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Before long Married to the Army Alaska will be airing. Teaser clips are up on YouTube. I have to say that while I struggled with not even making the cut to the official phone interview, I am now so glad I didn’t make the cut. I love blogging, where I have control over what is seen, and how it’s seen. I try to include the good, the bad, and the ugly. But it’s all real and authentic. You don’t have only the five bad moments and have the fifty good ones cut. Now, I don’t know what the show will be like, but I’m pretty sure the show will leave several of the wifes saying that what is seen is not an accurate portrayal of her. Or maybe not. Since the show has not aired yet, and I don’t have cable to see it when it does air, I can’t really say if it’s what my life is like or not. However, since my husband came home we’ve been watching Army Wives, we are a couple of episodes into the second season and I can tell you what from that show is real and what is not so much.

I’ll start with the characters. First, is Claudia Joy Holden. I love her, and I love her husband. But every time I watch I thank my husband that his job is not one where politics come into play. It would be rare (or me doing something totally outrageous) for my actions to be scrutinized to the point where a promotion, or a job could hang in the balance. The public will not look at my husband as a leader, so I will not be looked at as the wife of a leader. My husband says that an officer always has the choice whether or not to put the pressure of the public on his wife, but he also puts his ultimate trust in God, not in the system. The truth is, the episode where she had to kick her friend out because of possible press issues really isn’t that far off. There are many officers, and even NCO’s in the military who know that what the family does reflects on them, so they put a lot of pressure on the family to be perfect. The kids must know Latin by the time they are twelve. The sons must excel at football. The daughters must watch who they date. The wife must be involved in the FRG, the spouse’s club, and all sorts of things on post. And she must always act with grace and poise. I’m pretty lucky. My husband takes the attitude that he joined the Army not me, so anything I do is up to me. I decided this year to take time off from PWOC and the FRG and the wives coffee, and my husband didn’t worry that would take me away from all the good spousal networking I could do for him. He’s okay that even when I did all that stuff I never logged into VMIS, because I don’t care about the awards and recognition from the garrison commander. He doesn’t care either. What I do is for me, and only me. Not saying a little spousal networking is wrong, it can be done in the way of Claudia Joy, with grace. Just glad that I don’t have to worry about it.

Denise Sherwood. The good girl. She does everything just by the book. Chase laughed the first episode when she answered the phone “Major Sherwood’s residence.” Yeah, I remember when I read that part of the handbook. I think I may have even asked my husband if he wanted me to answer that way. He seems to find the whole thing a little pretentious. I’ve been told, that if I do start trying to follow that rule, I get lectured that most people just say “hello.” In the first season she is hiding that her son is beating her while her husband is gone. Now, no one would actually say that she should hide that, but Army wife culture would say that she did everything right. You hide your problems from those around you. Stuff like an abusive son really could hurt the husband’s career. Someone might wonder if he got the idea that hitting was okay from the dad. Others might questions the father’s ability to lead if he couldn’t control his son. So family problems stay in the family. Secrets are big in the military. Us wives are also told that while our husband is gone we should tell him what he needs to hear so that he can concentrate on his job, not worry about us here. Kids doing bad in school? Don’t tell him, if he’s worried about the kids, he can’t focus on his job. You just got fired? Gloss it over. Car got repo-ed? Tell him when he comes home. Don’t even tell him you miss him, he needs to think everything is working as smoothly as clockwork in his absence. I honestly hope this is being told to wives less and less because it’s wrong. First, he needs to know you need him. He will have a hard time coming home if he thinks he wasn’t even missed. Second, he’ll find out you are lying at some point. Either he can hear it in your voice, and he wonders what’s up. Or he will come home and find his life turned upside down, like Major Sherwood did. For a guy who is deployed, trust is huge. He has to trust the guys he works with because his life hangs in the balance. A breach of trust is just about the worst thing for him. And it takes more than a few episodes to bring the trust back. For many families the lies and the cover-ups are the kiss of death. It’s sad because it’s what we are told to do. I think it would be better to tell wives to woman up and take care of business, and then share what you are going through with your husband. Miss you husband, but go on with life, so that you can truthfully tell him I miss you, but life is going on. Pay the bills so that the water doesn’t get turned off or the car repo-ed. I heard a story of one wife who just put all the bills in a shoebox while her husband was gone. You can’t do that. It’s hard. It’s really hard to do your jobs and take over your husband’s jobs as well, but it must be done. Sometimes, crap just happens. The dishwasher breaks, a tree fell on the car, whatever. Have a plan, then tell your man about the issue and the plan. He may come up with a better plan, but he won’t have to worry about it if he doesn’t because you have a plan. It doesn’t have to be the best plan, it may be washing dishes by hand, but at least he knows you’ve got things covered. And he doesn’t come home to a bunch of surprises that will throw him for a loop.

