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

At least my 5 year old son isn’t pregnant…

Last week we had the joy of a visit from the stomach flu. Yikes, my normal bouncing, loud, energetic, hyper, busy (you get it yet?) five year-old turned into barf-a-saurus Rex. To my delight he is the least dramatic barfer I have ever met, merely turning his head to the side, doing his business and the continuing on. The downfall to this is that he doesn’t happen to care where “the side” is, and will throw up on/in anything.

After 12 hours of nothing staying down I realized that dehydration was quickly becoming a threat. Being an emergency medical professional, I know how hard it can be to access care after hours without a visit to the emergency department, so I gave the doc a call and asked for some anti-nausea medication before things got out of hand.

Blessedly, we were quickly ushered into the clinic, where my son informed the doctor he was “fine, just throwing up a lot”. (His definition of “fine” is different than mine.) Doc declared what I suspected: a touch of the stomach flu and ordered the meds to be picked up at the town pharmacy.

Once in the pharmacy I filled out all of our new-patient paperwork and plopped down in the chair with my now-crabby 7 year old and my sickly boy in my lap. The pharmacist said it would be a bit because we were new, he had to call the insurance company to verify coverage. He suggested some ginger loli-pops to settle tummies while we waited, and of course Sickly was thrilled with having “candy” to eat while we waited.

Twenty-minutes later the pharmacist was starting to (loudly) argue with someone on the phone, and then turned to me and asked if I was “certain he didn’t have other health insurance?”

I asked to speak with the insurance company, and before I could even say hello, the woman on the other end of the line informed me that she “didn’t know what kind of game (I) was trying to play, but federal fraud was going to land (me) in prison!” Ummm, yeah. I am not real fond of the idea of rooming with our favorite DIY/homemaker/chef Martha What’s-Her-Name, but I am also pretty sure I haven’t committed any federal crimes lately.

I politely asked this woman what she was talking about, and she informed me that she had “proof” that my son has other health insurance, and that I am running a scam. She continued a lengthy diatribe about “people like you” and my “free” health insurance.

So now I am standing in the pharmacy talking on a phone from 1983 with its twisted-up cord stretched over the counter while this woman accuses me of random federal crimes and my 5 year old sits on my hip and rests his head on my shoulder. Finally I get out her what this “proof” that she has consists of.

Wait for it…

She tells me she has a copy of the statement showing that he used his state medical coupon to pay for his birth control pills, in July.

(About this time he throws up ginger-lollipop down my back.)

I asked her why she thought my 5 year old boy would be on birth control? …She not-so-politely explained that is how she knew I was a fraudster.

I hung up on her, apologized to the pharmacist who was now mopping up the ginger-scented puddle off the floor, and proceeded to pay cash. (Good reason to have an emergency fund, because you never know when your son’s birth control pills will cause a financial crisis.)

While the problem was very quickly resolved the next day, with the assistance of the Federal Recovery Coordinator, I was still rather upset that my family had to experience it. (and there was no “proof” of anything, but rather a rogue employee)

The moral of this story is: Have a back-up plan in place! I will get the money refunded to me by the insurance company, but it was the emergency fund that saved our hide in this case. Even federal health insurance is not bomb-proof, and while CHAMPVA and TriCare are good, they tend to have more problems than the private sector, so be prepared for an uphill battle.

Man Skills

You want me to what?!

In our house we have had pretty stereotypical gender roles. I clean, bake, do laundry, grocery shop, etc… He did the lawn mowing, car stuff, and killed spiders. Then Mitch got blown up. So now, instead of him killing spiders, I stand in the living room having one-sided arguments with the dog about who has to do the smashing. (The dog always wins and goes to sleep while I dispose of the intruder.)

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My dog completely not caring that I am about to be carried off by a pack of rabid tarantulas.

 

Spiders aside, I am now learning some new skills, like fire building, lawn mowing and wood cutting. Skills that are certainly okay, and probably good, for a woman to have, but none the less new to me. I think there may be a good reason I was born with baking skills and not lawn mowing skills: my yard looks something like blind beavers mowed the lawn while consuming large amounts of absinthe. Practice makes perfect, right? Since we have a riding mower Mitch does a lot of the mowing (Praise Jesus!) and my “skills” are only on display about once a year.

Car care, well I give up. I outsource for that. Mainly because I have a strong aversion to placing my hands any were I cannot see, something that is apparently required for anything more than checking fluid levels. I know how, I just don’t. We all have issues-don’t judge.

