Saturday, January 24, 2015

An Open Letter to Congress

Dear Members of Congress,

I would specifically appeal to my senators and congressman here, but my congressman has banned me from his Facebook page for accusing the lot of you of acting like a bunch of pre-teens fighting over glitter nail polish and 7 jeans during a looming shutdown (therefore, I know he throws away my emails and letters), one senator is the typical I-am-deaf-to-your-reasoning-because-I-have-opinions-and-they-are-already-purchased-by-a-company-paying-me-all-teh-monies, and the other senator hasn't had a chance to blow me off yet because he's brand spanking new.

So for all the good it will do us, I will appeal to the lot of you and hope someone is listening and actually gives a good goddamn.

First, who is this "us" I speak of? Military spouses. We are a silent minority, toiling in the background, and expected--even in this more enlightened age--to stay quiet and docile and not make a fuss. More of us feel empowered with technology to speak our minds, but we're still largely ignored. We matter even less than service members do.

But here's the thing: we do matter. We are the wizards behind the curtain, the ones who make things happen while the service members are busy with the tasks you and the Commander in Chief pass down. We are the gear the military would have issued our service members if the government had wanted our men and women in uniform to have spouses, the ones who are given lip service for all we do and endure but understanding all the while that our struggles don't matter. We are the uncounted, the ignored, the ever-present and ever-struggling, and it's about damned time we were heard.

I have been a milspouse for twenty years now, and in that time, I have never heard of or seen a politician or military commander acknowledge the price we pay--our careers pay--to keep our families as whole as the military will allow. This misstep isn't just nonsensical. It's insulting because the struggle isn't new, we have not kept our challenges quiet, and yet we are still ignored.

Many of us are welcomed into the military life with a swat on the butt and a "Welcome to the [service], Mrs/Mr X," and are expected to put our needs aside to support the important career in the family: that of the service member. Yes, they have important jobs. Yes, there are legal ramifications if they don't follow orders. And they're gone so frequently and for potentially long stretches, and we want to be a family, so we follow them around the world in hopes that we can make the times together really matter.

We didn't come into this life without goals and aspirations. Many of us stepped into this new role of milspouse with at least the first steps toward a particular career, and many of us have had to abandon those aspirations because they're not compatible with this life.

We didn't all come into this life thinking we'd have to completely change course or even endure long stretches of unemployment on our resumes, and yet that's what's happened.

We didn't step into our roles thinking, "Well, I guess I'd better find some kind of volunteer position to fill this resume gap. And I guess I'd better find a way to shave off some of our expenses so we can survive the next few years without my paycheck." We didn't think we'd have to sacrifice our financial goals to be with the men or women we love.

We might have known what we were getting into when we married into the military, or when the military joined our marriages, but you can't really know what sacrifices are required or how soul-sucking those sacrifices can be until you've lived it.

And the thing is, this particular sacrifice--this giving up our career goals, our economic safety nets, our own retirements--is pointless. Technology today is not what it was when I embarked on this Navy adventure twenty years ago. Today, we have email, Skype, webinars, VoIP, secure networks, high speed internet. We have tools that mean our physical presence is unnecessary. We can still attend meetings, even when they're happening five time zones away. We can still pop in on a team member to discuss an issue, brainstorm new ideas, confab on a project, or just chat and build camaraderie...we just won't physically be in their cubicle.

We milspouses are adaptable creatures. Semper Gumby is our motto, and so is Get Out of My Way For I Have Shit to Do. We are flexible. We are adventurous. We are strong and proud and motivated. We have dreams and goals, and most of us have to shelve those until our spouses leave the service, or else we have to agree to spend the bulk of our marriages living apart...and what kind of marriage is that? Those milspouses, the ones who pursue their own dreams far from their spouses--they are sacrificing just as much as those of us who follow our spouses. The problem is that we're damned if we do and damned if we don't--the sacrifice rests squarely on us. Give up on being with the person who inspires us to be our best selves, or give up on what lights a fire in us? Civilian spouses are not required to make this Solomon decision*.

But dear Congress, don't believe for a second that this doesn't affect the service members and their ability to do their jobs. Especially as you chip away at the benefits your military personnel have earned through egregious toil in the last decade-plus, they are feeling the financial pinch when their spouses have to leave a job during a PCS and can't find anything (even minimum wage) at the next duty station because their resume looks like a typical milspouse's, and who wants to hire someone who's only going to be here two years, anyway?

Don't believe for a second service members' morale isn't affected when their spouses are completely unfulfilled by the administrative assistant job they scored only because they hid their MBA degree on their resume.

Don't believe for a second that there isn't a tiny sliver of toxic resentment chipping away at some of these marriages, affecting the service member's ability to stay focused at work.