Roxie. The naive new wife. I’ve had moments I want to call up a commander and complain about treatment my husband has been receiving. I’ve been known to want to explain to the commander just how his dumb ideas are affecting my husband’s life. Never done it though, and my husband is eternally thankful. Not that as FRG leader I never argued with a commander, but that was on behalf of all families and soldiers, not just mine. I’ll also admit to having my days of staying in my pj’s all day long, not wanting to leave the house in case my husband calls, and all that stuff. However, it’s up to the wife to put her big girl pants on and get over it. She can’t run to the XO to get reassurance before she moves on. But I love that she never got the rule book on how to behave. She and her husband make up their own rule book as they go along. I think we’d all be a lot more authentic and grow a lot closer as military wives if we followed their lead.

Pamela. My husband isn’t SF, and I am every thankful for that because he can talk with me about what he does. We grow closer and bond over that. I think it was good for the both of us to talk over the June 1 attack together. What he felt, what I felt. I can’t imagine knowing that my husband must be seeing and doing some of the most emotional challenging things in the Army and not being able to help. I did find it funny that she was one of the wives in favor of the wife going to congress for an investigation into her husband’s death. I totally agree, but as an SF wife, her husband’s death would be classified and she would not get any answers.

The Burtons. I was yelling at the tv when Joan asked her husband what he would have done in the situation with the little girl. Even before he answered. “The right answer is ‘I don’t know!” He blew that one. So I’m telling you now, if you haven’t even been to basic training much less haven’t been deployed, the answer is “I don’t know.” You dont’ know how you would react in any situation. You might know what you’d like to think you’d do, but honestly, you don’t know if you’d pee your pants and cry for momma if you had to deal with any of the stuff our deployed soldiers had to deal with. Correct answer is “I don’t know.” Period. He could have also been logical and told her that if she’s tried to save the girl she would have given away her and her troops position and then they would have all come home in a box. Remind her that it’s one thing to want to be a hero, but her mission is to make sure that our guys come home alive with all parts attached if at all possible. Just saying.

Mrs. Baker. The sad thing is that she does exist. The wife that is so entrenched in the culture that she will say or do anything to get the next promotion. A promotion for him is a promotion for her. Yes, there are totally women who would step on anyone to get her way. There are also officers and NCO’s that feel the same way. I could tell stories. But I won’t.

The soldier who blew up the hump bar. Most soldiers don’t beat their wives. Most soldiers have more control than that. However, with the culture of cover up and secrets in the Army, you never know, usually until it’s too late.

What else about the show? I’ve yet to be in a FRG that involved. But I think the show shows what a FRG is supposed to be, but just isn’t. Never been to a Jody bar, but know that’s what some wives do. What Pam said about making friends fast is true, you don’t have time to ease into relationships. Then when you do, you hold fast, you have your gang, like the spouses in the show. I’d say it’s unusual for there to be such diversity in spouse’s rank, but my best friends is an NCO’s wife, and well the whole bonding by birth in a bar does give a plausible explanation for them all choosing each other. Life isn’t that much drama, but who wants to watch a show where the most excitement is changing yet another poopy diaper?

I’m sure there is so much more I could say, but I think that’s enough for now.

