Leavenworth Series: Harbor Lights Coffee House and Cafe

I first ventured into this intimate coffee shop a couple of months ago when I needed strong coffee beans to get me through a patch of busy work days. Last week I returned to learn more about the sweet couple that runs it and get some work done in a fresh environment on this foggy day. Michael and Susan Garner have owned Harbor Lights Coffee House and Café for 22 years after opening their doors in March of 1996.

I love light houses (they remind me of family trips from my childhood) and was initially attracted by the name alone, but once I walked in, a few things captured my attention. For one, they are kid-friendly and offer high chairs and a small play area for children. They also have a game library—I may need to return with my husband and have us a chess challenge! I peruse around, circling back to the front of the store, when I see them…colorful, mouth-watering cheese cakes.

Michael is passionate about baking and beat his 2016 record this past year after baking 600 cheese cakes. That’s a lot of cheese cakes for one person to bake friends! His wife Susan explains that they do cater, but close shop early to minister to their community, through Life Connections Ministries.

It’s heartwarming seeing local shop owners like these also giving back to this small town. I’m not sure what I’m drawn more to—the music, the fireplace, the game table in the back, the collection of lighthouses, or the whip cream on my peanut butter chocolate shake.

I love the dim lighting and warm atmosphere in this little ray of light in small-town Leavenworth. I wish I’d brought a good book instead of work today, but I won’t lie, I secretly love what I do for a living, so to work it is! As I quietly step out of the Café, Mrs. Garner calls me by name and gives me a friendly smile and wave–I need to get better at doing the same (I will remember names. I will remember names. I will remember…)!

After leaving the shop, I pick up NY bagels for a play date…you know where (McDevitt and Duffy’s 😊), then I wander into the Heritage Center across from the Riverfront Community Center. They’re not sure why I’m there, and quite frankly, neither am I, but I’m curious and this momma has a few minutes to kill, so I strike up a conversation and get a tour. For Leavenworth newcomers, the Heritage Center schedules live performances and meals for the community, but you do need a reservation. They also host large functions such as weddings and military retirement ceremonies, as well as smaller scale events for various community groups.

I say my thanks and continue on, driving by Candles Queen Candles’ wall-art inspiration: “Sparkle and Shine!” (a week later, and I’m still humming “Shimmer and Shine” instead). I need to stop by and visit after learning about their underground tunnel tours, but my adulting time has come to an end, and it’s time to mommy again. Next time!

Want to visit Harbor Lights Coffee House and Café? Check them out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HarborLightsCoffeehouse/

Here is their full website: http://www.harborlightscoffeehouse.com/

Harbor Lights Coffee HouseHave another great place in town for me to visit? Please share in the comments—I so appreciate recommendations (seriously)!

Thanks friends,

Kathy

p.s. Found me another Kansas sunflower in town 😊 Told you it was foggy out there!Clover and Sunflower Windmill

 

Leavenworth Series: Kansas Country Store

Last week, as I left Meriwether’s and wandered past Soul’s store-front inspiration, “Bloom Where You Are Planted,” I caught a glimpse of more sunflowers, leading me into the Kansas Country Store.

I must have looked hungry and lost because the kind lady that greeted me walked me straight back to the fudge booth, where I had the pleasure of meeting Sherry Brown, the store owner and Leavenworth’s sweet “Fudge Lady.” Shelly and her husband Don raised paint horses, beef cattle, Kansas Country Store Fudgeand chickens before opening their shop back in 2000. In 2005 the store survived a flood with water levels about 4 feet high, and what had been a horse tack store, started from nothing and evolved into the family and pet one-stop shop it is today. It’s home to a large collection of Midwestern gifts, farm animal feed and more. The store history and story of resiliency is pretty amazing and with a proud smile, Sherry shares “We are survivors! We love this community!” As we chat and walk around the store together, she points to all the American-made gifts and shares how she is a proud supporter of the Midwest and other local small “mom and pop” shops and artists.

