Learning to fight fair…with a Marine.

IMG_1133This post is long overdue.  I don’t know why I wrote this article first.  Maybe because when we woke up, Anthony totally went all men-o-pause and thought I said something I didn’t.  I was like, “whoa, I didn’t call you stupid or think you couldn’t talk to and get your point across to the doc.”  Let’s be clear, I may have been thinking it, and I should’ve just gone and did it myself but I didn’t say it!  Bless his heart.  ;)

We all know, men are very simple.  The average man wants two or three things out of daily life and only uses 7,000 words a day but they aren’t counting Marines unless grunts are included.  They use maybe 3,000-4,000 a day.  This is no bullcrap.  I’ve caught Anthony just glazed over eyes, looking at my mouth moving but he ain’t listening to me!  I think sometimes they have so much on their minds they can’t multitask like our Google brains can.  Ohh, those sound like fightin’/challenge to me, men?!  They wouldn’t be able to juggle everything like we do in a million years.  Cue the Lifetime, man hating music.  LOL. Just kidding men.

So after a little “Semper Gumby” moments through our PCS across the country with two teenagers, my husband, two dogs and two guinea pigs (yes, pigs) we all survived yet got to practice what we preach a bit. It could’ve been worse right?  Don’t laugh too hard ok.

So let’s be clear, we’ve found two main points that really help us in positive communication and overall in our Marine Corps family.   I’m no Oprah or Ricki Lake, well maybe since she gave good advice too sometimes and I do accept wine if you somehow get extra attention from your spouse.  IMG_0302

Active Listening. If you’re already thinking of something sarcastic to say before the other person isn’t even done talking, you’re not fighting fair. When we were first married this happened a lot. He would tell me something & I was literally creating an Excel spreadsheet in my head of all the points I could make. Guess I wasn’t “fighting fair” by actively listening & being in the moment to hear what he was actually saying after he said that first sentence because I was creating Excel columns and rows.

No Negative Rebuttals. If constructive criticism is aimed at you and you quickly think of something negative, counterproductive or completely irrelevant to the entire conversation about that other persons flaws, character or habits, you’re not fighting fair. Once, we were discussing where to eat for dinner; which I somehow in my mind flipped his comment around because I know he said I was overweight and need to eat healthier. I told him that MAYBE he shouldn’t use the bathroom with the door open while talking to me. It took us a while to eat Subway again afterwards since it was such a “remember when you went nuts…” moment.  We laugh now. 7 years later.IMG_0329

Both points apply to both spouses.  Now with age and time come maturity for some.  Well this is the Marine Corps so these tips may not work while he’s wasted at a Dining In or the Ball.  In those instances we know they’re all the same age, crazy teenagers. It can also apply to dealing with other people who may not have the same common sense, manners or common courtesy as yourself.  Somehow it can be tougher to keep your calm in these situations so tread lightly…(cough, cough, military spouses…) IMG_1135

When conversations go negative, most people shut down and don’t even listen after a certain point & you start going in circles about the same thing.  Sometimes it’s wise to not even begin or get into it depending on what it’s about.  If its the toilet paper roll on wrong or the toilet seat down, there are worse things in life to holler about so perspective and rationality come into play here.  If he gets whole milk instead of 2%, just send his cute ass back to the commissary and get some chocolate and wine while he’s there.

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My husband aka (his cute little ass I’d send back to the commissary)

Momma always said, if you don’t have anything to say, don’t say it at all.  I don’t think everyone got that lesson.  Just saying.  She also had this little plaque in the kitchen that said, “The way to be seen is stand up, the way to be heard is speak up, and the way to be appreciated is shut up.”  I always wondered if my dad gave it to her.  LOLLL.

Marines (men in general) have a short attention span so make your words count (remember they don’t use very many in a day) & get your point across as calmly as possible. Despite wanting to shake the shit out of them and slap them silly, breathe, and even though they probably see the red in our eyes and Lorena Bobbit twitchy hand, maybe respond in your best and calmest “Horse Whisperer voice” and say, “Babe, I’m always thinking of you and what will be best for all of us and I’m only trying to help.”   After all, Bryan Adams says, “When you love someone, you’ll sacrifice. Give it everything you got…” Arguing should be the minimal part of your lives. Your spouse is the best part of this Marine Corps lifestyle and the reason you’re in it. Just eat the damn Subway and keep your possibly overreacting comments to yourself to avoid the awkward stories your family & even strangers will hear over and over.

