Deployment, Navy Life 101

8 Great Boat Email Tips From the Experts: YOU!

Sometimes I feel like an old bird in the Navy world. I was already married with two babies on 9/11.  I remember when the FRG was still actually called the Wives Club, and of course, I remember when the only communication I had with my sailor during deployment was a honeygram. Fifty empty squares on a page to fill with every thought I had to share with my sailor and only six times per patrol. It wasn’t great, but we made it work.

So when I complain about boat email, I do understand that it’s better than what we used to have, buuuut it sure ain’t a heart-to-heart phone call, amiright? Boat email definitely has its issues, like not always going through or sometimes sending two or three times, but there have to be ways to make it work for you. I recently found out our shore duty orders became “just one more patrol” so I figured I wanted to make the best of it. I asked the experts (YOU GUYS!), and here are 8 Great Boat Email Tips From the Experts: YOU!

Boat email may not be entirely reliable, but it's all we've got on subs, right? Here are 8 Great Boat Email Tips From the Experts: YOU!

Do you know each other’s email addresses? It may sound silly, but make sure you know his correct boat email address before he leaves. (HINT: It’s not the same as his navy.mil address.) Also make sure he knows your current email address. I once changed emails during offcrew and forgot to share that with my sailor right away. YIKES! When email is all you’ve got, make sure you’re doing it right!

Discuss your expectations. Do you want an email every day? Is that something he is even able commit to? How often does he expect you to sit down and write to him? Make sure each of you knows what to expect.

Reader Kelly says: We also have an agreement on how often we are writing to each other and an understanding of priorities when it comes to writing- we had very different expectations starting out and had to have a good talk about it after a patrol of very few emails on his end.

Ask if there will be “quiet times” when he can’t email you and a guesstimate of time that will last. We’ve gone over 30 days with zero communication in the past, and it makes things much easier if you’re at least halfway expecting it.

Number them. Pretty much all the experts say to number your emails. Sometimes emails just don’t make it to the boat, and that can cause some interesting misunderstandings.

Boat email tips from the experts

And use those numbered email to your advantage in later emails! Seriously, 15 deployments in, and this tip blew my mind! Reader Hannah says, “When replying to an email from your sailor, start the paragraph with Re: #4 (for example). I cant tell you how many miscommunications this has saved my sailor and I!”

Date your emails. Or maybe don’t. Some folks said this was an OPSEC no-no. Others did it with no problem. The lesson here? Maybe talk to your Ombudsman and find out the specific rules about email at your Command.

Give ’em something to laugh about. Don’t forget to share the everyday silliness that they are missing.

Reader Danielle shares: I try to always send something happy or funny the kids did because I want him to laugh. Like when our daughter told my parents her father had a big something and I got lectured about it being time to bathe the kids separately and make sure day closes the bathroom door.

And reader Nichole adds: I always make funny comments in the subject line and base my emails off that. I also have a funny saying at the end when I put who it’s from. Such as your crazy wife, annoyed wife, loving wife etc…

Most importantly keep a good sense of humor about this better-than-honeygrams but still flawed system. 

Cartoon Character of mail is happy

Boat email is a blessing, I know. Otherwise us sub gals would have no way to talk to our sailors at all! But since it is a slightly flawed system, it helps to have tips from the experts to make the very best of it!

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Navy Life 101

{FIVE} Easy Ways to Save Money On Your Base

For me, a recurring theme in 2015 is saving money. Not only will my Sailor be heading to shore duty (which means we’ll lose that nice little chunk of change called Sea pay), but we are also staring down the barrel of sending our oldest daughter to college in the very near future so I’m looking for every possible way to tighten our belts, and so far I’ve found some of the easiest and most fun just behind the gates of our base!

The Commissary is an easy call, but do you know about these other ways to save money on your base?

{ONE} Family Fun … 

I’m totally guilty of not taking advantage of on base entertainment in the past, but these days I’m all about it! On my local base I can take my kids to the free Saturday kids movie, bowl with my whole family for an hour for six bucks on the first Sunday of each month, or swim for hours at the pool with my whole family for about six dollars. There are so many great deals in entertainment on my base, it’s almost crazy to think of spending those dollars anywhere out in town!