Sherry also explains how she is part of a military family and has a heart for the service members and families that come through this small town. She pauses for a moment to reflect on her gratitude for the folks from Fort Leavenworth who worked hard to help her and her husband clean-up after the 2005 flood.

I look around the store for a bit, and as I’m perusing the local fox art and jewelry, Sherry introduces me to Grace Hawley, another military spouse whose family was previously stationed here for CGSC and PCS’d back here this summer around the same time as our family. Lucky for me, Grace has lived where we are headed next, and openly shares a bit about the community, housing, schools, and vacation day-trips we will be able to take. It’s SO nice to hear positive things about our future home! She reminds me that our next home will be “what you make of it.” Agreed!Be Happy

I love it when people are friendly and open and just willing to share and care about those who walk through their doors. I also love when spouses reach out and serve as a resource to other military spouses. I have met several new spouses these last couple of weeks and talked much about the need for bridges to the resources that are available to our families. I am so encouraged by their commitment to serve other military families and grateful for the courage they’ve had to step-up, join hands, and build a bridge to existing resources for veterans, children, and fellow military spouses.

I left the Kansas Country Store with the most delicious chocolate fudge I’ve ever tasted in my life—YUM! Y’all, I won’t lie, lately I’ve been feeling a bit like Bernie in an old Fudgechildhood book I had titled The Do-Something Day, by Joe Lasker. As if I don’t already have enough to do, I could walk around town visiting with the locals, learning the town’s history, and supporting small businesses every day. I may need to do like Bernie and volunteer some time with each visit, because I feel so much reward just listening to the locals’ stories and learning from my Leavenworth neighbors.

We have new orders. The idea of leaving Kansas is bitter sweet, but meeting ladies like Sherry and Grace, reminds me that there are beautiful people and amazing military spouses everywhere we will PCS to…I just have to find them 😊

Friends, if you’re in need of horse tack, pet food and supplies, or good ‘ol Midwestern goods, you can find the Kansas Country Store on-line at: http://www.kansascountry.com/

You can also visit their Facebook page at:

https://www.facebook.com/KSCountryStore?fref=ts

Why not also stop by and say hi to Sherry, grab a seat and enjoy some fudge?!

Kansas Country Store 2

Kansas Country Store

Ciao for now!

Kathy

p.s. I spied with my little eye…yup, you guessed it—I see the Kansas state animal everywhere I go these days!Buffalo.jpg

Leavenworth Series: Parks and Recreation

Happy weekend everyone!

Now that we’ve been having warmer and brighter days in Leavenworth, I figured I would drive around and scope out the off-post parks in the area. My boys had fallen asleep in the car and I wasn’t about to wake them up! Maybe other parents can relate, but when these boys get on their public silly-coaster, things go downhill quick. That was the case earlier when I apologized to the family sitting across from us, desperately asked for to-go boxes, and practically ran out of Pullman Place, a family restaurant downtown.

I’d heard great things about their home-cooked meals and truly enjoyed a tasty fish sandwich while observing the bustling atmosphere! Pullman Fish SandwichWe had a room in the back all to ourselves and things were going well until another family was seated near us—>all aboard the silly coaster! The boys did however enjoy all the train décor at this railroad-themed eatery, so we will visit again soon and attempt a do-over. Friends, Pullman’s also has a little train table for your kiddos, a children’s coloring menu, and the manager and staff are very friendly and accommodating.

Now, for those of you like us, who are itching to get outside this weekend, you should visit the City of Leavenworth Kansas, park amenities web page: http://www.lvks.org/department/division.php?structureid=97

All local parks are listed on the website along with picnic shelter rental information, an event schedule, and many more pictures than I was able to capture. I found the detailed list of amenities especially helpful!

Here are a few of my drive-by finds. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list of parks in Leavenworth, KS.

North Esplanade Park. 500 Esplanade St.