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This is actually 4 rows deep, and no, I did not do it all alone.

This summer I taught myself how to split wood. Yes! Score one for Anna! It was a steep learning curve. My daughter asked me if I was okay. Twice. Then she suggested I ask the neighbor for help, which seems like a really brilliant idea for a seven year old, until I realized the neighbor she was referring to is the elderly man who lives up the hill. (It must have looked really bad to her, that she thought he would better at it.) However awkward and time consuming my splitting efforts were, they paid off and we now have a tidy stockpile of firewood.

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manual labor: more fun than you are imagining!

… And a savings account for a hydraulic splitter.

Now that it is time to actually use said firewood I am practicing my fire building skills, which I will say I am good at. Perhaps I am channeling my inner Laura Ingalls, but my fire was quick-to-ignite and warm, so that is what matters!

25 ideas for keeping more money in your pocket

I noticed today that one of my favorite bloggers, Patrice Lewis has challenged readers to come up with 25 frugal tips for everyday living.  We all know that you don’t join the military to get rich, and if you are now living on disability because of your service, you are probably catching on that you will never be monetarily rich.  We all know why the commissary is empty the day before payday-everyone is out of cash.  So here are my favorite ways to make those dollars stretch:

  1. Make it at home.  Bread, Laundry Soap, greeting cards, birthday/Christmas gifts and much more can all be made at home with a minimal amount of time and effort.  If you don’t know how to bake or cook, now is a great time to pull up youtube and start learning new skills!
  2. Repair it!  Many things can be fixed at home, by you without much expertise.  The lamp with bad wiring?  You can buy a complete wiring set at the local hardware store, and you don’t have to be an electrician to install it.  Button popped off?  Check out youtube and learn how to sew on a button (and now is a good time to pilfer through your husband’s sewing kit that he hasn’t used since bootcamp!)
  3. Plan ahead: it is much cheaper to carry and sandwich bag of dry cereal in your purse than it is to fork over a dollar (or more!) for candy bar out of a vending machine.  It is also healthier for you and sets a much better example for your kids.
  4. Store a case of bottled water in the car for those dying-of-thirst moments where you are tempted to stop for a beverage.  Healthier than soda, and much cheaper!  I pay less than $3.00 for a case (24 bottles) of water, instead of spending $1 per water at a convenience store or fast-food place.
  5. Buy it used!  January is a great time for shopping for like-new appliances, barely worn dress clothes and more.  Some many Christmas gifts end up at the local donation center after the recipient realizes that the rice-cooker from Aunt Edna will only be used twice a year, and those matching sweaters for the Christmas picture were only flattering for Cousin Phil!
  6. Leave your debit card at home.  Seriously.  It is much less tempting to buy that cute little sweater that catches your eye, if you know that you only have enough cash with you to buy the things you need.
  7. Search online for free movie rental-codes.   Redbox and Blockbuster rental kiosks regularly have codes for free rentals if you sign up for their newsletters.
  8. Check out your local library!  While many bases have libraries, don’t forget your civilian options too.  Libraries are not just about books anymore: many offer DVD’s, CD’s books on CD, and Kindle Lending services.  While you are there ask if they have children’s story time or any other events.
  9. Skip the pets.  Yes, this might be a little radical for some, but if you are thinking about adding a furry relative to the family, remember that it isn’t just food (and litter) but also routine vaccines, vet trips, annual licenses, emergencies and any damage they may cause.
  10. Drive less.  That doesn’t mean you have to become a homebody, but plan all your outings for one trip, or try carpooling.  If you only need one thing at the store, try asking a neighbor if she will pick it up for you when she goes.
  11. Volunteer more!  Keeping yourself busy means you will have less time to think of ways you can spend money.  Volunteering doesn’t mean leaving your house, many non-profits can use blog writers, envelope stuffers, web designers, etc.  Bonus: helping your community while saving money!
  12. Use it up.  I know you have done it: you are almost out of shampoo/dish soap/laundry detergent so you pick up more while you are out, and when you get home you toss the old bottle because it only had one more serving in it and you needed a place for the new one.  Assuming you use a bottle every 2 weeks, that is 25+ uses  a year that are thrown away.
  13. Ditch the paper towels.  Invest in a bundle of your favorite color washcloths (Target is a great place to check for these) and use them for napkins, cleaning up spills, etc.  For really gross things, like potty accidents, keep old t-shirts, town towels, or other rags on hand that you can throw away without guilt.
