Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Notorious RBG and the Air Force

Lately, I have been enjoying the podcast, It's Been a Minute. The Tuesday episodes usually focus on one topic or guest. Last week's episode featured the producers of a a new documentary on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, RBG, and one of my favorite NPR commentators, Nina Totenburg.

The documentary sounds pretty amazing, but what was really cool about the podcast was a cool connection the the Air Force. One of the first supreme court cases Ruth Bader Ginsburg was part of involved a female Air Force officer. Naturally, I needed to know more. When I got a chance I googled up the case, and actually found two cases that she argued for Air Force women. 

The one mentioned in the podcast was the unequal application of dependent classification for women and men. Wives were automatically considered dependents, a necessary classification to secure medical coverage and other pay and allowances for family members. Female officers had to prove that their husbands were actually financially dependent on them (by at least 50%) in order for them to be considered a dependent. This was in 1973, and I had no idea this was the standard at that time.

The second case where RBG and the Air Force crossed paths was of a woman facing discharge because she became pregnant while on active duty. This 1970s era rule I was aware of - the options then were keep the baby and be discharged or terminate the pregnancy and stay on active duty. The captain in this case wanted to give her child up for adoption and remain on active duty. Ultimately, the court agreed with her. 

I love this line from the court's decision: "Is there any evidence that pregnancy has some effect on ability to function that is different from any other temporary physical condition? For example, is there any reason to believe that a female officer who has suffered a fractured leg is better able to perform her job than a female officer who is eight days pregnant? The former gets medical leave and retains her commission; the latter is discharged. Why? If this be rational, nothing is irrational!"

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a much beloved figure here in DC, and I look forward to seeing the documentary and learning more. You can connect to the podcast below.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Let's Celebrate All Spouses

Change is hard and slow, particularly in institutions with so many written and unwritten rules like the military. One is that the success of hard working active duty service members is often attributed to the spouse at home, sacrificing and picking up the slack for the sometimes absent service member. THIS IS SO TRUE. What isn't true is that the spouse at home is less and less likely to be a stay-at-home wife. Below is an awesome op-ed on Military Spouse Appreciation Day when your spouse doesn't fit the stereotype.  For the record, one of the best spouses groups I was part of was run by my husband's commander's husband :-)

Once again it is Military Spouse Appreciation Day and once again military husbands are overlooked, marginalized, and ostracized. Social media is swamped with poems such as The Military Wife or The Silent Ranks that laude the women who stand by their man, care for their kids, and figure out how to file taxes or read military time. The lyrics lament being left behind, being uprooted from their families, and having to move and wait for new curtains to arrive...but through it they come together as a sisterhood of solidarity and support. Which is great -- if not for the male spouses who aren't included, or verily, blatantly excluded, from such "sisterhoods." The men who either work full-time jobs in careers stunted by constant cross-country moves or Mr. Mom's judged by family and friends for choosing to take care of their kids. The men who support their wives as they deploy, go TDY, and relocate every 2-3 years. The ultimate feminists who put their wives' dreams and ambitions before their own and watch as the military and civilian support organizations ignore their sacrifices. The men who don't have a group for solidarity. It is time the military husband gets recognized for their part in propping up their women warriors, another important cog in the wheel of military might.

Spouse support groups are tailored for women, by women, and spattered with "oh, but he is welcome to join our wine and paint night!" -- an event he never received an invite to in the first place. There are rarely calls when his wife deploys asking how he is doing or volunteers dropping by to cut his grass, bring him dinner, ensure his car's oil gets changed, or watch his kids so he can have one night out with the guys. Perhaps this is because "he is a man" that can take care of himself...only what does that say about women? When groups only meet during the work day and any evening events are female-tailored activities, any men who could otherwise be involved become instant outcasts, judged for not putting forth an effort to integrate where they intrude. The need for support, human interaction, and social outlets is not unique to having two X chromosomes.  It is time spouse groups start realizing the military husband not only needs inclusion from the get-go, but also assistance and encouragement when his wife is downrange.

