Military spouses have to be multi-taskers, interpreters, accountants, decision-makers, entertainers, short-order cooks, mechanics, coaches, gardeners, mothers and fathers all rolled into one.

Many, like me, have professional careers that had to be put on the back burner so that we could support our active duty spouses and supervise our families through deployments and multiple moves. Other military spouses have managed to find employment after each move, but they are usually at a major disadvantage, starting each new job back at the bottom of the ladder, or having to apply for costly additional licensing in each new state.

What’s that you say, Ms. Robinson? Being a military spouse doesn’t qualify as “work experience?” Let me put it to you this way: If you have something that needs to be done, ask a military spouse to do it. I promise, you’ll be surprised by what we can do.

Coo, coo, ca-choo.

The October issue of Military Spouse Magazine is out! Check out my column “What drives us CRAZY! — I give and I give, but what do I get?”

The Skin and Bones of Contention

The wild things that go on in our bedroom.

At some point or another in a marriage, a wife faces a delicate dilemma: How to incorporate her husband’s deer head, bowling trophy, concert poster, stereo speakers, bar lamp or autographed sporting equipment into the home décor. In nineteen years of marriage to my Navy husband, I’ve learned that solving this domestic quandary involves compromise, diplomacy, tact, and sometimes, trickery.

After each of our eight moves, I set about making each new house our home. The vast majority of the unpacking and home decorating has been left to my discretion as the wife, and I always make a sincere effort to find spots for the treasured belongings that will provide a comfortable and secure environment for our family.

Sometimes, however, I must prioritize. After our most recent move, I was unpacking a box labeled “master bedroom” and came upon an item that my husband had purchased during our last tour of duty in Germany.

Despite the fact that he is squeamish about blood, has never hunted, and is afraid of my kitchen cutlery; he bought himself a full-sized reindeer pelt one night at a German Christmas festival. He’s not quite sure why he made the purchase, and admits that it may have been motivated by the half-dozen mugs of mulled wine he consumed that frosty winter evening. But, he insists, he must’ve had a perfectly good reason at the time.

After finding the pelt in the moving box along with our prissy floral bedroom linens, I wondered, How will this thing fit into our new bedroom’s decor?

On one hand, displaying the enormous hide might have added the Nordic charm of an igloo – all we needed was an ice machine and a dog sled to give our bedroom a real Tundra vibe. On the other hand, my husband might take the Eskimo theme a bit too far – turning the thermostat below 50, sleeping in a Caribou parka, and offering to massage me with whale blubber oil.

I shuddered at the thought and stuffed the reindeer pelt under our bed.

A few days later, I found the hide spread out in the middle of our bedroom floor like a fresh kill. The dog took a few sniffs and resolved to stay at least two feet away from the strange flattened beast in case it might suddenly attack.

A couple times, I hid the pelt from my husband in hopes that he wouldn’t notice, but he always did, and put the wild animal skin right back in the middle of our bedroom floor. If I tried to reason with him, he declared quite simply, “I like it,” and would not discuss the matter further.

While there have been many battles worth fighting in our marriage, I knew that this was not one of them. In my husband’s travels with the Navy, he has brought home countless souvenirs and memorabilia. Some items were special enough to become a permanent part of our home décor. Others had only a short time on display, before being relegated to a cardboard box in the garage.

There was the airplane propeller, the English cricket bat, the Yemeni sword, the German beer stein, the Middle Eastern vase, the Norwegian whale bone, the Korean chess set, dozens of Navy plaques and framed certificates, and scores of African items – wildebeest horns, warthog tusks, bowls, woven baskets, tribal warrior figures, Masai clubs, fertility masks, bongos, and carved wooden animals.

For husbands like mine, these items become more than just clunky, dust-gathering, tacky souvenirs. The items represent their athletic superiority, power, virility, and youth. Despite the fact that my husband has no sober memory of its purchase, that reindeer pelt is his manhood splayed out on our bedroom floor for the whole world to see.

I wouldn’t want to take away my husband’s manhood just because it doesn’t match the bedspread. And besides, the reindeer pelt reminds me a little of my husband – it doesn’t say much, lays around a lot, and sheds.

An edited version of this essay was published in the August 2012 issue of Military Spouse magazine as my new column, “Things that drive us CRAZY! ” This is the uncut original version, but if you missed the August issue, here’s my column as a PDF: MSMAugColumn

Don’t forget to pick up the September issue of Military Spouse magazine, where I am highlighted as a contributor, and my column “Things that drive us CRAZY!” tells a funny story of the challenges milspouses face when trying to find employment.

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