Don't believe this problem of underemployed and unemployed milspouses isn't a major issue for you, the ones who send the service members off to war.

We spouses get a lot of lip service, and in those few cases where we see a tiny ray of hope in the form of not-lip service (MyCAA, anyone?), it is yanked away from us. And if it returns (MyCAA, anyone?), it is restricted and restrictive, limiting spouses to pre-approved "careers" that, while great jobs, don't actually offer any upward mobility. Medical transcriptionists don't often climb the ladder to CEO, do they? An associate degree opens a door, but where does it lead?

A milspouse should have the opportunity and ability to take a job--whether for fun or extra money or as the next rung on the career ladder--any job, anywhere. Some jobs are impossible to make portable (you can't telework a sous chef position), but so many jobs are.

Again: So many jobs are or can be made portable. Because technology!

Government sparks so many jobs. Proven need sparks even more. Lip service will no longer cut it. Listen to us. Hear our voices. Spark a change.

Incentivize milspouse employment. Incentivize jobs that are portable, that offer upward mobility, and that are as flexible as milspouses are.

Incentivize employing milspouses and ensure companies can't discriminate against milspouses with lower pay or by passing us over just because we are milspouses (this does happen--all the time).

We should not be forced to sacrifice our dreams, our goals, our careers--or our families--because our spouses are serving this great country.

Do right by us for once, Congress. We've earned it.

Semper Gumby,
Snarky

*Nearly all, anyway. There are civilian families forced into this position.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Who's Your Hero?

Lots of kids who are asked this question will shoot back a few different kinds of answers:

  • my parent
  • my friend, who's dealing with something major
  • a sportsing person
  • someone in a field I'd like to go into some day
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson
A hero is not an official designation. It's not an official military award. It's not even specific to the military. Anyone can be a hero: it's their actions in general and their attitude that define heroism. 

My sprogs are my heroes*. I won't call them CHAMPS because that's a fucking stupid name. But I sure as fuck won't call them BRATS because that's also a stupid fucking name. They're just brats, and they are heroic for overcoming all that they have. That isn't stolen valor. Stolen valor is lying about your service. Big. Fucking. Difference.

Huge.

Everyone can be a hero. But if someone's attitude is pissy and pretentious and self-serving and entitled, then they really don't deserve that designation. So by all means, they should refuse the label. But should they continue to flail and screech about STOOOOOLEN VAAAAALOR, and I will continue to mock them.

It is Just. A Fucking. Label. Everybody calm your tits and quit looking for excuses to be outraged martyrs.

Oh, and I'm delighted at the shaming that's being done by some: If you lower yourselves enough to use free babysitting services from people who are trying to co-opt our [please to insert wiggledy fingers here] "heritage" and [please to insert wiggledy fingers here] "culture", then it doesn't matter how at the end of your fucking rope you are or how long you've been fighting the culture of suck-it-up aka [please to insert wiggledy fingers here] "proud milspouse culture" to get through this fucking deployment; you are a terrible parent.

My gods. That's a lovely sentiment to pass along to milspouses who are struggling. Fucking. Lovely. And just like a spoiled fucking brat not to consider the strain mil-brats put on mil-spouses but instead throw themselves on the floor and have a destructive and self-serving tantrum about imagined insults and faked abuses. *deep ujayii breathing*

I have half a mind to turn off comments. Judging by the other post comments, (gods help me) if they find this post and decide to bring their "arguments" here, I will drown in the stoopid again. But no. I will leave it open so everyone can see how crazy these people are.



* Also, Neil deGrasse Tyson is my hero, for reasons of obviousness. 
So was Judith Resnick, also for reasons. 
These days, I kinda find Susan Elizabeth Phillips heroic because of her skillz with the wordz. Same for Stephen King. 


Jesus Crispy Christ on a Cracker. I swore I was going to let all these insane fuckers yell each other deaf and move along, but I cannot abide the awe-inspiring levels of judgment, entitlement, and even stupidity. Jesus, even the ones who can present intelligent arguments have to pull out the martyr complex, but I suppose the whole argument falls apart if there isn't a veneer of "stop! thief! yer steelin' mah culture! yer steelin' mah pa's valor!" 

Also, I doubt the creds of anyone claiming to be a military brat if they're shocked by my language. I learned these words during my time as a midshipman, so Bitch. Please. Oh, wait. I mean STOOOOOOLEN BRAT TIIIIIIITLE!

Joyful Yule! Ish.

One of the biggest challenges I've faced as a milspouse is the ability to maintain my spiritual path. I work better with a group to inspire, motivate, and teach me, as well as giving me an opportunity to share and teach what I've learned.