Love, laughs and hugs to y’all!

-Crystal

Veteran’s Day, Communication & Suicide

I wrote an article for Veteran’s Day for Military Press.  I hope you enjoy it.

 

Communicate with your Veteran before it’s too late!

Have you ever thought about what it’s like in combat? For a second let’s imagine what it might have been like for your spouse in the sandbox, constantly in a heightened state of fear for his life. As things are just getting back to normal around here, Veteran’s Day next week may bring up some of those same mixed feelings.

Typical Duck Dynasty loving Americans don’t realize what we go through, let alone what our spouses choose to go through. I think many fail to realize that everyone who’s gone to combat comes home with some sort of extra baggage. Mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically — if they even come home at all. It’s not all civilians’ faults though because it’s either not a part of their lives or it’s just out of sight and out of mind. I understand we’re a very small percentage of Americans but the more Americans know, care and understand, the less all of our Veterans and service members will feel isolated and misunderstood.

What always gets me is the statistic that 22 Veterans a day commit suicide. That adds up to more deaths from suicide than were killed in action in the current war. That’s a suicide every 65 minutes. Even more astonishing, according to CNN, is that the numbers are underreported due to Veterans not registering with the VA and states not turning in accurate numbers because of lack of information. The numbers are mainly for older Veterans. Apparently 30% of the OIF & OEF service members have considered taking their own lives and 45% said they know a service member who has attempted suicide.

Steel Magnolias, I encourage you all to teach your children about Veterans Day and educate them on how things used to be and why we should cherish and respect not only our elders but especially the Veterans. Volunteer and speak up so that we do not let the cycle of unknowing civilians continue. Always try to keep positive communication going with your spouse not only for your marriage and yourself but also the well-being of your family. So many of our marriages end up in the drain because of things that are out of our control but there are many wives who don’t get to make this point or celebrate holidays with their husbands anymore and only get to visit them at national cemeteries.

Don’t let them stuff down their feelings and suck it up living in horrid silence alone. Please don’t wait until it’s too late to try and communicate. If you need a push start don’t be afraid to contact FOCUS, a local therapist, find a couples retreat or even simply go run errands together, hold hands and keep that constant feeling of support and openness there.

Don’t forget yourself in all of this. Have a glass of wine with a fellow spouse occasionally. As Steel Magnolias we have the strength to be the spouse, cheerleader, researcher, mother and health advocate these men need but the only way to prevent all of this is to simply talk.

2013 Holiday Care Package Shipping Dates

So whether you’re shipping a real Christmas tree to your loved one, a cake in a jar or a full stocking of goodies you’ll need to know the following information to make sure that it all gets there as close to when Santa sends everyone else their gifts.

APO/FPO AE ZIPs 090-092

Priority Mail Express Military Service: Dec-17

First Class Letters/Cards: Dec-10
Priority Mail: Dec-10

APO/FPO AE ZIP 093

Priority Mail Express Military Service: N/A

First Class Letters/Cards: Dec-3

Priority Mail: Dec-3

APO/FPO AE ZIPs 094-098

Priority Mail Express Military Service: Dec-17

First Class Letters/Cards: Dec-10

Priority Mail: Dec-10

APO/FPO AA ZIP 340

Priority Mail Express Military Service: Dec-17

First Class Letters/Cards: Dec-10

Priority Mail: Dec-10

APO/FPO AP ZIPs 962-966

Priority Mail Express Military Service: Dec-17

First Class Letters/Cards: Dec-10

Priority Mail: Dec-10

How to ship care packages

It can be nerve racking to ship anything overseas especially if there are precious items of comfort and love inside that can be pretty pricey to stock then ship.

Did you know? The Postal Service offers a discount on its largest Priority Mail Flat Rate box at $14.85. The price includes a $2 per box discount for military mail being sent to APO/FPO/DPO (Air/Army Post Office, Fleet Post Office, Diplomatic Post Office) destinations worldwide.

Did you know?  The Postal Service created a FREE “Military Care Kit” based on the items most frequently requested by military families.

The kit contains:

  • Two Priority Mail APO/FPO Flat Rate Boxes.
  • Two Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Boxes.
  • Priority Mail tape.
  • Priority Mail address labels.
  • Appropriate customs forms.To order the kit, call 800-610-8734. Guidelines for packing, addressing, and shipping items to U.S. troops can be found at usps.com/ship/apo-fpo-guidelines.htm. To order flat-rate boxes featuring the “America Supports You” logo, go to store.usps.com.