{TWO} Groceries …

You may not agree, but I almost ALWAYS save money at the commissary. I’ve done the price comparison, and the commissary came back the hands down winner. I won’t lie and say I do ALL my grocery shopping there, but I easily spend 90% of our grocery budget at the commissary for the amazing savings!

{THREE} Birthday parties …

I love throwing parties for my kids’ birthdays, but I hate how expensive it’s getting! Some local venues charge $200-300 just for the space and without including cake, drinks, or decorations. Not to mention that after buying all that you still need to buy presents! Kids’ birthday parties can be incredibly expensive, but there are great options on base from pool parties to bowling parties to really inexpensive movie theater parties. Depending on your party size, you could easily save $100-150 just on the venue!

{FOUR} Exercise for free!

I’m not exactly a gym rat, and honestly my favorite form of exercise is running which I don’t need any facility for at all. I do however live in the Pacific Northwest, and it does rain here pretty often. (Shocking! I know!) On those days I can take my running inside to the treadmill, and my gym membership comes at my favorites price: FREE! Our gym has all kinds of weights and machines as well as dozens of free or very cheap classes and also offers free consultations with trainers to help you meet your fitness goals!

{FIVE} Learn something!

I am always amazed at the classes offered for free on base. Compass is obviously my favorite (ask me why! please!), but Fleet and Family and the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society also offer amazing classes with topics ranging from budgeting to parenting to resume-writing. If you’re looking to improve yourself, Fleet and Family is a great place to start!

I’m looking to save money in a big way in 2015, but I don’t want to be miserable doing it. Having these base resources to help me along and give my family some free or really cheap alternatives to the out-in-town prices is amazing!

Does your family use the base resources available? What’s your favorite way to save money on base?

 

Deployment, Navy Life 101, navy spouse

5 Easy Tips for the Best Halfway Box Ever

Josh is working on his fifteenth submarine patrol, and I’ve sent him a halfway  every single time. You know what that means, right? Fifteen times I’ve stressed over what candy to send, what to say in a letter, and what else can I cram in one box. You only get one shot at a halfway box so you want it to be perfect, right? Well, it can be a lot easier than you think! Here are my 5 Easy Tips for an AWESOME Halfway Box!

Never stress over halfway boxes again! 5 easy tips!

{ONE} Choose a theme.

This could be holiday-related, seasonal, a song lyric, or just about anything. Really the sky’s the limit, but choosing just one will give you a little direction when you’re shopping for goodies!

Can’t decide on a theme? Check out this list from The Military Wife and Mom.

{TWO} Include his (or her) favorite treat.

My sailor always asks for Werther’s candy and Lifesavers in his halfway box, but I also know he loves Jelly Bellies so I send some of those as well. I also try to send a few oddball treats, things he wouldn’t ask for but will definitely love. For Josh that means mini-chocolate donuts or sunflowers seeds.

{THREE} A picture’s worth a thousand words

I love sending photos in care packages that will remind my sailor of home. I try to send a mix of our old favorites and a few that he’s never seen before. I’ve sent pictures from our favorite vacations, fun family memories, and awesome adventures. I think it gives him something else to think about other than the boat, the boat, and the boat.

{FOUR} Writing letters to the future

Letters are the absolute hardest part of any halfway box I make because on submarines we pack and send our halfway boxes down the hatch before the boat ever pulls away from the pier. It often feels like everything I want to say to him in letters, gets said before he leaves, and I have nothing new to write.

Here’s the trick: write it anyways.  Once when I had spent a whole day trying to write letters for a care package, I complained to Josh just how HARD it is to write letters right now for him to read months later. “By the time you open these letters, you’ll already know every single thing I’ve written down!”

His response, “So. I like it because YOU write.”

Heart melt. Enough said.

For a some great letter topics, check out this post from Jo, My Gosh, “102+ Open When Letter Topics.”

{FIVE} Still not sure what to pack? ASK him.

It took me YEARS to figure this out. I’d send random things that I thought he would like, that I thought would amuse him, that I would have liked in a care package … only to have so many of the items to come right back home to me. Finally one day I just said, “I give up! You don’t like the stuff I send you so what the hell do you want in a halfway box?!?”

“I like letters and pictures. Magazines are great because I don’t have time to read books usually. And hard candy! I always run out of hard candy!”

That statement made creating halfway boxes TEN MILLION times easier. I asked, he answered. Why didn’t I think of this years ago!

