Monday, March 31, 2014

The Best of the Month: MARCH



Each month, I'm collecting my favorite posts from around the internet and on the last day of the month, I'll be sharing them here.  Some of these are posts that I deeply resonate with and others are ones that made me think or reconsider.  I'll also be sharing my favorite thing I've written this month.


CHRISTIANITY

Zack Hunt at The American Jesus: Complementarianism: The Church's Segregation Problem


"The language may be slightly – and only slightly – different, but at its core complementarianism is little more than the church’s sanctified version of Jim Crow. 
Like its segregationist forefather, complementarianism is a deceptively eloquent way to keep one group in power (men), while marginalizing another (women) based on an accident of birth (genitals). Where once minorities were “separate, but equal,” now women are “equal, but different.” It’s segregation in the name of Jesus. In the name of the very Christ who shattered the gender divide, women are kept separate from the pulpit, separate from leadership in the church, and separate from leadership in the home."

MILITARY

Kim at She Is Fierce: War is Over (And I'm Not Ready To Reflect)

 "You might tell me of the cost of the war, and how it wasn't worth the lives 
And you will look at me with pity, and you will tell me that I must be so grateful to know he doesn't have to go again. 
You may tell me all of this not to be hurtful, but because you assume it must be true. 
And I won't tell you that you are wrong, because what you think I should feel makes more sense than what I do. 
I will assume, because I am just as set in my thoughts and ways as everyone else, that you don't actually want to hear what it really feels like. 
It really feels like defensiveness. 
Because every time the news reports on how useless it all was, well it seems like that is somehow a personal attack on what my family gave up, which was a tiny sacrifice compared to what other families lost."

PARENTING

Sarah Bessey: In which I don't mind if my tinies see me on the computer


"I don’t feel guilty taking them along when we get groceries or pay bills or drop off library books or help others or any other of the chores and tasks and work that goes into running this little family. 
Maybe my prairie kid work ethic is showing. My grandpa raised our clan to know that truth: work is honourable.Now I’ve rounded that out with the belief that work is also a gift from God, part of our heritage as co-creators with God. Particularly when our work – paid or unpaid – is personally fulfilling, an act of creativity or beauty or usefulness. What a gift to be able to work! 
So, is it a shameful thing for a mother to work on the computer while her children are present? Nope. 
Not only is it not damaging to my tinies to see me – gasp! – working on the computer while they’re here, I believe it’s downright good for them."
RECIPE

Christy at The Girl Who Ate Everything: Swig Sugar Cookies

(Technically these were posted in February, but I didn't make them until March.  Still, SO GOOD!)




WRITING:

Dorcas Cheng-Tozun at the Redbud Writers Guild Blog: Why Writing Terrifies Me - And How That's Changing My Life

"But for me, being a writer is also terrifying. And it is for that very reason that I believe God has called me into it. Like so many things in life, he is using this to both bless and transform me. In particular, he is challenging me to lay down three powerful idols that I have clung to for most of my life: people-pleasing, achievement, and perfectionism."

MY OWN WRITING:


"Churches preach the benefits of living in community, yet we somehow forget that living in true community is guaranteed to be messy and complicated. While we talk of authenticity, Church often remains a place where you can’t be honest. 
Church should be a place muddled with honesty and real-life messiness. And it should be a place where a shame-filled person can find relief. It should be a place where shame loses its power."

What was the best thing you read (or wrote!) this month?


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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Honesty in a Culture of Church Taboos



"Two pink lines. When my husband and I saw them, we imagined all of our plans and dreams fading away. First came anger and then, swiftly, relentlessly: shame.
I was pregnant.
To others, our situation looked ideal. We were young, relatively healthy, and my husband had a steady job with full benefits. And we had wanted children.
Just not yet.
Who could we talk to?
We recoiled from Church, feeling isolated by our lack of joy. We didn’t want to wound couples that were unable to conceive by voicing our disappointment over this baby, so we kept our mouths shut and our sorrows to ourselves."


Monday, March 24, 2014

So a post-evangelical walks into a Christian bookstore...





We left our Bibles at church one day, each thinking the other had grabbed them.  Our hands were full of the regular things (coats, a diaper bag, and a toddler clutching his coloring sheet) so we didn't realize we'd forgotten them at first.  Later, when we tried to retrieve them, they were nowhere to be found (this is one of the downfalls of church meeting in a middle school).

