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Tokens of Love

“Here, open it once the bus is gone.”

I noticed he didn’t say, “once I am gone,” which would have an entirely different meaning to us as a military couple, and put the small box in my pocket.

He leaned in for one last bittersweet kiss and I desperately tried to memorize his scent, the feel of his freshly shaven cheek, the look in his eyes. Then, reluctantly pulling away, he reminded me, “No crying,” and climbed the stairs onto the bus that would take him on the first leg of his journey to Iraq.

Once the bus was out of sight, I hugged the sobbing spouses and fought back my own tears. Beginning the lonely walk back to my car, I thought about all the times I would now be alone. Climbing into the driver’s seat, usually his seat, I shut the door.

I removed the neatly wrapped gift from my pocket and tugged on the bow. Inside was a shiny custom Italian charm bracelet, personalized with his unit crest, our names, our anniversary date, a dragonfly to remember our nature walks, and so many others. That’s when the waterworks started, when I saw the beautiful jewelry with personalization, made just for me.

That my macho soldier had personally selected each charm just for me so that I would have a gift to hold onto when I could not reach out to him.

Before riding off into battle, medieval knights used to exchange tokens with their lady loves… and now I know why. Along with a t-shirt of his I never washed, our wedding photograph, and the note inside the box, that bracelet became one of my most treasured possessions.

The note?

It read: “Until I return, may this bracelet encircle your wrist the way I hold you in my heart.”

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Actonia PR Agency. All words and ideas are my own.

Photo by Breanna Walton

Deployment Care Package Ideas

Here are some great care package ideas from a fabulous reader, and Facebook fan, Heather E. Sosa:


Involve the Kids

If you have kids, you could have them trace each of their hands on the outside of each of the care package and write their names inside with the date so your soldier can watch them grow every time s/he gets a box. Or you could do the same on a piece of cardstock paper so s/he can collect them throughout the year. Let your kids color their hands with crayons or markers.

New Year’s Care Package Idea

Decorate a box with confetti inside, use glue on the inside of the box and sprinkle glitter, confetti, and ribbons.

Inside: Some party whistles, streamers, horns, Plastic champagne glasses, Sparkling cider (if you package it well, cover with bubble wrap and put inside a plastic bag in case it breaks during shipping), vacuum packaged cheese and crackers, or chips, a cigar, some glow sticks or LED light necklaces.

Valentine’s Day Care Package Idea

Decorate the inside of the box with red or pink paper, glitter, streamers. You could make lipstick kisses on the outside of the box, but just make sure not to use a glossy type of lip shine or lipstick, so it won’t get smeared through postage handling.

Inside: Write a personalized poem just for your soldier. Add an assortment of chocolates, candy hearts, and pictures of you and your kids. You can send a small stuffed animal (remember s/he has to travel home with things you send, so try to keep it to a minimum). A white pillow with a picture of you and/or the kids ironed on so he can sleep with you all every night. If you add perfume to anything, put it in a zip lock baggie to preserve the smell. Make a list of things you love about your soldier. I sent my husband a pair of black boxer shorts with red hearts all over them and I made him my own pairs of underwear. I bought a plain white undies and a pair of white boxer briefs and decorated them myself with glitter glue pens and sent those. I wrote “Property of Mrs. Sosa” on his undies, and “Property of Mr. Sosa” on my undies. I also drew a padlock with glitter. Sorry if that sounds corny. Haha.

Saint Patrick’s Day Care Package Idea:

Decorate the inside of the box with green paper, glitter, etc. Draw shamrocks on the outside of the box.

Inside: Fill with anything and everything green. Green beaded necklaces, (non alcoholic beer if you package well like the champagne bottle above). Confetti poppers, any green candy you can find, one of those plastic St. Patty’s day hats or those shamrock shaped sunglasses.

[I once included mini bars of “Irish Spring” –ed.]

Easter:

Decorate the inside of the box with pastel colors and fill with Easter grass.

Inside: Send your soldier a box full of plastic eggs with candies or special gifts inside, including pictures, notes, and toys. A small stuffed bunny plush that sings a song. And any of their favorite Easter candies, like marshmallow peeps, or jelly beans.

Memorial Day and Mother’s Day:

Decorate the inside of the box with American flags and flowers (drawn on the inside to save money).