The most important thing to remember when packing your sailor’s halfway box is that you creating a package for someone you love to celebrate that fact that he (or she) is halfway home! He’s been gone a long time, misses you as much as you miss him, and will likely LOVE just about anything in that box that comes straight from your heart!

What your favorite things to pack in a halfway box? Any crazy funny themes you’d like to share?

 

navy spouse

MilSpouse Spotlights: Meet Lora!

In today’s installment of MilSpouse Spotlights, I’m bringing you my friend Lora, an Independent Beauty Consultant for Mary Kay Cosmetics. Many military spouses turn to sales-type businesses to earn some extra cash, but how many do you know that have been successful for over a decade! Here’s Lora and her story …

MilSpouse Spotlights: Lora Thompson

Tell me a little about you!

My name is Lora Thompson.  I am originally from Memphis, TN.  I currently live in Silverdale, WA, which  is our third duty station.  I have two beautiful daughters.  Lilly is six, and Grace is two.

What’s your military story?

I have been married to my husband Noel for 11 years.  We met in college.  He joined the Navy in April 2002, and we were married in December of 2003.

Tell me about your business.

I am an Independent Beauty Consultant with Mary Kay Cosmetics.  I started my business 11 years ago in January 2004.  It has been an incredible journey!  I started as a newly married Navy spouse with no children.  We lived in Kingsland, GA.  I was teaching full time, but with my husband deploying I wanted something to occupy my free time and help me to meet people.  Since then, we moved to Connecticut, where we had our first child.  I became a stay-at-home mom, but my Mary Kay business allowed me time to get out of the house and be around adults while earning an income.  We then moved to Washington, where we had our youngest daughter.  I love the flexibility that my Mary Kay business gives me.  I have met many amazing women along the journey.

What makes you passionate about your business?

I am passionate about helping women feel better about themselves, whether it is fixing skin problems or learning how to apply makeup.  I also love teaching and training new consultants, and helping other women achieve their goals.

What led you to become a business owner instead of working for someone else?

I originally came into Mary Kay for the product discount and to meet women.  Now that I have children, I have stayed with it because it allows me to stay home with my kids while still earning an income.

If you could give a milspouse looking to start his or her own business one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t let negativity and fear stop you from making your dreams come true.  If you can believe it, you can achieve it!

lt2

I love it … IloveitIloveitIloveit! Stories of military spouses rocking family, business, and this crazy lifestyle make me so proud to be a Milspouse!

If you’d like to hear more about Lora’s business you can check her out at her website or on Facebook.

Milspouse Spotlights2If you are a MilSpouse and you’re rocking a business of your own, I’d LOVE to hear about it! Email me at jodi @ backonland . com for more information about being featured here at Back on Land in my ongoing QUEST to support Military Spouses!

 

Navy Life 101, navy spouse

10 IMPORTANT Tips for New Navy Spouses

Tonight I will have the pleasure of speaking to the families of the USS Kentucky FRG. They’ve requested Compass info and deployment tips, and to say I’m excited is like saying chocolate is kinda okay. I am super stoked! I’m told there will be a lot of brand new spouses there tonight so, Kentucky, these 10 IMPORTANT Tips for New Navy Spouses are dedicated to you!

10 IMPORTANT Tips for New Navy Spouses: Must know information for any new Navy spouse! Must read! Must share!

Go to Compass NOW!

In my completely biased and un-humble opinion, Compass is THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO NAVY SPOUSES. In this FREE three-day class you’ll learn a lifetime of information and tips for navigating Navy life, and you’ll do it in a friendly environment surrounded by other spouses who either are, will, or already have gone through all the things you’re dealing with right now. Go sign up! Right now! Seriously, it’s more important than this blog post. Go there, sign up, and come back … I’ll wait! 😉

Get to know your base!

Find Fleet and Family. Locate Legal. Navigate to NMCRS. There are so many resources on base available to Navy spouses, but you have to seek them out to use them! Beyond the Commissary and the NEX, there are people who want to help you find a job, become a better parent, go back to school, create a budget, find your spirituality, and so much much. If you have a need, odds are there is someone on base who is trained to help you!

Prepare to circle the wagons!