That bible had been special to me, a gift given by a sweet friend in college.  I didn't want to replace it because I wasn't ready to admit that it was actually gone.  But after a month or so, I gave in and told my husband with a sigh that I was ready to buy a new one.

"We'll need to find a Christian book store."  I was not enthusiastic.

"Look on Amazon." He suggested.

Caleb knows that I prefer to shop online for most things, so I know he was trying to be kind.  But you simply can't buy a Bible online.  At least, I can't.  I have to hold it in my hands and feel its weight.  I need to be sure there is enough room to underline and write in the margin.  I want to turn the tissue-papery pages and feel the leather cover.  (Of course, it is a luxury to be this choosy about a new Bible, but since I was paying money for one, I wanted it to be the right one)

As much as I dreaded it, I had to go to a Christian bookstore.

There was a time when I loved Christian bookstores.  It used to be my place.  After all, I love books and I love Jesus.  Surely this was the perfect combination.  But my faith has changed over the past few years.  I have fought with (and against) Christianity.  I have struggled to find a place in the Church and struggled even more at finding my voice within the Church.

Part of me wanted Christian bookstores to still be my place.  To go back to a time when Christianity was easy and comfortable.  When I didn't have so many questions.  Or (more accurately) when I just didn't ask those many questions.

But I went anyway, begrudgingly, but knowing that it would probably be good for me.

As I pushed open the doors I remembered what I disliked about these stores: it was Christianity commercialized.  Kitschy plates and figurines.  Bible verses snatched from their contexts to be embroidered on bags and t-shirts.  "Christian romance" books.  Little bits of Jesus packaged up into bland communion wafers.  Books and movies were tidily arranged, but I couldn't help but think of the Christian publishing world and how it isn't always so Christ-like.

I located the Bible section, and soon was opening up the boxes to find the right one.  A few aisles up, I noticed that they had a section for Catholic Bibles, unusual for these types of bookstores.  I nodded with silent approval.

Tired of my search for the right Bible, my toddler son raced down the aisles, his internal GPS lead him straight to the very thing I had tried so hard to avoid: the singing vegetables.

"Come on, kiddo!  Mama needs your help to pick one!" I said, scooping him into my arms.

As I carried him back, I kept an eye on the shelves we passed.  This bookstore surprised me.  All the kitsch was there (of course).  But so too were Bibles containing the Apocrypha.  And cards for the saints.  And toys that weren't outwardly religious.  The line between sacred and secular was just a little thinner here.  The lines separating denominations were less noticeable as well.  I liked that.

I said before that I struggled to find a place in the Church.  But that statement wasn't completely correct.  I am struggling to find a place in the Church.  Present tense.

I know when I'm not welcome somewhere and it feels easier to slink out the backdoor, unnoticed, than try to fit in.  I don't want to make a scene, so when I disagree with someone at Church, my natural tendency is to brood silently and then leave to find a place where I am accepted.  I haven't actually done that yet, but I have thought about it more than once.

That bookstore brought me a bit of hope, in a strange way.  Walking in, I was sure that the store was going to fit a narrow demographic of Christians.  A demographic that didn't include me.

Deep down, I think I'm waiting for someone to tell me that I'm not a Christian if I hold to certain beliefs.  Or at least not the right kind of Christian.  That seems like a silly, irrational fear, but, truthfully, many Churches and Christians would classify me that way.

The bookstore gave me hope because it was a small sign that evangelicalism might be changing.  That there might be room for ecumenism.  That there might be room for me.
 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

currently...



READING:



Love and Logic.  This book is written in a cheesy manner, which is annoying, but we agree with most of this parenting method and really like the focus on training your child to make their own decisions.  I think I'm going to be reading and re-reading and re-reading for the next few years until we get out of this toddler stage.


SIPPING:



Dirty Cokes.  Oh man.  Addicting.

Coke, coconut syrup and fresh limes.  Thankfully my sugar-fast from Lent has slowed down my intake a bit.  Now I can only drink these on Sundays.


LISTENING TO:



All Sons and Daughters Live.  As someone who doesn't like Christian music and doesn't like live recordings, I was shocked that I liked this album.  But I do: I love it.  I listen to it over and over again. And usually Hadden sings along from the back seat.


