ArmyWife101 Gives 5 Ways to Make the Most of Every Holiday
Krystel Spell offers holiday tips from the front lines as part of the Care.com Interview Series
A proud Army wife, mom of two and Army Wife 101 blogger Krystel Spell is no stranger to deployment during the holiday season. Spell's husband has served a total 14 years in the military and counting: eight in the Marine Corps and six in the U.S. Army. As the winter season approaches, Spell shares some important tips about surviving a deployment during the holidays.
1. Keep the home fires burning -- technologically speaking. "Creating a private blog is a great way to stay connected," Spell suggests. "You can add pictures and movie clips all in one place for your loved one to view." She uses her webcam and Skype to have Friday night dates with her husband and finds it an especially helpful tool on Christmas morning. Va-va-va-voom!
2. Create a new tradition. Whether it's writing a holiday letter, stringing popcorn, or having a cookie-decorating contest, try to add a new tradition to your holiday. "My kids and I also always add a special military-themed ornament to the tree for our hero," Spell says. She also takes the time to send snail mail. "Email is fine but nothing like a good old fashioned holiday card and letter!"
3. Accept that this holiday may be different. Having a deployed loved one during special holidays can be emotionally stressful. "Do not put so much pressure on yourself to make it the 'perfect' holiday," Krystel advises. "If you are home by yourself or with the kids, make it a movie day. Do not feel pressure to do a lot if you're not up to it."
4. Share your holiday with others. Sometimes, it's not possible to spend the holidays with your extended family. Krystel notes that one of the best holidays she's ever had was spent with 13 other military spouses whose husbands were deployed! "Although I am sure the holiday was still a little difficult for people, for just a few hours we were able to take our minds off of missing our loved ones," she says. Spell suggests sharing your holiday with friends or family in similar circumstances and making a positive situation out of what can be a very tough time.
5. Take advantage of the military. Spell suggests checking with your local ACS (Army Community Service) building for any on-base holiday celebrations, as many military installations have tree lightings, gift exchanges and fun Christmas programs for the kids. Also, military spouses should check with their unit's FRG (Family Readiness Group) or the ACS office on post to see if video conferencing is being offered. Many bases will offer it during deployments and especially through the holidays.
Read more advice from Krystel in our full interview below. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.
How does your family celebrate the holidays?
Celebrating the holidays without my spouse on so many occasions has definitely put the true meaning of the holidays in perspective for us. We make the most of every holiday. During Christmas, we bake cookies together, and even my husband, the big macho soldier, joins in on rolling the dough -- all in the name of creating those special traditions and memories.
Do you know if your spouse will be home for the holidays this year? How do your holiday plans differ, if at all, if your spouse is home vs. deployed?
Fortunately, my spouse will be home this year, and we plan on making the most of the holidays, because we know that there is always the chance of this being our last holiday together for the next two years. When he is deployed, I do my best to keep the holiday cheer going, but it is not the same. Sometimes it's hard to put the same amount of energy into it. I also never have anyone to put the lights up!
If you have spent the holidays with a deployed spouse, how did you celebrate?
We have managed to create traditions the last few holidays while my spouse was gone. During deployments, we have been lucky enough to have had my husband join us on Christmas morning via webcam, which has been our favorite tradition recently since he has been gone the last few Christmases. My kids and I also always add a special military-themed ornament to the tree for our hero.
Can you offer tips for any military spouses going through their first deployment/holiday season?
If you have family and have the means to go home and visit, I highly suggest it. If for some reason you cant go home, connect with other military spouses who may be hosting dinner at their house. One Thanksgiving, I hosted 13 military spouses at my home and all of our husbands were deployed. It was one of the best holidays ever. Everyone brought a dish and desserts, and we had a great time. Although I am sure the holiday was still a little difficult for people, for just a few hours we were able to take our minds off of missing our loved ones.
Lastly, I suggest taking advantage of any holiday base activities that are happening. Many military installations have tree lightings, gift exchanges and fun Christmas programs for the kids. You can check your local ACS building for those details.
What are some ways that you stay connected with your loved one while he/she is deployed?
Creating a private blog is a great way to stay connected. You can add pictures and movie clips all in one place for your loved one to view. One of our very favorite things to do was to have "Skype Dates" every Friday night. We would just spend hours talking on webcam. We would have our favorite snacks nearby and it would be like a little date.
What are some ways you make the holidays special, whether your spouse has been home or deployed?
Every year, whether my spouse is home or not, we all pick a new ornament for the tree. Usually my husband will go online ahead of time and have his mailed to our home. When he is home, we usually do try to spend one of the main holidays with extended family, since we rarely get to see them.
Do you have any tips for other spouses who might be stressed or feel the pressure of making it the "perfect" holiday?
Do not put so much pressure on yourself to make it the 'perfect' holiday. Accept that this particular holiday is different and create small traditions for you and your family. If you are home by yourself or with the kids, make it a movie day. Do not feel pressure to do a lot if you're not up to it. That being said, definitely try to spend it with friends or family; it will make you feel so much better.
Do you have access to anything like video conferencing or email on your base that helps you stay connected during the holidays in particular?
Military spouses should check with their unit's FRG or the ACS office on post to see if video conferencing is being offered. Many bases will offer it during deployments and especially through the holidays.
If you had to write the book on getting through deployments during the holidays, what would be the top tips you would include?
I definitely would suggest seeking out other friends in the same position as you and making a positive situation out of what can be a tough time. Invest in a webcam if you don't have one so that your spouse can see you and or children during the holidays. Create traditions and send snail mail. Email is fine, but nothing like a good old-fashioned holiday card and letter.
What is the hardest thing about having a deployed spouse during the holidays?
The hardest part is the loneliness and having my husband miss out on memories and traditions.
Krystel Spell is currently living on the outskirts of Fort Bragg, NC, and blogs about her family and military life at Army Wife 101. Spell founded the blog as a way to help Army spouses navigate the complex inner workings of military life all over the country.
>>For more tips, read the rest of our Care.com Interview Series: Holiday Boot Camp for the Military Spouse.
Photo by LeZandra Photography
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