The school year’s end is quickly approaching.  And with that the end of the PWOC year.  Which means it’s time to determine who the board members will be for next year.  As I did last year I prayed about it.  This year however, no poking, no tugging, no wondering if maybe I should be applying.  But it did take months for me to see that I was supposed to be involved in PWOC leadership this year, maybe I’m just behind on the listening curve, so I’ve continued praying about my involvement next year.  The answer, I won’t have the time.  I was elated to get this answer, a definite pass from responsibility.  I can say no with no hesitation or guilt.  Not that I don’t want to be involved next year.  I really enjoy PWOC.  It’s the whole leadership responsibility thing that scares me.  But the answer “I won’t have the time.”  Never even thought about it.  Even though I have no plans for the upcoming year, and with FRG off my plate, I will actually have less responsibility than I did this year.  Maybe I should have been wondering what I’d be doing that I wouldn’t have the time for PWOC.

With Chase gone, I’ve started feeling this hole that needs filling.  I don’t do much other than my children.  I love them, don’t want to trade them in for anything.  But I also don’t want them to be my whole identity.  I need something that is me.  So I’ve been praying and wondering, what can I do?  I need to be more careful what I ask for.

I stated a Bible study at my church recently.  This week was the first week we’ve been doing homework.  As I’ve read the homework and contemplated what the author has been saying, I’ve thought to myself, how is she putting all this together?  And the occasional, where is she getting this from?  She’s seeing things that I’ve never seen while reading the Bible and some that I’m not sure I still see.  However, I know that there is church tradition and other non-biblical sources from the time that might concur with her conclusions.  (Disclaimer, she’s not saying anything doctrinally unsound, if fact there are many things I’ve learned from her in this time.  It’s just some details that make me go hmmmm.  Like in first Corinthians where Paul says Jesus appeared to Peter, I always thought that in context of the general meetings we know of in Acts, and you know that He hung out with all of His disciples after the resurrection.  The author sees it as a private personal encounter that Peter needed to have to reconcile after Peter denied Christ, which I always saw the “Feed My sheep” talk to be.  Anyway, not a huge deal, no problems theologically.  But where does she get her supporting information?)   And while once upon a time, I did study those sources and look into all of that, it was all for school.  I’ve never tried to dive into all that on my own.  It would take too much time.  (hmmm, time, hmmm)

Last semester at PWOC, I taught a class on the inductive Bible study method.  I’ll admit, the class started to unravel.  I pray that all the women got something out of it, if nothing else the desire to study the Bible on their own.  I did get that desire and have started using the inductive method to do some Bible study.

So today, as I’m finishing this weeks homework, I start thinking, I could do the study to answer all the questions I have.  I have the tools from the inductive study method.  I have access to multiple libraries and the internet.  I could actually do this.  Maybe not the same book this Bible study is on.  But I could do this.  And then it all ties itself into a pretty little bow.  I’m supposed to do some serious Bible study.  For what I don’t yet know.  Am I to teach a class?  Write a book?  I know it’s not all for me.  God doesn’t work that way.  I have an idea what I might be supposed to be studying, but am not yet sure.  I’m happy to entertain any ideas that you might have.

 

I hope turquoise counts as green because it was the closest thing I was wearing.  It worked for me and warded off pinching from my children.  I just don’t own much green.

Went to another FRG meeting today.  I feel for our new leader, only three adults showed up, my children did double the attendance though.  So glad it’s not my job, getting the FRG back together will be an uphill battle.

Got Clara some girlie Legos.  I just couldn’t resist.  They are so cool.  I’m now addicted and want to go buy all the purple Lego sets.  I’m thinking about asking Santa to bring the house for the two of us to build. And she was so cute playing with the car, person and dog.  She really got into the role-playing.  No other toy has brought that out in her.  Not her doll house, not her Barbies, not her dollies and stuffed animals.  She plays with them all, but they never interacted and talked the way the person and the dog did today.  I love watching my children grow.