IMG_5462

This park has a nice side-walk that follows the river bend and historic markers for visitors out for a stroll. They have a small swing set on the south end of the park and a sheltered area with picnic tables on the north end. What I love about this park is the Missouri River view and top-down view of the train tracks. The train goes by about every 15 minutes. For my history buffs, this is also the oldest park in the state of Kansas, established in 1854.

Bob Dougherty Park. 800 N. 2nd St.

Dougherty Park

Dougherty Park in Leavenworth KS

 

 

Dougherty park has basketball courts, a playground, views of the Missouri River, and picnic tables nearby.

 

 

 

Buffalo Bill Cody Park. 3003 Shrine Park Rd

This popular park is a great spot for a play date and has shaded areas, tennis courts, a small creek, and a walking trail.

Cody Park in Leavenworth KS 2Cody Park in Leavenworth KS

David Brewer Park. 1801 Ottawa St

This was a great find! The park has volleyball nets, tennis courts, sitting areas and a playground for children.

Hawthorn Park. 1100 Ohio St

Hawthorn park has two playgrounds. I don’t like taking pictures of children without their parents’ permission and I probably choose the worst time to go take drive-by pics because I received interesting stares from other adults. That said, I had fun playing private investigator, and tried to take a decent pic or two of kid-free playgrounds for you.

Hawthorn Park in Leavenworth KS.jpg

Sportsfield Park. 2100 Ottawa St.

Sportsfield has picnic tables, baseball fields, a skate park and is located on the north west side of town right off 20th.

Leavenworth SportsfieldLeavenworth Sportsfield 2

Stubby Park. 1501 S. Fourth St.

This park is closer to those of you on the south east end of Leavenworth or north end of Lansing. It has a playground, and sits right across from the Abeles Athletic Field arch. It also has a sledding hill 😊

Stubby Park in Leavenworth KS.jpg

Wollman Park. 1300 Shawnee St.

Wollman is a great park with a playground, picnic tables, walking trails, and pool with slides. You also get a skyline glimpse of the U.S. Penitentiary from the hilltop.

Wollman Park in Leavenworth KS

There you have it folks! Plenty of outdoor spaces in this little town for you to enjoy during your time here 😊

Enjoy the warmth!

Kathy

p.s. If you head out to North Esplanade Park, don’t miss the row of older homes across the street. Some were built in the late 1800’s! Try finding these friendly guards while you’re out and about too.

 

 

Leavenworth Series: Historic Courthouse

The weather has been nicer this week and we’ve taken short local field trips to learn more about historic Leavenworth and the surrounding areas. Earlier in the week we ventured over to the Court House. Yes, you read correctly.Historic Courthouse in Leavenworth

I know that doesn’t sound like the best field trip for preschoolers, but I will say my boys loved it. We didn’t go to the district courthouse, but instead explored the historic courthouse downtown. I learned they had three murals there and decided to go on a quick scavenger hunt with the boys while learning about different court-themed careers. Kansas City’s Funville really got my boys talking about different jobs this past week (my oldest now wants to be a race car driver, while my youngest wants to be a Daddy). The boys were so excited to find two of the three murals, Struggle for Freedom, by Michael Young and Bleeding Kansas by Ernst Ulmer. My sons had so many questions about the detailed stories the murals told. It gave me an opportunity to briefly sit and chat with them about slavery, the underground railroad, buffalo soldiers, our American flag, and women’s equality. Historic Courthouse in Leavenworth 6Young and Ulmer have done such a beautiful job sharing Leavenworth’s rich history on the courthouse walls. There are guides posted by the murals to help visitors better understand the stories behind the illustrations. I won’t pretend I knew the people in all the portraits, so I’m glad those were there to help me!

As we strolled around the courthouse, we stopped to learn about different presidents depicted in paintings across the walls, the antique courthouse furniture, the stained-glass artwork above us, and the various historic pictures of this first city in Kansas.