Socially, society has been slow to embrace or consider female warriors, so it comes as no surprise that recognizing and accepting the military husband is even further behind. As  often as female soldiers are (amusingly) snubbed when their waitress mistakenly directs a "Thank you for your service" to their bearded, scruffy husband after a Veteran's Day meal, such military appreciation days have become more inclusive of women servicemembers with advertisements featuring ladies in uniform and stereotypically-female services, such as spas, offering military benefits or discounts. But when was the last time spouse appreciation day featured a man holding a sign reading "I've waited 186 days to kiss my wife" as he holds her in his arms at the airport? Or an advertisement centered around a stereotypically-male product for spouse appreciation? Much of this revolves around the civilian sector remaining widely uninformed regarding the military and rigors of military service, but such promotions are coordinated in large part by organizations, such as the USO, that ought to know better. It is time society acknowledges the sacrifices and celebrates the commitment of male spouses.

Now, one can understand that spouse groups and communities cater to the masses, and historically the masses have been stay-at-home wives. But there is a growing contingent of spouses who are men, working women, LGBTQ, and dual-military couples; each of these groups deserves to be duly recognized and supported. Over 210,000 women and an estimated 70,000 LGBT persons are in the military service, and over 90,000 members have mil-to-mil marriages, meaning roughly 20% of military members likely don't have spouses or significant others that fit the mold of the traditional military wife. In order to eschew archaic stereotypes, perceptions, and biases of the communities we live in, we need to have dialogue discussing such topics as the lack of support for military husbands. There are still problems that affect military wives, and there are many individuals who do their best to include the male spouses in their unit, but acknowledging military husbands have less support, less recognition, and less celebration does not diminish these other considerations. Therefore, on a day for spouses where wives are applauded for their sacrifices on the home front and husbands are largely overlooked, we can spare to discuss the difficulties unique to male spouses.

It is time we have this conversation. 

- Amanda Rebhi
(see the original article HERE)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Pardon the Interruption

Hey all - just realized that it's been a couple weeks since I posted. I have a guest post in the hopper as well as a couple other thoughts (I'm always full of thoughts!). But these last few weeks of school, particularly with a high school senior, has been a bit busier than usual (and I'm not even the one taking the tests and finishing the projects).

For everyone facing big transitions this summer - a summer move, a graduation, a transition at work, or a transition of any kind, hang in there. Enjoy the good parts, relax when you can, and keep the beer fridge/wine rack full. At least, that's my mantra :-).

More soon!

P.S. - on the admin side - I just opened a Gals In Blue instagram account. Feel free to follow and send me your pictures and fun quotes to post at! Click the link up on the right.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

You Can Have It All (But Not At the Same Time)

Last week I attended the always awesome Officer Women Leadership Symposium, hosted by Academy Women. Over the last few years I have become involved in putting on the event, and I enjoy it so much. It always gives me a chance to see old friends, make some new friends, and get inspired by the wonderful speakers and panels.

During one of the discussions, a panelist said, "You can have it all, just not all at the same time." Interesting thought. isn't it? When we say to women they should strive for "having it all," it's often a zero sum game. Either you are a super human who can do it all or you are failing. And the "all" is so different from person to person, even though we like to put women into strict categories like career-focused, working-mom, or stay-at-home-mom. We smirk to ourselves when the super fit, well dressed woman walks into the meeting or the PTA coffee looking effortlessly put together and on top of her game. (Maybe that's just me, the one running in late, disheveled, with coffee splashed on her blouse.)  

"You can have it all, just not all at the same time" keeps repeating itself over and over in my mind, and brings a tremendous amount of comfort and joy. Comfort, because stuff falls off of my plate all the time, even on my best days. And joy, because I see now with the perspective of some (ahem) years, that I get to pick what "all" means to me, and can change the definition any time I want to.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Top Mom Hacks: A Semi Scientific Study

A couple weeks ago, a young mom in an AF Officer women's forum asked, 

"What is everyone's best military woking momma life hack? 
What is the one thing that keeps you sane?" 

As you can imagine, the response was overwhelming. I stopped collecting comments when it reached almost 200, because I thought it would be cool to put them into categories and see how they stacked up. Most of my "analysis" was by keeping a tally on a piece of paper, and then putting numbers into a simple spreadsheet. It's is probably likely that if someone already saw their hack mentioned that they didn't comment, but for purposes of our scientific-ness, we'll ignore that.  It's also likely that my "scientific" interpretation is different from others. This is a longer than usual post from me, but I wanted to include everything :-)

While this list was put together by mothers in the Air Force, their application is universal.  Here is how things stacked up...