ANTICIPATING:



A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness.  My dear friend Marlena Graves' book releases on June 17th and I've already pre-ordered it!  She is one of the wisest and kindest people I know (a wonderful combination) and I can't wait to read her book!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Guest Post: My Story of Resilience


For the past two days I've been sharing about the Offutt Spouse Resilience program here at our base.  The first day I wrote about the bathtub of emotions and the second day I shared how resilience was like pulling the plug on that bathtub.  

Today I have one last post about resilience by Aimee Salter, who is one of the Spouse Resilience Training Assistants (RTA) at Offutt AFB.  

Aimee has been affiliated with the Air Force for 15 years, both as an active duty member and as a spouse.  She currently serves as the Key Spouse for the 1ACCS.  Aimee has a background in behavioral science and holds a Master's of Science in Criminal Justice and Behavior Analysis.  In addition to serving as an RTA and a Key Spouse, Aimee volunteers as a Victim Advocate for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence and also as the Vice President of the Parent-Teacher Organization at her children's school.



My Story of Resilience 

A little over two years ago, I entered into a very difficult and trying time in my life. Around the same time, with the exception of my husband, my support network literally crumbled around me. 

For anybody, this can be pretty rough. But as a military family, it was especially hard.  Sometimes we rely heavily on our surrogate families to be our support when we don’t have to strength to face our situations alone. Watching my support network systematically disappear was nothing less than traumatic. Basically, I was left to carry the stress and burden of the situation alone. 

After a few months, this bled over to my children. They were mirroring my stress. The more I focused on the negative, the more they did. 

One day in the middle of a rant, I stopped. Enough was enough. I was done with the negativity. I was done being angry. I was done letting the people and the situation control me.  

After church, the kids and I went to the store and bought a journal. That evening, we had our first entry into our “Thankful Book.” 

Our "Thankful Book" is a journal where we write down one thing we are grateful for that day.  Each night we take the time to do this as a family. For the first few months, writing in the Thankful Book was a chore and some days, it was a struggle to find even one thing I was thankful for.  However, it got easier. 

By the time the worst of the situation hit us, the Thankful Book was a part of our lives, part of our routine. Hearing what the kids were thankful for and taking the time to reflect on all that I had to be thankful for was exactly what I needed

To this day, we still write in our Thankful Book. The kids even have their babysitters write in it when they come over. It is no longer something we “just do”, it is something we choose to do

Fast forward to a few months ago when I was presented with the opportunity to go to the Resilience Training Assistant class, to become a Spouse RTA. I wasn’t 100% sure what Resilience was, but I went anyway. Over the course of 3 days, I learned different strategies on how to effectively deal with stress, enhance communication, and strengthen healthy relationships.

However, the biggest lesson for me was the moment I realized that I was practicing resilience every single day and, despite all the things I'm convinced I am doing wrong, there are a few things that I am doing right. We now had a name for our Thankful Book strategy, we were practicing resilience by  “Counting Blessings.” 

Unfortunately, I am not completely through this trying period, but I no longer let it, or the people involved, have control. Through intentionally practicing resilience, I have been able to strengthen my techniques and I am equipped with new strategies to effectively deal with the tough situations that are sure to come my way. 

I know we all face challenges and stressors on a daily basis. I also know we are our own worst critics…this is why I am so passionate about resilience and have helped create and launch the Offutt Spouse Resilience program. My hope is that through the training, spouses will realize they already practice resilience, in one form or another. And I hope they walk away continuing to strengthen their strategies, but also with new strategies in their “tool-kit” to effectively deal different situations they may encounter. 


Thank you, Aimee, for sharing your story with us today!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

building resilience in Air Force families



Yesterday I wrote about my emotional bathtub and how sometimes a lot of little stressors add up to be a big deal.  Tomorrow I'll have one more post about resilience, so check back for that!

Today I’m writing about Resilience, which is important for all of us, but especially for military families.  I'm partnering with the Offutt Spouse Resilience team.  I received no compensation for writing this post and all opinions are my own.  




Resilience is like finding the plug on that emotional bathtub.  The water (stressors) will keep on coming and it might not drain as quickly as you’d like, but by keeping it unplugged, you ensure the bathtub isn’t going to overflow.