    To address the package, follow the instructions below:

    1. Write out the service members full name in the address

    2. Include the unit and APO/FPO/DPO address with the 9-digit ZIP Code (if one is assigned). For example:

    CPT JOHN DOE
    UNIT 2050 BOX 4190
    APO AP 96278-2050

    SGT ROBERT SMITH
    PSC 802 BOX 74
    APO AE 09499-0074

    SEAMAN JOSEPH SMITH
    USCGC HAMILTON
    FPO AP 96667-3931

    MSG JANE DOE
    CMR 1250
    APO AA 09045-1000

    3. Make sure to include a return address.

“References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot”

I had the extreme pleasure of reviewing a local theatre’s Spanish translation of Jose Rivera’s work last month.  I still can not get over how parallel and spot on the entire play was to many military couples past and present.  I wrote this for Military Press where I write my editorial so I thought I’d also put it on here for many more to enjoy!  Thankfully a fellow Wounded Warrior Wife came along for the experience.  When things like this pop up in your neighborhood whether they’re PTS conferences, seminars, meet & greets, panels & lectures please feel free to pop in to chat or volunteer to help run the show.

MOXIE Theatre Review: “References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot”

Breathtaking, sensual and surreal love story hits San Diego

By: Crystal Arriaga, Military Press

SAN DIEGO – “There will always be things you do not know about each other.” The quote is true for many couples but especially military couples who are bombarded with deployment & training schedules, seen & unseen injuries, moves, money and kids.

Director Dana I. Harrel creates a raw and stimulating translation of Spanish Playwright Jose Rivera’s work.  With choreographer Derrick McGee, stage manager Ryan Heath and costume designer Alina Bokovikova; all of Jose Rivera’s rich language and passionate detail to the script are transformed into a mind numbing, deliciously exotic and panting experience.  As the play goes on it reveals a young woman who has been through so much being married to her military career minded husband.  She’s endured moves across the world, a combat deployment and now the unseen and often unspoken realities that war leaves on the mind and heart.  Like so many military spouses all of this leaves her wondering, in her own at times hazy fantasy way, if the man who captured her heart is the one who will come through the door this time or is he just another ghostly casualty of war.

The play is innovative & provocative in a Salvador Dali piece of art type way that will have people wanting to stay up late into the night discussing the many layers hidden underneath each another.  The story is so passionate & thought provoking; you feel as if you are Gabriela, the military spouse played by the graceful & emotionally torn Jacqueline Lopez married to the hard-hitting and intensely portrayed Benito, played by Jorge Rodriguez.  This is one play that is anything but conventional.  It delves into what most of us know about military & combat stressors on a marriage but don’t always talk about.  As shown in the performance not everyone can deal with the military wife lifestyle with so many obstacles being hurled at once and I’m overjoyed the stage and costume design was true to a very real and typical military housewife and not another cookie cutter commercial portrayal of a surface only-happy couple.

With so many outstanding small companies in San Diego I implore you to show your support of this captivating performance.

How to have A Healthy Marine Corps Marriage…

At least once new and seasoned spouses have all asked themselves the same question:  How do I maintain a normal & healthy marriage; if there is one?!  There are no simple or quick fixes and let’s face it; being a Marine Corps wife can compound the challenge. There’s no 9-5 civilian job to mull over.  At the very beginning we discuss funeral wishes, Wills & POA’s when most  couples are still in the honeymoon phase.  Absolutely no one has a perfect marriage but hopefully we can all learn from others’ experiences to obtain or maintain a healthy marriage.

1) Communication. Learning the art of having a solid positive communicative foundation in your relationship is a hurdle you have to learn to jump because issues only get more complex as the years go by.  Active listening means just that LISTENING.  Not nagging or thinking of a come back as soon as they open their mouths.  Fluffy surface stuff like “hi/bye, kiss me, I love you” get you nowhere as well.  I mean deep conversations into the how, why & plan of action for confrontational in-laws, finances, overspending, financial planning, how to raise your kids, ect.  Two people have become one and finding a neutral ground of compromise is a delicate balance.  Compromise doesn’t mean submission it means you can have an honest conversation without feeling slighted or run over.