  14. Price compare for healthy foods.  Many places like VitaCost (Vitacost is also offering $10/off your first order right now!) and Green Polkadot Box offer good prices on healthy foods delivered to your door.  This is especially good if you have special dietary requirements, like gluten or dairy free foods.
  15. Buy your special kids clothes at consignment or thrift stores.  Most consignment stores have very high standards and only accept “like-new” items.  ThredUp is an online consignment store, and from my experience their products are the highest of quality.  Look in the phone book for consignment stores in your area, or check out ThredUp for a $10 credit to new customers.
  16. Investigate your coupon options.  Many websites offer couponing tutorials, and a pretty good idea what kind of products you can get free or cheap with a few minutes of clipping each day.  Charlene over at MyFrugalAdventures has a great couponing tutorial.  Beware of the excitement of coupons, and don’t be tempted to buy things that you won’t use, just because there is a coupon.
  17. Buy in bulk.  Warehouse stores, like Costco and Sams can be useful if your savings are greater than your membership fees.  You can ask to visit a store and look around before committing to a membership, just tell the person at the door.  Many regular grocery stores also offer bulk food bins where you can purchase just enough pasta, spices or cereal for a single recipe, and eliminate waste.
  18. Trade goods/services with your neighbors.  Especially if you live on base it can be easy to find other families to exchange childcare, carpool duties and more.  Don’t be afraid to offer lawn mowing, housecleaning, pet sitting, or other services in exchange for what you need.
  19. Group buying sites, like Groupon and Living social offer everything from discounted race entry for runners, to half off home goods.  Keep a list of items/events that you are interested in and watch the deal sites.  Remember only to buy the deal if it was something you were going to get anyway, don’t be tempted by a deep discount on Polka lessons if you hate dancing!
  20. Become a staycationer!  Check out the local museums, amusement parks, and natural wonders in your area.  Pack a lunch and stay local, save yourself the cost of hotels and dinner out, and if you are blessed to live in an area with public transportation, use it.
  21. Barrow what you can.  This doesn’t mean being the pesty neighbor who constantly asks to use things, it means not buying what you don’t have to!  If you are only going to use a punch bowl once in your life, see if you can barrow it from a friend or neighbor.  If you are only going to use an edging tool once per season, see if you can rent it from the home improvement store.
  22. Sell the things you don’t need.  Craig’s List, base classified ads, yard sales and online auctions are all viable options for getting rid of seldom used furniture and outgrown snow-suits!  (And if you can’t sell it, don’t forget donations to Goodwill are tax deductible!)
  23. Clear out your clutter!  If you have to buy a new potato masher because you can’t find your old one, you aren’t saving any money!  Save yourself even more money by keeping your refrigerator clean, and you will have less waste.
  24. Investigate Season passes to local attractions.  If you live buy a zoo that your family likes to frequent, it can be much cheaper to purchase a season pass, and if you have a season pass, you will be less tempted to spend money on random activities when your kids ask “What are we going to do today?”
  25. Ask about a military/Veterans/AARP/AAA/Whatever discount everywhere you shop!  Many places offer unadvertised discounts to military, fire, law enforcement, seniors or club members.

Take a few minutes at the beginning of each week to plan what you need to get done.  This is a good time to think about errands (can you combine them into one or two trip?) Plan a menu around what you have in the freezer, and make any needed arrangements for childcare or transportation.  You can save yourself the last minute costs of eating out or calling a cab by planning ahead.   Little things can add up very quickly and make the days before payday a lot less desperate!

Vacation: Family Style!

So we set off this week on our first (ever) family vacation. The day included three airports, seven TSA agent, a frightened rental car company employee, two small children, a confused airline employee, a sedated husband and a partridge in a pear tree (just kidding, no birds were harmed during our travel.)  We made it to South Dakota!

Twenty-two hours after I left my house, I crawled into bed exhausted.  Utterly, indescribably, exhausted.  Vacations aren’t for moms, in case you were wondering.  Vacations are where moms pretend they are having fun while they give their children the opportunities to see and do amazing new things, like visit Mt. Rushmore and have tantrums in Wall Drug.

First of all packing for 4 people is MUCH more challenging than packing for one.  Especially when you discover that eight of the twelve brand new pairs of undies you got your son are missing.  (Seriously, I went to pack and he only had 4 pairs.  …this is why you start packing at least two days before!)  After solving the underoo crisis I still managed to forget toothbrushes.  We bought new ones, and told the kids they were souvenirs from South Dakota. (Parenting WIN!)