Inside: Fill with different pictures of you and/or your kids. Take pictures of your mommy/daddy duties and activities with the kids. Maybe send a list of all the things he gets to do FOR YOU when he gets back since he missed Mother’s Day. You could include Tea bags, and snacks.

Father’s Day:

Have a T-Shirt designed/made with a picture of the kids on the front and back and have it say “World’s Greatest Dad” or “#1 Dad” or whatever you’d like it to say. Include a list of the things you will do FOR HIM when he gets back. Send him his favorite snacks, more pictures, maybe something memorable like a gift with “1st Father’s Day” on it. I’m sure you can get something engraved for him.

Independence Day:

Decorate the inside of the box red, white and blue, with confetti, streamers, etc. (I like those balloon weights with the shiny stuff sticking up…)

Inside: Send him red, white and blue candies, like AIR HEADS (if they still have those around) Red/white/blue beaded necklaces, Send some popcorn packets and cigar, and party poppers, glow sticks, LED lighted necklaces again. Include you and/or your kids dressed in red/white/blue clothes and edit on Photoshop with a Happy 4th of July border.

Halloween:

Decorate the inside of the box orange, black, and purple.

Inside: Fill with cotton spider webs, and plastic spiders, rats, and skeletons. Include candies, suckers, (I sent my husband a small pumpkin that I drew a face carving with permanent marker). Color scary ghosts, pumpkins, haunted house, etc on the outside of the box. Include pictures of you and/or your kids in their Halloween costumes (if they don’t have them yet, since you’ll be sending this box before Halloween to make sure it gets there on time, include pictures of them from last year’s costumes).

Thanksgiving:

Have your kids trace their hand on brown construction paper and let them glue orange and yellow feathers on the fingers to make turkeys. Send him those prepackages summer sausages, cheese and crackers. Peanuts, cashews, popcorn, or peanut brittle. You could also send him some Turkey Vienna sausages in a can. More sparkling cider if it’s packaged well. A list of all the things you are thankful for. A Thanksgiving/Fall smelling candle for a scent of “home”. You could throw a few Fall leaves from where you live, in the box to give him a piece of home too.

Christmas (MY FAVORITE):

Send a small Christmas tree (you can find small decoration types at Walmart or a local Craft Store). Send mini shatter-proof ornaments and garland. Wrap small presents in small gift boxes to give him a miniature Christmas where he is. I got my a Christmas ornament that said “Our First Christmas 2008”, they have new ones every year. Send pictures of you and/or the kids. Pictures of his family maybe holding banners or posters saying Merry Christmas We Miss You on it. You could line the box with cotton to look like snow underneath everything. You could include Hot chocolate or hot apple cider packets in a small Christmas stocking.

If you have kids, you could have them trace each of their hands on the outside of each of the boxes and write their names inside and the date so he can watch them grow every time he gets a box. Or you could do the same on a piece of cardstock paper so he can collect them throughout the year. Let your kids color their hands with crayons or markers.

I also made Fortune Cookies at home and made my own fortunes inside. It was really somewhat tricky to make them because you have to mold them after cooking them, but when they are still soft you put the fortune inside and fold it before it hardens. Basically making one at a time.

Some of the things I sent to my husband on a regular basis, included:

  • Cheetos
  • Pringles
  • Bags of Chips
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Vienna Sausages
  • Non-Frozen Microwaveable Dinners
  • Popcorn packets
  • Top Ramen Noodles
  • Yahoo! Chocolate Milk Boxes
  • Sodas/Energy Drinks (Packaged well)
  • Powdered Water Flavoring (like gatorade, crystal light, koolaids)
  • Chocolate Puddings
  • Candy Necklaces/Bracelets
  • Gum/Mints
  • Easy Mac-n-Cheese packets
  • Beef Jerkey
  • Granola Bars
  • Energy/Protein Bars
  • Any kinds of candy that won’t melt

Birthday:

For my husband’s Birthday, I made him a picture of my body spelling out HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

In every box I would send a different colored balloon. Blow up a balloon and hold the air in with your fingers, then use a permanent marker and write him a letter on the balloon. Then deflate and put it in the box. Tell him he has to blow up the balloon to read the letter.

You can make him a care package for his birthday, including balloons and confetti, party hats for him and his friends, party poppers, and whichever gift you’d like to give him wrapped like a real present.