2) Maintenance.  You get out of your marriage what you put into it.  You don’t overheat your car without getting it checked out; the same concept goes for a marriage. Aboard almost all bases there are counselors & classes like the 5 Love Languages and the 4 Lenses which introduce you to personality types and how to mesh them into your relationship so both parties feel validated, important and respected.  People go to the doctor for regular check-ups & maintenance is the same thing to prevent serious issues.

3) Reality. We live a unique life where it takes tremendous effort to communicate & maintain our marriage due to unaccompanied duty stations, deployments, trainings, ect.  Marine Corps marriage is a huge reality check. Priorities have to shifted because reality is you cant get upset when he isn’t around or remembers to celebrate that second Wednesday in June when you two kissed for the third time under a full moon and you were wearing red heels with your favorite jeans.

4) Salt & Pepper. Everyone knows salt and pepper are always added and additional spices as needed and so should be certain things in a marriage.  Always have undeniable love, respect, support, thoughtfulness, understanding and patience for each other and the spicy romance & extra goodies should automatically follow suit.

We’ve all heard the saying that anything worth fighting for won’t be easy and thats exactly what Marine Corps marriage is.  Marriage is meant to complement your attributes and personality so while you’ll constantly evolve into being a better person and an outstanding Marine Corps spouse because of your Marine remember to enjoy the ride along the way.  A spoonful of sugar will not make our lives easier as much as I’d love it to but leaning on each other for support and following the steps above may help a bit.

Planning Valentines Day for Men

Men can be pretty interesting and irritating creatures. Being that we’re married to the few and the proud makes life even more unpredictable & audacious. Even if he’s deployed you know your man and if he’s outgoing or a home-body hopefully you will be able to relate and utilize some or all of these suggestions to have a passionate Valentines Day! With some creative thinking you may just get some naughty time & fireworks at the end of your special night.

If your man says in his most cynical grumpy voice, “Valentine’s is just another day!” Don’t fall for it! It’s a cop out to not do anything at all. Tell him you’re not renting a helicopter to take you to an island to renew your vows like you’re on a tv show but the day can serve as an opportunity to reconnect with each other. He needs to suck it up!

Do you shop or not shop for him? It’s a huge thing now a days. Homemade means heartfelt. I say that it can be hard to figure out what to get them in general so do whatever you want to do and don’t feel bad for not crocheting a damn thing! Buying for men on any holiday is insane but especially this one since this isn’t the manliest of man days ever. Those little lollipop inserted cards were cute in 2nd grade but what about now?

Thanks to Pinterest “I’ve seen the light” (in my best southern preacher voice) and perfected the art of man-gift giving. For our Marines it isn’t quantity but quality ladies! I got a standing ovation for my Christmas gift buying skills so here are ideas for receiving a standing “O” yourself on V-Day:

Couple time: yes you have to touch him! hold hands, watch the sunset, walk on the beach or set some paper lanterns up (but not in California you’d probably go to jail)

Message/Poem: daily love notes enhance a marriage anyways to fill that “love tank” so on VDay make it spicy or corny but always from the heart

Scavenger hunt/O-Course: make him work for it! He can read instructions when he comes home that will have him seeking out his gifts or you in the end

Music: remember making tapes from the radio? They were so awesomely heartfelt & special. Make him a compilation of love songs to set the mood either on the IPod or a CD.

Food: the way to his heart is through his stomach! Cook/Bake at home or go out but 4 courses will get his attention!

Photos/Boudoir shoot: everyone has a tasteful temptress in them! No granny panties tonight! Check out that ‘skinny ladies’ secret or a normal sized persons lingerie store & buy some lacy items to cover your naughty bits! Do your hair & makeup then strike a pose for your love either before or on V-Day. He’ll never see it coming! (Deployed spouses: clothing is not optional for so many reasons!)

Retail: store bought/homemade doesn’t matter but a nice tactical Fossil watch, gun store gift card, hand sewn one-point sling harness, painted picture frame, mancave signs, truck accessories, ammo, tickets to his favorite team or a surprise trip to the gun range you set up will have him very fired up!

If you run out of time & all else fails, read the steps below and repeat!

Step 1: Make sure to put all phones on vibrate or silent so the mother-in-law/kids/dealership salesman/bill collector/Avon rep/librarian can’t interrupt!

Step 2: Melt some chocolate

Step 3: Meet him at the door with a smile on your face and not much else

Chocolate can make anyone smile!