Let’s be honest here: as military families, we all know that Murphy’s Law is never truer than during deployment.  Here’s one example: on the very day her husband was set to deploy (again), my friend found out that their house had a natural gas leak, the dog needed emergency surgery, and her children had the stomach flu.  Talk about an overwhelming day!

Here at Offutt AFB, resilience has been the new buzzword!  Our Wing Commander and his wife have championed a Resilience program that has been growing over the past few months.  Active Duty members can be trained in 12 modules and become a Resilience Training Assistant (RTA), qualified to help teach resilience to their squadron.  Two spouses, Aimee Salter and Joy Draper, have taken on the task on making resilience training for spouses.  These ladies have been through the RTA training and adapted it into five modules that are most applicable to military families.

Resilience training, according to Aimee is “about learning how to effectively deal with stress and challenges we face on a daily basis, increasing effective communication, and strengthening healthy relationships.”  Joy wrote about the resilience program saying: “The training is based on the four pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness - Physical, Social, Spiritual, and Mental… Our goal is to build stronger families in today's Air Force. These training modules will help build a toolkit for handling every day difficulties that pop up. We hope to reach out to the spouses and assist them in becoming more resilient and, therefore, benefiting the active duty members, the squadrons, and the mission of the Air Force.”

I’ve been through three of the modules already and am planning a resilience briefing for our squadron.  I love how Aimee and Joy are passionate about resilience because they’ve needed it in their own lives!  They give practical and easy steps to start practicing resilience in your family.  Resilience is something we all need – it isn’t just for families in crisis.  Learning these techniques and incorporating them into your family life will build a solid foundation that will make you a stronger individual, which, in turn, makes a stronger family and a stronger Air Force.  I asked Aimee and Joy if they would let me share about this program on my blog because I believe that it can make a difference. 

To find out more about the Offutt Spouse Resilience, check out their Facebook page (and ‘Like’ it to stay updated on events!!) and also this news article!  I really hope that if you’re stationed here at Offutt you take advantage of this program!  I am passionate about this program so you'll probably see me at some of the events.

And if you’re at another base and think this sounds like something you would like to see at your base, contact your AFRC and ask if there’s anything in the works!



p.s. if you’re a military spouse, take a moment and share your Murphy’s Law moments of deployment, TDY, or PCS!  We all have a story like that, don’t we? 

Click here for the next post in this series!

Monday, March 17, 2014

my emotional bathtub (is overflowing)



**This post in an introduction to the posts that will follow on Tuesday and Wednesday, which are especially important if you’re stationed here at Offutt AFB.  I’m partnering with the Offutt Spouse and Partner Resilience team to spread the news about their incredible program.  I’ve written on the bathtub of emotions a few times in the past, but this post was original**






It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

On a normal day, my husband being late from work wouldn’t be a big deal.  But today, everything was piling up.

It was Friday and the end of a long, long week.  My son had been sick for a few days so we had been stuck inside to keep our germs contained.  Earlier in the week he had just wanted to be snuggled, but today he was feeling a bit better.  In fact, he was feeling just well enough that he was grouchy! Every few moments he collapsed into a puddle of tears if I didn’t know what he wanted or didn’t help him quickly enough.

My chronic pain had flared up again and a migraine was on its way, dizzying my sight.  My son took a ridiculously short nap, which meant I had a long list of work that still needed to be done.  Usually I would have grabbed a coke to help a bit with the migraine, but this week we were not eating sugar, so that wasn’t an option.  My husband told me he would be home early only to have a last-minute emergency that meant he stayed much later than normal.  I was ready to tap-out of the parenting thing (actually the life thing) for just a few minutes of respite, but it just wasn’t going to be happening right then.

“My bathtub is full.” I told my husband over the phone.  He knew what that meant.

Years ago, I heard that phrase from an allergist, describing how people with food sensitivities can eat little bits of a food and feel okay as long as those little bits don’t add up to equal a serious reaction.

I have adapted the phrase for my emotions.  Have you ever cried over a glass of spilled milk only to chide yourself for being upset over something so innocuous?  Usually, if you trace back over the last few days, you realize that the spilled milk was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.  So you aren't crying over just spilled milk.  

Going back to the bathtub analogy, stress is like water in a bathtub.  Each stressor might only add a couple inches of water, but when you have five or six different stressors, it adds up quickly.  When my chronic pain was at a peak, it felt like each day started with my bathtub three-quarters of the way filled.  I had such little room for extra stressors so I found that little things upset me far more than they should have.