You need friends … Here. Where you are right now. Who understand what you’re going through at this moment in your life. Being a Navy spouse can make you feel like you’re alone, but you aren’t. There are thousands of spouses just on your base who know what you’re going through; you just have to find your tribe! Meet fellow boat spouses. Talk to your neighbors. Chat up playgroup moms, soccer dads, and co-workers. There will come a time in your life when you need support. Create your support network now so you can have that help and BE that help when those times show up.

Be prepared!

You’ve heard of Murphy’s Law, right? “Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Well, I like to take that one step further and say, “Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong … as soon as your sailor deploys!” [Tweet “”Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong … as soon as your sailor deploys!”@back_on_land”] I call it Subspouse Law, and it never fails. As soon as the boat pulls away from the pier, a pipe bursts, a tire goes flat, or a kid falls off the monkey bars. Your best defense is to be prepared. Get all the paperwork. Create exhaustive contacts lists. Meet and get to know your Ombudsman! The more you are ready for everything, the less likely it will all take you by surprise.

Understand the reality. Adjust your Expectations.

Whether your sailor is on shore or sea duty, in port or out to sea, you have to adjust your expectations to fit the your own reality. I’ve watched disappointing homecomings, experienced deployments far harder than I ever bargained for, and, to be honest, nearly gave up on my marriage during an incredible rough period on SHORE DUTY. This life is nothing like the 9-to-5, home every weekend world our civilian family counterparts live in. Understanding the reality and communicating your expectations with your spouse are CRUCIAL in this world.

Meet the Ombud

Meet her. Not on the phone. Not via text or email. Face to face. Know her name. Save her phone number in your contacts. Get her email, her website, and her official Facebook page. Your Ombudsman can be a huge help to you, in finding resources, in receiving information, and in times of crisis. BUT! You have to know who to ask, and it’s always best to meet her (or him) before you’re in the midst of an emergency!

Check out the FRG

The families I’ll be meeting tonight clearly have this one down, but it’s my list so I’ll list what I want to. I know that sometimes FRGs have a bad reputation, but I think the vast majority are pretty great. Regardless there’s only one GOOD way to find out. Give it a try for yourself. You might find a wonderful group of families just trying to make their way through deployments just like you. If that’s not what you find? Well, a friend of mine one told me, “A bad situation is God’s way of showing you a chance to make a change!”

Find your own thing.

It is too easy to get wrapped up in all things sailor-related, but it’s not healthy because when your sailor deploys, well, now what? You need your own identity outside of “Navy spouse.” Is it a new job or continuing a career? Volunteer work? Are you the ultimate soccer mom? An avid reader in an awesome book club? You don’t have to be a tenured business professional or seeking an MBA. You just need to have something you love, that makes you happy, on your own.

Work on your marriage. Actively. Every day.

Marriage is tough regardless of the military, but toss in a deployment, a refit schedule, or the oh-so-lovely reintegration process, and it can seem impossible! But it isn’t. Next month my sailor and I will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary! I’m so excited, but I’ll be honest … our 15+ years together haven’t been without some pretty terrible lows. If your base offers marriage counselling, take it. If there are CREDO retreats, use them. If you have a trusted preacher or chaplain, talk to them. Learn to communicate. Learn how to fight. Creating a lasting marriage takes work every single day.

Ask for help.

What do you mean ask for help? You’ve just told me everything I need to know, Jodi, haven’t you?!? No, no, and maybe? But no. The previous nine tips are good ones if I do say so myself, but the most important thing you can do today is ask for help. When you are preparing for a deployment, ask someone who knows what are the best ways to prepare. When your sailor has returned and you are burned out from solo parenting, ask him for help. When you are mid-deployment and you feel like you are drowning, ASK FOR HELP! There are so many people and professionals waiting to help you have the best Navy life possibly, but YOU have to ask for help!

Creating a life in the Navy is just plain different than creating any other life. There’s a new language, strange customs, and a work schedule that quite literally never stops! But it’s a good life, a great life even, that we are so lucky to be able to experience. Spend the time to learn the ropes and get the most out it!

If you’re new to this lifestyle, what challenges are you facing? What do you need to “ask for help” about? If you’re a little more salty, what advice would you give to new spouse? Add your sage words in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Deployment, navy spouse

Dear Refit, You’re a Bitch.