 

For military families heading this way, the Leavenworth Library hosts their annual Halloween Trick or Treating event at the Historic Courthouse. It is such a wonderful family-friendly day-time event—we loved it this past year and highly recommend it!

 

If you’ve discovered a hidden gem in Leavenworth, share the gold friends!

Hope you’re having a bright week 😊

Kathy

Sharing Spouses’ Stories: Friendship through CrossFit

Leavenworth has been a different experience for our family, given the educational environment and rural military community. For the first time, there are hundreds of other families, a lot like ours, going through this one to two-year experience. We’re in it together—long study nights, 100-degree-summers, icy winters, holidays away from our families, and the anticipation of the many places around the globe to where we will be dispersed after graduation. I heard it at CGSC orientation and after 8 months in, I see it, “you can make friends to last a lifetime here.”

As a military spouse, I’m amazed by the courage, compassion, and resiliency that I observe in other military spouses. I wish more of their stories were shared, and more of their voices heard.  For years now, I’ve been curious about what helps other spouses, couples, and families thrive in this military life given the unique stressors and constant changes that affect our community. Lately, I’ve put the shy behind me and I’ve started to ask.

Among the amazing ladies I’ve crossed paths with here, I recently got to hang out with Marine spouses, Julia Petronzio and Sierra Dunaway.

I met Sierra during the CGSC spouse’s orientation, randomly crossed paths again at a Strong Bonds retreat, then spent Thanksgiving with her wonderful family.  Being away from family during the holidays can be hard on military families—it’s difficult for our family (who can relate?). When those doors are open, and a family we barely know invites us into their space, I’m quickly reminded that there are great people out there with truly generous hearts. I first met Julia in what’s known as “the bubble” — a CrossFit gym on base.3 During this visit, both Sierra and Julia volunteer to show me what CrossFit is and chat with me about how exercise has helped them cope and bond during their time in Kansas.

One of the first things I got to know about Sierra was her dedication to CrossFit and background in the fitness industry. Sierra began her fitness adventure nine years ago, after she and her husband decided they wanted to start their own gym. While he was deployed, her husband discovered CrossFit and shared his newfound passion with Sierra. They shared workouts and personal record (“PR”) achievements over Skype and months after he returned, they opened a CrossFit affiliate. 6.jpgAfter years of leading fitness boot camps and personal training sessions at more traditional gyms, she says CrossFit changed the way she approaches fitness. It’s no longer a chore for her, and she says “it helps me keep mental balance, especially with 3 kids. You feel so good afterwards.” I had to laugh when Sierra shared that she once ran 6 miles in Florence, Italy just to find a CrossFit “box” to exercise at. That’s what I call commitment!  Italy…I wouldn’t mind running 6 miles there either—I digress.

Something about this visit with Julia and Sierra stood out to me: Their support and encouragement of one another to push through the pain and sweat together. I asked Julia about her journey, and she tells me she is from Germany and started CrossFit 8 years ago in North Carolina and is also a Level 1 CrossFit Trainer (I’m thinking I should have brought my sneakers and gotten a good work out!). I clearly have never participated, but both Julia and Sierra tell me CrossFit is life changing. Julia explains that no matter where the military has moved her and her husband, she’s “always made friends through CrossFit.”  8She goes on to explain, “you sweat together, you laugh together, and you bond.” Julia shares that exercise has changed her perspective on health, stating “I grew up thinking skinny means healthy, but I’ve learned to love my muscles.”  She adds, “I like that I look and feel strong where I used to feel frail and couldn’t pick up something heavy because my knees hurt from barely working out. Personally, I love seeing people grow to love CrossFit. Many newcomers first think they will never be able to lift heavy weights or do strenuous workouts, until they see that all workouts can be scaled to their need.”