In raw numbers, far and away the most frequent hack was hiring someone to clean your house. For many this is a tough hurdle - partly because showing your mess to someone else is a vulnerable spot to be in, and also because it seems a little first-world-privilage-y. But especially when your kids are little (and if you have pets) this is an incredibly worthwhile investment.  

Second was the need for a family calendar - some suggested electronic to be shared with spouses/kids (Google was the most popular), some suggested old school white board. For our family with a parent that travels frequently, this was a life saver. Nothing makes me feel overwhelmed like not having the calendar organized.

Several other top hacks, as you see, had to do with food. If only there had been grocery delivery when my kids were toddlers, it's stinkin' genius. That, Amazon and an Instant Pot seems to be the way to make it work for many of the commenters.

I enjoyed the comments about making sure you pick out a good husband/father, and getting your kids involved in keeping the household running by giving them chores. Everyone has a different life situation, but making it a team effort as much as possible definitely helps.

I wanted to look at the "data" another way, so assigned each group of comments to the categories of Organize, Outsource, Good Decisions, Automate and Simplify.  The results are in the bar graph at the top.

Using a family calendar and meal prepping are great ways to stay organized, as well as:
1. Dressing kids: pick clothes either the night before, pick clothes for the week on Sunday, or when things get busy, let the kids sleep in their clothes. One mom puts her baby in clean clothes after the night time feed and change. Genius!
2. Using time well: using your lunch or kid free time to get shopping and other errands done, and my favorite, having kids eat breakfast in the car during the morning commute.
3. Having a laundry system: how to design the system depended on what worked for individuals. Some use a load-a-day plan, some use the once-a-week plan (and buy the biggest washer/dyer possible), some do each persons one at a time as their baskets get full. Definitely a plan of some kind helps keep the ocean of dirty clothes tamed.

The most popular tasks to outsource were hiring a house cleaner and using grocery delivery, as well as having the kids help with chores, having a good baby sitter/nanny (sometimes tough to come by), and buying prepared meals - either take out, heat and eat, or a meal delivery service.

Definitely picking a good partner is a key good decision. And getting parenting classes to up your expertise was a great suggestion. The rest of hacks were self care, either mental (turning to your faith or letting go what was beyond your control) or physical (getting sleep, working out and enjoying adult beverages when necessary)(and they are necessary).

Using the inter webs to automate what you can, like the Amazon subscription service and grocery pickup/delivery, saves time, as well as appliances you can plug in and forget. The Instant Pot was the clear favorite, as well as crock pots and air fryers. And for those not quite ready to out source housecleaning, a Roomba is highly recommended.

Finally, a number of hacks fell into the simplify category. Using paper go cups for coffee and paper plates for dinner are little things that take cleaning chores off of your list. Buying a smaller/closer house and downsizing your stuff takes a bit more strategic planning, but the time you get back would be well worth it. By far the one I need to be reminded of is being realistic with kid activities. You can sign up them up for Scouts, a musical instrument, Odyssey of the Mind, and a travel team sport, but should you?

The biggest thing I learned from this call for hacks was that you are never alone, mommas, just reach out and ask. Not every idea out there will work for you, but it sure helps knowing there are others out there trying to figure it out like you are.

Monday, April 2, 2018

We Are the Protectors


From the March 21st Air Force Association Daily Report (emphasis my own)

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson Tuesday pointed to the prominence of women in the Air Force and to what she said was women’s natural role as protectors, which she noted also is the role of the military. Appearing along with other service Secretaries before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Trump administration’s Fiscal 2019 budget request and acquisition reform, she said the Air Force has a higher percentage of women than any of the other services and that every Air Force position is open to women. In addition, she said, “We’re, I think, trying to change a little bit the way we talk and think about who the protectors are in this country,” she said, adding that she thinks sometimes “the way in which we talk about the services may appeal more to boys than to girls.”  She suggested that were she to ask everyone in the hearing room to think about the most protective person in their lives, half would be thinking about their mothers. “We are the protectors, that’s what the military does, we serve to protect the rest of you, and that’s a very natural place for a woman to be,” she told the panel.