So holidays are hard. Each solar and lunar holy day ends up hitting me, and I'm caught off guard, unsure of how to celebrate when it's just me, and I have all this other shit going on. What's the point of going all out if the only one who benefits is me? So at most, I'll bake something or I'll light a candle or I'll sit outside and enjoy the sun/moon. That's all well and good, but it just doesn't fill me like ritual does.

Christians have it easy in the US. There are so many churches, and chances are good you can find one of your denomination--or very close to it--no matter where you're stationed. Worse comes to worst, you can hit up a chaplain's services. But when you're Pagan, and especially when you're not specifically Gardnerian/Alexandrian Wiccan, it's not so easy to fall into a group. I got exceptionally lucky finding my path in San Diego with a coven that was exactly what I needed to make my first steps, and then again in Boulder with a coven that pushed me well past the limitations I thought I had. I had to start another group a few years later because there wasn't anything already running in the area, but there was a need. And since then...nothing. My one foray back into the fold happened in San Diego, but that fell apart fast.

The thing about being Pagan is that your path is personalized. You're the absolute final say in your path, the direction you'll move, and even the microsteps of magic working (much like prayer, only more active) and shadow work and training. You determine what's right for you, though if you're half-assing it, chances are good your teacher will call you on it and probably refuse to grant a degree or whatever advancement acknowledges your growth.

You can't just walk into the corner church, see if it blows your skirt up, and keep going. The work you do is personal and revealing, and not just anyone can join a group this intimate, so there's the additional limitation of making sure you gel with each other and that you each have something for the other.

So each PCS means another search for local folk of your spiritual tribe, and if you luck out and find the Pagans who activate your Velcro, it's a coup...and it'll only last a couple or three years. Then you're off to the next great search. And on and on.

I really despise this fact. I hate that, the longer it takes us to retire (we're able to now, hollah!), the longer it'll take me to find or set up a new group and get things rolling again. I hate that my need for group practice limits my spiritual growth. I hate that the best I can do is set up daily practice goals with friends online. I hate that the only training I can do is online and costs many, many pennies...and I don't contribute anything besides my pennies.

But this Sunday is the Solstice, and that means the Oak King is going to kick the Holly King's ass and bring the wutwut via the strengthening sun. It means colder days are coming, but so is the light. It means challenge before the first seedlings burst through the soil to bring new life.

So I will have to take this lesson of the solstice--of stark times ahead and great reward in the future--as part of my path. I can't do anything about the vast wasteland of neopagans here, but I can continue planting my seeds and celebrating each step closer to warmth and light and growth in my future.

Joyous Yule, my peeps. May the birth of the Sun and the blessings of the gods bring you great fortune and growth and joy in the year ahead.

Holy Mother, in whom we live, move, and have our being,
From you all things emerge, and unto you all things return.
Open us our hearts this blessed day.
Touch our bodies and our minds.
Walk with us through the gates of power,
In shadow and starlight,
In fire meeting earth,
In the wind on the ocean,
And the sweet kiss of life.
Blessed be our journey.
--T. Thorn Coyle (with Victor Anderson)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

EFMP WTF

One of my sprogs has been "in the system" since he was wee. California has a First Five Years program, where littles can get services they might qualify for once they hit Kindergarten but...aren't in Kindergarten yet. My sprog was referred there because of some small issues, mostly speech-related. But as we tested and as I read, the more I wondered if he weren't just a wee bit autistic.

We were told time and again--once by Stanford, where they used a language-based exam to test his IQ and told us he would never be able to care for himself--that our brilliant but speech-delayed and socially incapable child had no issues aside from his speech. Finally, in August of this year (he's 10 now), he was assessed by a developmental pediatrician and told he's most definitely on the spectrum. Hallelujer--this qualified him for services nobody would give us before.

So now he's in speech again, as well as occupational therapy. But they also put him in ABA therapy, which I'd never heard of. Since this diagnosis, I've learned that ABA is the holy grail for ASD kids and adults.

As referrals came in for these services, we also got news that our sprog was a level 4 EFM.

Um. What?

That was kinda shocking. The boy has overcome so much without therapy that his teachers were surprised by the services (though not, it seems, by the diagnosis). He's capable of getting himself ready for school, and if I were a bad mom, he'd be able to charge on with his day without me. He feeds himself, bathes himself, does his homework and chores with very little prompting (homework, always; chores...need prompting), knows the rules and refuses to break them, etc. He's very high functioning and wicked bright, and he's certainly not so bad off that I need respite care or that he will fall into a pit of doom without these services. They're a fucking relief to have because his life will be so much easier with them...but level 4?