A bathtub for emotions is a silly metaphor, but it works for me.  Countless times it has helped me communicate my stress level to my husband with just that one sentence: "My bathtub is full."

Do you have a similar phrase or metaphor for dealing with stress?



**Click here to read Part Two to hear how thisrelates to resilience in the Air Force**


Thursday, March 13, 2014

my comments section changed (so here's a very short intro to Disqus)



You may (or may not) have noticed that I recently changed the comments section on my blog.  I used to use the standard Blogger comment form, but this week I switched and am now using Disqus.  It's a small change, but I think it is a good decision.

Good Change: People who don't have a Blogger account can sign in using Twitter or Facebook

Good Change: Many blogs are using Disqus which means many people will have a Disqus account

Good Change: You can make it know if you like or dislike a comment and you don't even need an account to do that!  Under each comment you'll see the arrows to move a comment up or down in the conversation.

Bad Change: Some bloggers used to have their email address attached to their profile so if they left a comment I could email them back a response (more on that here).  I LOVED this feature.  But I don't think that is compatible with Disqus so I haven't been able to email people back directly.  They all show up as noreply commenters.


p.s. I have the meat for korean beef tacos in my crockpot this morning and in just a couple hours my house is going to smell amazing!


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

movie theaters and elementary schools.




I.

It was our first date in months.  As the parents of a toddler, we rarely go out and, when we do, it's usually to dinner with other couples.  But this day it was just the two of us.  To celebrate my husband's birthday, we were seeing a movie in an actual theater for the first time in over a year.  And we were a bit giddy about it.

We bought tickets, purchased monstrous containers of popcorn and coke, and settled into our seats to watch the previews.

I thought my heart was racing because we'd been in a rush to drop our son off and get to the theater on time.  I thought I would settle down.  But as we sat there, I realized that I was getting more anxious instead of calming down.  It was the theater, not the rushed schedule, that was upsetting me.

Then it clicked.  I hadn't been in a movie theater since the shooting in Aurora.

I grabbed my husband's hand and pulled his face close so I could whisper, "If someone starts shooting, jump off that balcony to the exit.  I'll meet you outside.  It's the fastest way out."

It is ludicrous, isn't it?  The fact that I thought we would (could?) jump a balcony to escape?  The fact that I HAD to think about that?

I'm not an overly anxious person, and yet, there I was.  My eyes kept darting to the exits, my throat felt like I had a bowling ball lodged in it, and my heart beat fast.

As the movie began, I kept finding myself forgetting to look around.  Each time I relaxed into the movie, I soon would scold myself for enjoying it and getting distracted.  My sympathetic nervous system was ready to fight or take flight.

It is as if I thought a shooting could never happen as long as I was looking out for it.  And so, by my vigilant watch, I would keep us safe.


II.

In our neighborhood, we have a sleepy little elementary school.  Our son is young, so I've never been in it.  But I drive past it frequently on my way to friends' houses.

Each time I do, I slow down and try to peer into the tiny windows to make sure everything is still sleepy.  Sleepy is safe.  I can't really see anything from the road.  And I'm not really sure what I think I could do if I did see something.  Would I leave my babe in the car to go wrestle a gunman to the ground?

And yet, I can't help but look each time.  My heart clenches up and I ache as I try to avoid thinking about why I'm thinking about this.  Each breath I exhale is like a wordless prayer.  A prayer that I can't even let form in my mind except for one word:  Peace.  Peace.  Peace.  I push the prayer, the energy towards the school building.  And each time I see that things still look sleepy, the thought of peace changes quickly from being a prayer to being a "grateful-for".


III.

Peace.  Peace.  Peace.

I long for it.  I long for a world where we don't have to worry about movie theaters and elementary schools.  I long for the day when it isn't just a countdown to the next catastrophe.

Tell me: when, oh when, did the world get so, so deeply fucked up?

(I know people won't like that word.  But do you really think "messed up" is an accurate descriptor of what happened?  I needed a word that was as equally gripping and startling and repulsive as those events.  They were that weighty.)

Was it this way from the beginning?  Has the evil gotten particularly sinister in recent years?  Or is it just the fact that I am older, and a parent, and suddenly have so much that I could lose?