I've always said that I learned far more about being a good Air Force officer and leader from being a mother than I did in any leadership training class. Do you have to be a mother to be a good leader? Absolutely not. But it sure does teach you a lot. For all those out there trying to balance a military career with motherhood, keep the faith my sisters! You are the protectors!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Spring Break Trip Report :-)

I looooove to travel, especially with my ride or dies: my husband and my kids. I am also keenly aware, as the mother of a high school senior, that my oldest chick is leaving the nest very soon. “We MUST go away for Spring Break,” I declared. No one disagreed.

We tend to do two types of vacations in our family. The “see it all,” on the go vacation, and the stay put and relax vacation. “Going to the beach sounds cool,” said the senior, so off to the interwebs I went to find something fun.

At the end of last year, the family airline (Southwest) started service to a couple new tropical destinations, including Turks and Caicos (TCI). Just google it up and you will find images of pristine white sand beaches and the bluest, blue water. It’s not very far away – about a 90-minute flight from Fort Lauderdale. We had miles to burn so our tickets were very reasonable, but it can be an expensive destination. Challenge Accepted!

I turned to AirBnB first. Partly because rooms at resorts that slept 4 were pricy, and partly because our kids are too old to share a bed, we’re too old to share a room with teenagers, and we LOVE having a kitchen, so we can eat breakfast in our PJs. The initial place we found was great – it came with kayaks, they would rent you a jeep, and they gave me some great recommendations for dive operators. Unfortunately, there was a mix-up and we lost out on our reservation. We were about a month out from our trip (gah!), but luckily I found a place that worked out better, a sweet two bedroom cottage about 5 minutes from the closest beach called Buddha Cottage. Our host Patrick met us when we arrived, and awesomely sat down and marked up our map with his favorite beaches and restaurants. 

Because diving was important to us, it was the one thing (besides our rental car) that I booked in advance. I had two local recommendations, and the one we went with was Flamingo Divers. Mickey and Jayne have lived in TCI for 17 plus years, and have a one-boat, no-more-than-8-divers operation that suited us perfectly. The water was so clear, you could see all the way to the bottom in 60 plus feet of water. Mickey and Jayne took us to two great spots, and also shared all the pictures they took on our dives. We would have gone diving with them a couple more days, but alas, they were already full for the rest of the week.

I hadn’t pre-booked anything else, and when we got here, any excursion that interested us seemed to be booked up already. But it turned out to be not a big deal at all. Patrick had advised renting a car which was very reasonable (however, “mid size” equals a 4 door hatch back). We dubbed ours Trixie and explored just about all the places he recommended. What I didn’t know about TCI before we arrived is that all the beaches are public and have access points and little parking areas. Some we had to work to find, but eventually we would turn a corner and find 5 or so other “mid sized” rental cars and a small path to paradise. Buddha Cottage came with beach towels and chairs, and they got used every day.

Food is another thing that can get expensive on island and eating out every meal steals a lot of your time. We adopted a 1 meal out a day kind of rhythm. I had brought half a suitcase of non-perishables (noodles, peanut better, oatmeal, pancake mix, coffee) and grocery stores were easy to find for eggs, milk, etc.  Grocery prices are about double what you’ll find at home, and a meal out for 4 at a casual place was about $120. We made good use of cottage’s kitchen and outdoor grill which made it a tad more reasonable. We weren't complete food martyrs though - Patrick's recommendations of Bugaloos, Da Conch Shack and Caicos Cafe were all delicious!

Lastly, we made full use of Southwest’s 2 bags fly free policy to bring along toys – snorkel gear and two inflatable stand up paddle boards. Because, why not? You should have seen us try and cram it all into Trixie :-)

We had such a good time and definitely want to come back. So many resort/beach locations feel like the tourists are segregated from the locals, and TCI didn’t feel like that at all.  We slept in a lot, enjoyed meals out on the porch, found a new beach every day, read some, watched movies, and discovered new areas of our skin where we hadn’t quite gotten the sun screen (ouch!). TCI has a very easy going vibe – I hope you get a chance to enjoy it too!