I also got Xavier the Ten Commandments.  I still can’t believe how much he will watch that movie.  At his age I remember it always being on every Easter, but I was never able to stay with the whole thing.  My attention span just didn’t last 5 hours.  He can’t get enough of the movie.  Watching I thought about how so much of Jewish culture is about remembering and telling stories.  Then I thought about today being St. Patrick’s Day, and how Catholics use festivals and rituals as reminders of the miracles God has done.  I understand why the churches I go to don’t do all those things, for fear of worshiping the ritual instead of God.  But as a parent I believe it’s important to pass heritage and tradition down to my children.  It’s important to teach them of God’s story and what He has done.  While I get the importance, I’m also very bad at the follow through.  I need to start developing family rituals, but I don’t really know where to start.

Just got back from this month’s FRG meeting.  I’ll start with what is FRG?  Family Readiness Group.  That explains so much doesn’t it.  You may have seen the photos recently of what _____ thinks _____ is, what I think _____ is, what ______ really is.  Have to say, I’m addicted, I love those.  Can’t get enough.  So I’m gonna play that game with FRG.

What I think when I think FRG:  You know the movie We Were Soldiers.  Remember how the wives met and had a baby shower, all the ladies got indignant about the one wife not allowed to use the laundry mat.  8 and a half years in, I still hold onto that ideal, though I have yet to be in a FRG like that.  Military wives don’t have the luxury of friends we grew up with down the street and parents across town.  We don’t even tend to have the same friends as we did two years ago because either we or the friends have moved.  We’re all still friends, but we can’t drop by for dinner or call when we need a favor.  FRG should be there so that we have a built-in support system, we need it.

What women who’ve been to FRG and now won’t touch it with a ten foot pole think of FRG.  Back-stabbing and gossip.  Unfortunatly, some people just can’t leave the world of high school cliques.  So for this one, picture Mean Girls.

What soldiers think of FRG.  Packages.  We aren’t doing that here, but, well, being able to do that requires coordinated effort, i.e. volunteers.  Every year I’m in the Army it seems like there are fewer and fewer of those.  Mental picture for this one, a box with candy, toothpaste and baby wipes.  If you ever wish to send a package to a soldier don’t underestimate a soldiers need for sugar and hygiene.

What FRG leaders think of FRG.  Regulations.  Another thing to never underestimate is the Army’s love for rules and paperwork.  Most FRG leaders start with high hopes of all the great stuff they will be able to do for soldiers and their families.  And then you get the big book full of do and do not’s.  And you find that some of your ideas are do nots.  And those you can do suddenly require paperwork and permission out the wazoo.  Here we’d have a picture of a 2-inch binder full of legal blah-blah.

There are some other impressions I have of what different people think of FRG, but I might get in trouble for some of them, so I’ll move on to what FRG should be.  It should be a place for Army wives to meet other Army wives.  It should have a variety of activities each quarter.  Social activities for those who just want to hang.  Teaching activities because there is so much you need to know in the military that Army wives just don’t know.  Classes on finance, what the JAG’s office can offer you, classes on understand the military, and the one that I tend to push, what will happen in case of a causality and how to prepare.  I know wives don’t like to think about that, but a little preparation before that you hopefully never have to use could make the worst moments easier.  Imagine a stay-at-home mom finding out that the SGLI isn’t enough to cover the expenses of her family after a soldier’s death.  Now not only is her husband gone, but she has to find a job and her kids are losing much more than their dad.  That can be avoided by sitting down with her husband, having all the numbers for all the benefits she’d get, and knowing what companies offer life insurance without a war clause before something happens.  And it’s not just money to think about.  Imagine a wife in a new place where she’d never choose to live, the Army just moved her there, parents in one state and in-laws in another. Her husband just died and now she needs to decided where she’s gonna bury her husband and where she’s gonna live.  Those are not easy decisions.  And very likely a lot of people will be telling her what to do.  But if she and her husband already have a plan, she doesn’t have to make any decisions, they are already made.  And she’ll know what her husband actually wants when other people try to tell her “well, your husband would want….”.   Yeah, I’m passionate about this topic.  It’s gotten me in trouble before.  People think it’s insensitive of me to tell Army wives their husbands just might die and they need to think about what would happen.

What FRG really is.  Picture a bunch of women trying to accomplish anything and kids running all over the place.