Both women explain that CrossFit can be intimidating to someone like me, who has never tried it, but they agree that it can be fun if you ease into it and take things at your own pace. Sierra explains that “CrossFit isn’t for everybody, and that’s okay.” I ask her what she might say to a new military spouse on post looking for a way to connect with others and she responds, “people have to find what works for THEM.” As they end their work out, Sierra reminds me to just, “come in. Find your groove, don’t be shy, and ask questions.” Julia adds, “nobody will judge, and we welcome newcomers!”

It’s inspiring to see two military spouses working to sharpen each other and support one another during these transitional times.4 It’s also interesting to see how we each find different ways to cope with change and create a sense of belonging and community wherever the military takes us.

What helps you thrive as a military spouse? How do you connect with others when you PCS? How do you get through the stress of moving, leaving friends behind, and starting over in each new “home?”

Please feel free to share in the comments, or continue the conversation on Facebook @rockyroadsandrainbows 😊

 

Thanks for visiting today!

Kathy

Disclaimer: I am not a physical trainer. I am a military spouse and mom, learning what works for others and sharing their stories, while also being inspired by military spouses and veterans that I meet along this journey. Injuries of all types can occur when participating in exercise, physical fitness and training programs. Please obtain a physical examination by your physician prior to undertaking any exercise or training demonstrated on this website, and/or any photographs offered on this website. You fully assume the risk of any resulting injury. Capisce?

 

Leavenworth Series: Sunflower Sisters Vintage

Sunflower Sisters Vintage…where do I begin?

I hadn’t heard of this vintage/re-purpose store until I was handed one of their business cards over at Sis’ Sweets. I am so glad I heeded their recommendation and drove over. I’m not sure I have the correct door, but I open it anyway and walk right into a room of bright blossoming sunflowers (my favorite), and am greeted by Carol, one of the 3 sisters and owners.

After introducing myself, Carol asks that I cover my ears as she hollers across the warehouse for her sister, Connie, to join us. I already like her. I come from a loud vibrant family and grew up with two younger sisters myself. As we wait for Connie to meet us, Carol tells me they’ve been in business for 5 years, sharing the location with a plumbing wholesale store that’s occupied the space for the past 32 years. Connie introduces herself and remembers their start date, March 13th, to be exact. She explains that the structure was built in 1879 and became home to the Great Western Store Manufacturing Company and later C & H Supply, a plumbing wholesale store.

Connie and Carol are both retired teachers and Connie and her husband Rick (both life-long residents of Leavenworth) opened shop before Connie’s sisters, Carol and Vickie joined the fun. Five expansions later, they have treasures spread across 3,000 square feet. There is such great history in this building! Carol eagerly shares how it was once home to pot belly stoves and wood burning cooks, as well as tank turrets for WWII and hems (aka punch tools) for the railroad a block away. Her excitement about the building’s history, coupled with her passion for re-purposing furniture, is contagious and it doesn’t take much to get us going. She really enjoys her work and finding exactly what folks are searching for.  She tells me the sisters pride themselves on making items “low cost, so that people can find treasures AND take them home.”

At some point in our conversation, I identify myself as a military spouse and learn that I’m not alone in the room. Carol’s husband is a Vietnam War veteran and she nods as I explain how hard moving to new places can be and chat about my desire to help newcomers feel more at home here. Perhaps it was her subtle milspouse nod or the way her eyes filled with compassion…my voice cracks and my eye lids sweat for a split second. Phew, glad I held it together—motherhood has had this odd effect on my eyeballs–that was a close one! I decide to tour the building, while Carol has grabbed a seat and started sanding a whatnot shelf. Friends, as I journey through the doors to the warehouse, I feel like I’ve just stepped into Narnia. I have the whole place to myself and every step is a new find! I explore deeper into this vintage forest, trinkets and upcycled gems grabbing my attention, when I hear her.