Dear Refit,

Everything was going along just fine until you showed up. You’re a bitch, and I don’t like you.

white frame for text and email icon

I wish you could be a little more like Offcrew. Offcrew is dependable. She brings my sailor home everyday, mostly on time, often with a smile on his face! You keep my husband out late and overnight on a regular basis, and whatever you do when you’re with him, you bring him home exhausted and grumpy.

Offcrew loves that I like to plan ahead! Whether it’s a vacation, a long weekend, or even a simple family dinner, Offcrew gets right on board and makes sure my sailor shows up on time! You seem to laugh at my plans and get your kicks out of mucking them up. It’s just plain rude.

Offcrew loves date nights! She encourages me to plan plenty of them. Perhaps she knows that once you come along, you’ll ruin those plans, too. Thank goodness for Offcrew, or I’d never see my man awake!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not much of a fan of Deployment either. Deployment takes my sailor completely away from me, messes with my head when I don’t hear from him, and makes all his clothes smell like gym socks and farts, but at least Deployment is honest. Deployment says, “I’m coming. I’m taking him. I’ll bring him back later.” Simple as that. I can at least appreciate her honesty.

Not you. You make him miss dinner, and you work him so hard he’s asleep two minutes after he eats. You tease me with free weekends that turn into Working Saturdays and phone calls at all hours.  And you’re freaking clingy! Let go already! I may not love it, but Deployment can’t pass if it never gets to begin!!!

Oh, I know what you’re going to say. “But I’m important! Deployment wouldn’t stand a chance without me!” It’s true, but you just don’t handle it very nicely.

“The boat (you know, his OTHER bride) needs work, and it always falls on me, Refit, to finish it.” I get that, too. You have to work hard, but couldn’t you at least TRY to keep somewhat of a schedule?

“A schedule? A schedule?!? I’m SO sorry I can’t schedule the maintenance of a multi-billion dollar nuclear warship around your steak kabobs!” Oh, now you’re just being nasty!

Whatever, Refit, you can suck it. You cause arguments I don’t want to have. You’re a strain on my marriage, and I generally think you stink. No one likes you so please stay away!!!

Yours,

Jodi

PS. Tell your little friend Reintegration to piss off, too. I don’t like her either.

 

 

Navy Life 101, navy spouse

48 Need-to-Know Terms For Navy Spouses

Your sailor comes home from a long duty day in a bit of a grumpy mood, and, of course, loving wife that you are you smile and say, “How was your day, dear?”

He grimaces.

“I showed up late for muster, and the Section Leader put us Port and Starboard. I had to field day in between watches all day, and then I got stuck with the mid watch. My relief was late for turnover, and breakfast was crap. All I’ve had to eat was some geedunk. Damn, what a crappy day!”

Didya get all that? No? Well, why ever not?

Perhaps because you speak the English, and your sailor has slipped into NavySpeak, the language taught early and often to our sailors but rarely shared explicitly with the spouses. Well, today’s your lucky day!

48 Need-to-Know Terms for Navy Spouses @Back on Land. Communication is key in any marriage but even more so when your other half is gone most of the time! Make an effort to "speak his language!"
Some of you might be thinking, “I’m not in the Navy! I don’t need to learn what this stuff means!” 

I couldn’t disagree more.

Communication is key in any marriage, but it becomes even more important when your other half spends half your marriage on a ship or boat far, far away! These acronyms and all that crazy slang are a part of your sailor’s vernacular no matter what, and it’s in everyone’s best interest if you can keep up with the conversation!

[Tweet “Communication is key in any marriage, but it becomes even more important when your other half spends half your marriage on a ship or boat far, far away! @back_on-land”]

Not to mention the fact that while you may not be IN the Navy, you do live in the world of the Navy! Do you live on base? Have you ever been to PSD? Need to communicate with Tri-Care? Arranging a move? Yeah … in each of those instances you will be spoken to by others who speak that crazy Navy language you don’t think you need to learn!

I’m not saying you need to study the list and begin peppering every conversation with your new found knowledge …

No ... just no.
No … just no.

 

I’m just saying that committing a few simple words and abbreviations to memory NOW can save you a lot of trouble LATER!

And just for a little fun …

The Navy also has a good bit of terminology that’s just straight silly. Can you define these goofy words in the comments?

Geedunk, Scuttlebutt, Balls to the Wall, Goat Locker,
Bug Juice, Skylarking, Wetting Down