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4 Blue Star Tips for Creating Mobile Holiday Traditions

Melissa Roja Lawlor
Nov. 2, 2011

Military family blogger shares her insights on life on the move in the military as part of the Care.com Interview Series

Military service runs in Kristina Doss's blood; her husband Clayton has been in the U.S. Navy for more than a decade, and both come from military families, with members representing four of the five major branches of the military. For Kristina and Clayton, deployment and moving are just the reality of military life they've come to expect. Now, with a daughter and uncertainties about where they will be stationed in the years to come, holidays have taken on even more meaning. Kristina, who is a regular contributor to Blue Star Families, shares her secrets to surviving deployment and staying connected -- with her husband and with the military community.

1. Take your traditions with you. When you know that moving is in your future, build traditions that you can celebrate anywhere. "We chose traditions we can do no matter where we are in the world -- whether it's carving a pumpkin at Halloween or decorating a tree at Christmas," Doss says. "That way, we will always have something during the holidays our family can do together and count on."

2. Try something new!  Stay busy with your hobbies, or better yet, start a new one. For Doss, it was running. "I started running when Clayton was deployed. My newfound hobby was a great way to pass the time. The best part? Running was an activity we were able to do together upon his return from deployment."

3. Build your support network. You need a support team while your spouse is away. When the family moved across the country, Doss joined the local Officers' Spouses Club. "Although the club offers big, monthly socials, I met most of my current friends through the club's smaller, interest-based groups like the running group and the playgroup for spouses with kids," Doss says. "It is so much easier to meet people and make friends when you have similar interests to bond over."

4. Celebrate each deployment anniversary. When her husband was deployed, Doss celebrated each month that passed because that meant he was that much closer to coming home. "I would spend the day putting together a special package for him," she recalls. "And I'd make plans with a friend or family member to celebrate the occasion and catch up on how Clayton was doing."

Read more about Kristina Doss and her family's experience in our full interview below.  You can also find updates from Kristina and other Blue Star Families contributors on Twitter and Facebook.

How does your family celebrate the holidays? What are some traditions that make up your holiday season?

With all the moving our military family will face, holiday traditions have become very important to our family. We chose traditions we can do no matter where we are in the world -- whether it's carving a pumpkin at Halloween or decorating a tree at Christmas. That way, we will always have something during the holidays our family can do together and count on.

Do you know if your spouse will be home for the holidays this year?

My husband will be home for the holidays this year. That's the best present ever!

Can you offer tips for military spouses going through their first deployment/holiday season?

Stay busy! Dive into work. Pursue your hobbies, and/or start a new one. For example, I started running when Clayton was deployed. My newfound hobby was a great way to pass the time. Plus, it gave me something to write to him about. The best part? Running was an activity we were able to do together upon his return from deployment.

Pursue your passions. I love to run, so I continued running [when we moved]. I recently started competing in triathlons. And, since I've always wanted to learn the Spanish language, I signed up for classes. I have met some great friends through these activities.

Surround yourself with family and friends. Need a shoulder to cry on? Someone to confide in? Or an incentive to go out and have fun? Make plans with friends and family. They can be your support team while your spouse is away. I joined the Officers' Spouses Club. It was the first time since becoming a Navy wife that I joined a spouses club and I am so glad that I did. I have met so many lovely women through the club who have offered me advice about the area and their friendship. Although the club offers big, monthly socials, I met most of my current friends through the club's smaller, interest-based groups like the running group and the playgroup for spouses with kids. It is so much easier to meet people and make friends when you have similar interests to bond over. I definitely recommend other military spouses join a club once they move to their new duty station.

What are some ways that you stay connected with your loved one while he/she is deployed?

Thankfully, I was able to email Clayton almost every day while he was deployed. I don't know how my stepmom stayed sane when my dad was deployed, because they could only write letters! That said, I also wrote Clayton letters. I think it meant a lot to Clayton that I took the time to hand write notes to him. In fact, it still does because he has kept them all!

If your spouse is deployed over the holidays, what are your care package favorites that you'll be sending or have sent in years past?

When Clayton was deployed, he had access to basic necessities. So, I focused on sending him fun packages with a theme. For example, I sent him a movie themed package with a movie I thought he would enjoy and his favorite movie snacks and candies. The packages were fun for me to put together and a treat for him to open!

What are some ways you make the holidays special, whether your spouse has been home or deployed?

We visit our family each year around the holidays. While there, we enjoy big family dinners on Christmas Eve and Christmas, going to church and opening presents.

If your spouse will be home for the holidays this year, what are you looking forward to most?

I'm going to relish our time together. I can't help but stare at him and our daughter and think about how lucky I am to have them and be with them.

Do you have any tips for other spouses who might be stressed or feel the pressure of making it the "perfect" holiday?

Just remember that the holidays are not about the decorations or presents. It's about being together as a family. So, try to focus on spending quality time with them.

Do you have access to anything like video conferencing or email on your base that helps you stay connected during the holidays in particular? What types of communication or technology do you depend on most during deployment?

I recently learned how to Skype. So, you can bet that the next time Clayton is deployed or on travel, I will try to Skype with him. Talking on the phone is great. But to be able to talk to him and see him would be even better!

Kristina Doss is a journalist and chronicles her military family's journey moving, living, and traveling around the world at My Traveling Troop. Doss started the blog to help other military families on the move, and now is a regular contributor to the blog at Blue Star Families, an organization that supports military families.

>>For more tips, read the rest of our Care.com Interview Series: Holiday Boot Camp for the Military Spouse.

Photos used with permission by Kristina Doss.
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