I don't know the answer here.  I do know that it's deeper than guns or mental illness, although those are certainly important discussions to have.  To be honest, I don't even know if there is an answer here.

How can I help in this world of deranged madness?

I'm not quite sure.

But I do go back to that achy, broken, silent heart-prayer of peace, peace, peace.  It is a tiny, inconsequential step, of course.  It feels almost flippant when put up again the gravity of these tragedies.  But it is a start when I have no other: 

I must pursue the peace.

I must spread the peace.

I must be the peace.

I must find the peace.



"And he will be called...Prince of Peace" isaiah 9:6









Tuesday, March 11, 2014

You're an Air Force Key Spouse! Now What?!



**Do you ever have posts that you're just not proud of?  This is one of those to me and I really hesitated to post it because I'm not getting it to flow correctly.  BUT...I've decided to click 'publish' in spite of that because I think that it has some good information that could help someone**

It's been over a year since I became the key spouse for my husband's Air Force squadron.  I love being able to represent the families in our squadron and find out how we can support them.  Since I'm passionate about this program, I thought I'd share a bit about being a Key Spouse (KS) and some of the things that have worked best for our squadron.

There are many squadrons that have an active KS program and lots of involvement from spouses, but, so far, I haven't been part of one of those.  I hope that by the time we leave I'll be able to pass on a more robust program to the next KS.  If you're part of a larger program, I'd love to hear your suggestions and hear how you get people involved!

(While reading this, please remember that I cannot give any specifics about our squadron.  There is a reason that certain things seem vague.  Give an unspecified number of cheers for OPSEC ;)  And if you get that joke, you are a super nerd, like me.)





Let me start with this: The most important requirement for being a Key Spouse is a desire to help families.  That's it!  It's helpful if you have extra free time, or have been an Air Force spouse for awhile.  But honestly?  You'll go through training that will teach you the basics.  And if you don't know the answer to something, you can usually find out with a couple of phone calls to base agencies.  If you care about other Air Force families and want to help them, you've got a great start!

The first step to becoming a KS is to talk with squadron leadership.  The First Sergeant will know if there are current KSs and if your squadron needs more.  All KSs are appointed by the commander, so before you can receive your appointment letter, you usually have a short meeting with him/her.  After that, you'll go through about 6-8 hours of training through AFRC.

Usually they try to team up several newer Key Spouses with an older KS mentor who can show them the ropes, but that didn't happen in my case.  When I was first selected to be a Key Spouse, I had to learn on my feet since I was the only KS in our squadron.

Here are a few other tips I've learned along the way:

1.  Start a private Facebook group

I was reluctant to join FB again after a year or so of being off it.  But it has been a great way to connect with families in our squadron!  We made a private FB group and, as I meet people, I am slowly adding people to it.   From there we can make announcements, plan events, share meal sign-ups, etc.  It's also a good way for everyone to familiarize themselves with other people in the squadron.


2. Attend all the events you can and Get out of your comfort zone by meeting at least one new person each time

Since I'm the only KS in our squadron, I don't know all of the families yet.  Ideally, there are enough KSs in a squadron to each be responsible for a manageable group of families, but it just doesn't work out that way all the time.  I try to attend as many events as I can and meet at least one new person each time.  Many time, though, I end up meeting four or five new families.  Last week I went to one of my husband's soccer games and, while chasing my son on the sidelines, met another young mom from our squadron.

To be honest, I'm always nervous meeting new people.  I seem like an outgoing person, but I have to pysch myself up to introduce myself to strangers.  Most of the time, however, I'm really glad that I did start the conversation.  The squadron gave me business cards to hand out, so I'm trying to do better about keeping those on hand when I'm at events so people can connect me with after the fact and join our FB group.


3.  Help during deployments

This is my biggest area of responsibility in our squadron.  When someone deploys, I connect with their family and find out how we can help them.  Usually this includes passing information on about base and squadron events so they stay connected.  Additionally, I've dropped of meals every week or two for families with small children - sometimes the parent at home just needs a night off of cooking!  When we've had a major snowstorm I've organized airmen to shovel driveways for the families of the deployed.  And I've provided last minute babysitting when people are in a pinch.

We also offer meals or other support when someone has been in the hospital or sometimes when a new baby comes. The KS program was started to better support families in the Air Force.  Since most of us live apart from our hometowns and apart from extended family, we want to be the Air Force family that is there to help when you need it.