I sure as shit hope there aren't limits on anything surrounding these EFMP levels. I hope nobody else's kid ends up missing out because mine was given such a major designation. It's already affected us - the 9-month and greater waiting list for services where we're headed meant we had to have permission to go forward with these orders. If we get some paperwork fast, we can get him on those waiting lists now and be able to breeze right in when we get there. No big deal, right? Except level 4. Apparently it's a big deal.

I guess this is one more WTF about the military I will never comprehend. I'm glad the program is there, but I'm not sure about the consistency of the designations. I don't have very high hopes on that front...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

On Good Wifeys and Social Media

There's a time and place to publicly call out assholery and to ask folks--individuals or the masses--to check their attitudes, privilege, bigotry, etc.

But I'll just throw out there right now: it's tacky as fuck to bitch and gossip online about a spouse within your SO's command*. Don't do it. Unless, of course, your life's purpose is to be a shitty milspouse and a shitty human being. Then, by all means, fulfill your life's purpose. Embrace that shit, don your pearls, put your hair into a judgmental bun, and go for it.

There's a special level of gauche involved in taking to social media to bitch and whine about another milspouse. It's worse when the bitching and whining all relates to a bullshit definition of what makes a good milspouse.

So first, dear judgmental milspouses, you are not precious. You are not speshul and deserving of snowflake status. You wear no crown, and you have zero responsibilities relating to your spouse's job unless you choose to take on volunteer obligations.

And please to note: choose. Volunteer. YOU.

Back when women weren't allowed to have credit in their own names and couldn't get birth control unless they were married and had their husbands' permission, a milspouse had to take part, had to contribute, had to be social and deal almost exclusively with other milspouses. Their husbands' careers depended on it.

But these here days are a tad more enlightened. We are not paid to take part, we are not obligated by virtue of a marriage certificate to take part, and we don't have to unless it butters our biscuits to do so.

If you think it's your obligation to be a leader, I have a few things to note:

  • That's your fucking decision, and you have zero right to expect that of any other milspouse.
  • The training for CO spouses includes the appalling fact that NO SPOUSE IS REQUIRED TO TAKE ON ANY VOLUNTEER ROLES, EVER. Hell, the training for CO/XO billets includes the same tidbit. 
  • It shows a severe deficit of character if you choose to take to social media to bitch about another milspouse.
  • It shows a failure of leadership if you take to the internet rather than take her to lunch and brainstorm ways to address your concerns. Though...
  • Keep in mind that another milspouse's decision to refuse a leadership/volunteer role is not actually a valid concern and doesn't need to be addressed


I really can't believe this needs to be said, but obviously it does when this kind of thing is going on in 20-fucking-14.

So to sum up: Each milspouse has the right to determine how involved s/he wants to be as a milspouse. Each milspouse has the right to maintain that level of engagement and is never required, by virtue of the service member's job or otherwise, to take on leadership commitments. If you have a problem with this, you probably ought to get some perspective. If you bitch and gossip about someone who has a lower level of engagement than you do, you're an asshole. If you bitch and gossip online, where no privacy setting is ever going to allow your statements an expiration, you are an epic pissbiscuit.

Do better.

PS Divest yourself of your spouse's rank. You're a fucking civilian.


* It's tacky as hell to do it off the webz. But today, we're talking the fuckwittery of those who, for example, ask for "advice" on the web, especially when it's clearly an attempt to gather the voices and confirm they are Right and Correct and that their feelings of harumph are Valid and Good.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Torture Report and The Near-Miss Shutdown

I have been so ashamed of my country this week.

There's been one positive news bit to come from the release of the torture report: McCain has returned to his former sane self...though probably only for a brief moment. I'm sure he'll deep throat a teabag again soon enough.

But the contents of that report. I'm sick and disgusted, and I hope charges are brought against those who approved and ordered "enhanced interrogation techniques" because those were not fucking enhanced anything but tricky ways to dance around the word "torture."

I am heartbroken. What the fuck is wrong with our society that we can even debate whether this was okay?



And now to the near-miss shutdown tonight. I'm sure most of you are like "whu?" Because of course you are. The news is full of a lot of shit, including rehashing the same few stories and getting other opinions on the same news and etc. But tonight, there was very nearly another government shutdown care of our frabjous representatives in DC. It was narrowly averted...for now. By I think two days? That's great because there are civilians all throughout the service that are absolutely necessary for day-to-day operations. Without them, military folk--who won't necessarily see a paycheck, either--will have to fill in.

The last time this happened, there was a local exodus into real civilian jobs, away from the whims of our fuckwit representatives who have no qualms about taking away their income.

Hmmm. Sounds familiar, don't it? Fuck those guys.