Luckily where we are staying has a washer and dryer, so I didn’t have to pack a whole week’s worth of clothing.  Two large duffles, three backpacks, and a purse were enough to juggle.  Made the kids carry their booster seats-much to their dismay!  Thankfully only had to carry our gear to the curb where TSA met us and took over the duffles and one of the backpacks.  (Bless them!)

Ticketing and security were un-eventful, with the airline being shockingly efficient for 0400!  Security sent us through the front of the line, which still took us forever removing belts and shoes, and laptops and liquids…

I am amused by the fact that other travelers stare at us.  Surrounded by a pack of TSA agents, they can’t seem to determine if we are terrorists or VIP’s.  It can be humorous to watch their faces as we go by, not sure if they should run or ask for an autograph.

Upon arrival in Rapid City (which has the best TSA guys evaaaar!) we checked out our rental car.  The nice girl at the ticket counter was very helpful until she noticed the pack of agents surrounding us, then she got nervous and flustered, as if she couldn’t decide whether or not she should ask why we were being escorted off the property by security.  It all worked out in the end and we drove off in our new Ford Escape for the week.

Our leased vacation home from Black Hills Executive Lodging is unbelievably elegant!  (another post to come on that!) There was even a lovely fruit basket waiting for my famished children when we checked in.  The ladies who manage it are also extremely helpful, offering insider tips for visiting the area.

Off on more adventures today, with a boy who is adamant that he does NOT want to wear pants (or shorts), and the charming British man that lives in the GPS I rented.

Anna is Back!

For those who missed me, I apologize.   If you didn’t miss me, lets pretend you did, so I can feel needed, okay?

If you don’t know who I am:

I have been a Marine wife for almost ten years, and I have known my husband almost ten years and two weeks.  (yes, do the math, it is what you are thinking.)  I have two active, and busy kids who are almost old enough to brush their teeth without coating the bathroom in toothpaste.  …alas, maybe next year.

And here is a random picture of my dog. Mostly because I am lame about collecting photos of myself. …and my dog is super cool.

My husband was horrifically injured in 2006 and left active duty in 2007.  We have moved multiple times since then, experienced the uniqueness of VA healthcare, buried too many of our friends, and been blessed with a tribe of supporters who really understand the concept of “leave no man behind.”

Follow me while I share what I have learned, what I am learning (Splitting wood takes muscle.  Splitting wood without splitting your foot takes skill…) and the things that I do that you would think I should have learned by now.

Making it all work…latest edited Military Press article…

Over the weekend I realized something I wanted to share what I think we sometimes let slip in the back of our minds. Ourselves.
Reluctantly I got my hair cut & styled by a friend. I had been meaning to do it weeks ago but I hadn’t had enough time, my house was a mess, I’ve had a million Girl Scout things to do, the dogs needed a bath & my husband could just cut it right? I kept making excuses until one Friday there was no more running. I was on her block at a meeting & she said I’ll cut it then. Crap. Okay fine. I did & after she was done I felt like a whole new person! Like I’d been pulled off the street and given a total hair makeover. I almost didn’t recognize the face on the hair! I felt girly, alive, frisky & fun. This face needed makeup! But my hair was amazing and I loved it. We all know how a good haircut can make us feel and I couldn’t fathom why I didn’t do it sooner so I could have felt like this before!  By the way thank you Jessica!!!! 😛
Does it seem as if there aren’t enough hours in the day? Are you procrastinating on dieting, working out, spring cleaning, gardening, ect? Well today’s the day I hope you make that to-do list have more checks on it! Get it done. Be motivated and just do it! (ha ha that was not intended to be funny but I couldn’t help but think of Nike when I reread it)
Sometimes your feelings get in the way of your to-do list which is understandable. Say you’re at the beginning of a deployment or in the middle of a deployment in a routine and in both cases there’s a complete lack of energy or stamina to do anything let alone something for yourself. It’s typically mundane tasks, go with the flow and wherever the day takes you. I understand.
Yet I encourage you ladies to do something for yourself out of the ordinary to break the routine. We often times pour ourselves into the kids & especially our husbands but try not to forget you. Save up and splurge on a Burke Williams massage, have someone watch your kids so you can relax & read a book on the beach or get that haircut you’ve always wanted. Whatever it is have fun & embrace the moment.