As for non food items, depending on what he has access to, you can send:

  • Deck of cards
  • small board games or hand held electronic games
  • Word search of crossword puzzle books
  • Anything related to his favorite sports teams (I sent my husband a small nerf basketball hoop for his wall in his choo)
  • Air Fresheners
  • Photo albums
  • Disposable cameras for him to take pictures and send back for you to develop and be surprised
  • Socks
  • Razor Heads
  • Underwear
  • His favorite soap


Heather E. Sosa has been an Army wife since May of 2008 and is now an Army veteran herself. With her husband Joel, she has a daughter named Emmalynn who will be 1, in July of 2011.

(Photo by Mark Abueg)

Can a Military Spouse Pursue a Professional Career? (Ask Molly)

Dear Molly,

My boyfriend is currently in an ROTC battalion. He won’t be commissioned until 2013. He has, in the past couple months, begun to talk about getting married. He’s 24 and I’m 20. We currently have a long distance relationship because we go to school about 3 hours apart. With all of my extracurriculers and his work/ROTC we’ve been seeing each other once, maybe twice, a month since we started dating last year. This has forced us to talk a lot more than most couples our age and he is my best friend without a doubt. I love him and agree with him that we will possibly be married in the future. The problem is, I can’t stand the uncertainty of the Army. We are waiting for him to get a waiver so he can go to basic this summer (too many traffic tickets). It’s been over a month since he went to MEPs and they still haven’t contacted him either way. There’s no telling where he will be in 4 years when I graduate from grad school. How do military wives deal with their own careers? After I’m married, I want to live with him. I want to be able to be with him as much as possible and I’m willing to live on base and raise my kids on base. But, are there generally job opportunities for spouses near bases? I plan on getting a Masters of Public Policy and be research oriented, but some of my friends said that the only jobs you could get would be minimum wage type jobs. Eventually, he is going to retire and I will be able to settle into a professorship at a university somewhere. I guess my main problem is the uncertainty the Army brings to MY dreams, plans, and goals. It seems to amplify the normal problem that almost engaged/engaged/newly married couples go through in synthesizing two lives into one. Do you have any advice, other than talking about it because we do, for us?

Thanks!

Dear Reader,

Uncertainty is a fact of military life.

A military spouse may have a career but it may require a certain degree of flexibility and creativity.

Some of the variables that will affect your job prospects are unknowable: where he is posted, at what point he is deployed, and how long it will be before you move again.

There are other considerations that are more under his and your control but may shift over time: what his career goals are in the military, what your short-term and long-term career goals are, and at what point you would like to start a family.

Every post is different. There are some where the job market is abysmal and there are others where there may be opportunities to someone in your field. When I was in Texas, there were many spouses who found various medical and administrative jobs at several nearby hospitals. You might even find a job with the military and will receive some preference in applying for federal jobs as a spouse.

I am not familiar with the types of institutions that hire people to do public policy research. I would imagine most “think tanks” are based out of Washington, DC, but there are probably national charities, public service institutions, school districts, and government offices near most posts. You might not find your ideal job at each location but you can probably find something that makes use of your skill set and education in many places.

Another option is a consulting or freelance position that enables you to telecommute. Although I was able to re-certify as a classroom teacher each time I moved, I decided it made more sense to consult and write curriculum. This way, I had continuity no matter when and where I moved and I had the perfect job for when we started our family. Plus, I maintained my qualifications in my career field and gained experience.

There are career fairs, virtual and face-to-face, online web portals, and state programs in many locations (Texas had a great one) dedicated to helping military spouses further their careers. So, there is help available. I am actually doing some research right now and plan to write a post about some of these resources.  In the meantime, here are some links that may be helpful for military spouses on the job hunt or assessing their career path:

You might also decide if you receive an assignment in an area that makes it difficult to pursue your career that it is a good time to try to publish your own papers, volunteer to keep up your credentials, and/or start your family. In other words, you can pursue a path parallel to your career goals, while fulfilling personal and family goals. Then, once you are in a better position personally and geographically, you are still more or less on-track.

Yes, you can continue to pursue a professional career. However, the path may have a few more twists.

Hope this helped!


“Ask Molly” represents only my opinion and the comments of readers represent their opinions. I draw upon my training as a Family Readiness Group leader, my own experience and that of those I know, and any research I found on the Internet. I am not a trained counselor. Have a question? Send questions to askmolly [at] armywiveslives [dot] com.