4.  Recognize that some people don't want your help.  And that's okay.

Sometimes this is a family's fourth deployment and they have a system down that works for them.  That's great!  While there's no shame in needing help, there's also no shame in being self-sufficient.  I still have to call these families and check in occasionally, but if they are doing great, that makes my job a little easier.

On the other hand, some people will very politely say that they don't need help, but you'll later find out that they were struggling.  This is the *hardest* part of being a KS for me!  I want to help people and I have a bunch of resources, but really need people to be honest with me!  Depending on how many people we have deployed (and how many of them are self-sufficient), there are times when I could be doing a lot more for a family if I only knew that they wanted it.


5.  Find out when newcomers are coming to the squadron and meet them

This is a new one for me, but I think it is going to work out well.  Your squadron should assign a sponsor to each incoming member who is responsible to help them transition smoothly to the new base.  If the sponsors have the KSs contact information, they can pass it along to incoming members with families.  That way the families will have someone to call for those few weeks in a new town (like when you have to give an in-town emergency contact to your children's school and realize you don't know anyone in-town!).

Talk with your First Sergeant about how incoming members in-process to the squadron.  Is there a chance for you to meet them on their first day?  Or could the squadron email you their address so you could stop by to meet them and drop off some cookies as a housewarming gift?

Unfortunately, it is easy for people to fall through the cracks.  Sometimes when an airman is in-processing he doesn't even mention that he has a family.  Sometimes the communication just doesn't happen between the First Sergeant and me, especially if one of us is out of town or sick.  Plus, since families are constantly coming and going in the Air Force, the roster is always changing.  I've been introduced to the squadron several times at events, but there are still many people who haven't even heard of the KS program.  If you're in a squadron right now and are feeling neglected, take the first step and contact your KS and ask how you can get involved!


6.  Events for the spouses

Planning events in the Air Force is hard because, often, you put a lot of work into an event and end up having a small turnout.  It is disappointing, to say the least, and sometimes you see personal money and a lot of time being wasted.  So it's probably better to start with a few smaller events to gauge interest.  You can plan a casual get-together at your house and ask everyone to bring a snack food to share.  Then leave the schedule open for people to mingle.  This could work out well if you start a FB group like I mentioned above so people can meet the other spouses in the group.

Depending on what your squadron's work entails, you could arrange a tour of all the work centers so they can better understand what their spouse does and how it fits into the bigger picture of the Air Force.

We had an information night for spouses recently and our leadership liked it so much that they want to do it again.  We invited all the spouses to come and hear from different agencies on base.  There are SO many resources available on base for Air Force families.  Invite a representative from different agencies to hear about what they offer for spouses.  Here are a few suggestions: Airmen and Family Readiness Center, Sexual Assault Response Center, Casualty Assistance, Education Office, Legal Office, Exceptional Family Member Program, Chaplain, OPSEC coordinator, etc.  Additionally, you can give an overview of military structure and explain what it is that your squadron does.


7.  Join a sister squadron

If you're having low participation for your events and tired of planning parties where only a few people show up, consider working with another squadron or even with your group (depending on how big it is).  By joining with another squadron, you have at least one more KS to work with and will double your efforts (and your attendance).  We've done this recently and I've been able to work alongside an awesome KS!  It's been encouraging to have someone else to talk things over with and to get advice from.  This could be really helpful for bigger events like an information night.


8.  Have a monthly meeting with CC or other KS

Once a month, try to connect with your squadron commander, your First Sergeant, and/or the other KSs you work with.  This ensures that you stay up to date on what's happening in the squadron and that leadership stays informed as well.  I usually ask them: "Is there anything else I can do to better support our families?"

9.  Keep a log off all your information.

Find a system that works best for you and then stick with it!  I have a 3 ring binder for all of my KS things so I store people's contact information in there.  I also use Google calendar to keep track of how often I contact people, what meals I bring them, etc.  (Although to be honest, I usually forget to update that and end up filling in a month's worth of contact at the same time :/ )


I hope this will encourage you to look into the program and find out how you can get involved!


**One note: I'm sure that the other branches of the military have similar programs, but I'm not sure what they're called!  If any spouses from other branches read this, I'd love for you to comment and tell me about your programs!

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