From the other side of the wall, I can hear Connie going about her business singing and humming to herself joyfully. I giggle to myself, because in my giddiness the tone of her song reminds me of Cinderella’s Fairy God Mothers. I feel like a child in awe in this store, where I also kind of feel at home. See, when you’re far away from your tribe–your people, connecting with others is like chicken soup for the milspouse soul. Individuals like those of this friendly family remind me of those I love and miss back home. My gosh do I miss my sisters making fun of me for x, y, z in this very moment. I miss my grandmas and the warm fuzzies that I get when I’m with them. My parents…nope, can’t go there. I finish taking pics and walk back through the closet door into reality.

Carol is waiting for me and hands me a beautiful sunflower bag for my new 5B&Co sunflower candle and a little Kansas home décor to remind us of this short season of our military adventure. She also throws in a couple of girl scout cookies. Earlier she joked that Connie always has surprises like this for customers—I love it! On my way out, I spot more sunflowers and Carol explains her sister Vickie made them. She does needle points and embroideries for the shop and I’m bummed I missed meeting her. If the 3 sisters are anything like my sisters and I, you don’t quite get the full effect of our sisterhood unless sister #3 is present 😊

As I wrap up this blog post, I’m talking my husband’s ear off about these sisters and how awesome I thought they were. I’m reminded of Connie’s words: “We like to give our customers an experience.” An experience indeed! What a fun visit. I see a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law junking date in my near future.

For my Fort Leavenworth military families, the sisters do ship! Here is a link to their Facebook page. Check them out!

https://www.facebook.com/sunflowersistersvintagelv/

I hope you all enjoy some quality time and hugs this weekend with those you love!

Kathy

Leavenworth Series: Sis’ Sweets

I have the day off today and somehow, I can think of 100 things to do when I’m too busy to do them but give me a kid-free day off and I don’t know what to do with myself. I grab my camera and drive downtown for more Leavenworth discovering, swinging by Sis Sweets this time. I heard their cookies are too tempting for any kind of diet, and my curiosity peaks.  I also want to surprise the boys during parent-pick-up. Back when the army took us to Columbus, GA, there was a strong presence of vintage signs across the area and pulling up to Sis’ and Sweets takes me back there, as they display their own side-walk inspiration: “Be Your Best Self”. Noted, and I will surely try to do just THAT.

1.jpg

I walk inside on this misty fogged day and am immediately drawn to the history displayed across the shop. Holy cow batman! I was not expecting such a rich collection of Kansas knick knacks… and I’m off, snapping pictures and chatting with the friendly employees. They tell me about the shop’s owner, Dawn Monroe, a baker, and KU fan. She has lived here for over 20 years and collects anything “Leavenworth, Kansas” that she can get her hands on. The employees speak highly of her hard work and giving heart, sharing how she was awarded a certificate of appreciation just yesterday for generously donating delectable cookies for veterans and their families during the Wreaths Across America event at the Leavenworth National Cemetery this past December. Want to know more about this event or how to volunteer? Click here: http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/

This just warms my heart. How can I not pay it forward when I see so many good people doing great things in this world? I continue to explore the bakery and find an old piano parked near the back. I want to sit and play, but I won’t, but I must, but I don’t. Oh, I just want a piano! I continue to snap away.

 

Hidden behind some of the KU memorabilia, I spy Judy Garland, and smile.

 

Kansas is growing on me y’all. I see Wizard of Oz-ness everywhere I turn. Every time I step foot into a new small business downtown, I’m also taken aback by the hospitality of this town’s people and the love they have for this rural community. I have a heart for locally-owned businesses and as I stroll around, my mind is brainstorming ways to share these sweet treasures with newcomers.

Sis’ Sweets is known for their cookies and deserts, so I grab two sugar cookies with chocolate sprinkles for the boys and a coffee to-go. They have large tables for family lunches, but one catches my attention as I exit—I love window seats where I can people watch and dine. I will have to return with my 3 favorite boys for sandwiches and a window view.

 

If you want to know more about Sis’ Sweets, you can visit them at: http://sissweets.wixsite.com/sissweets

or check them out on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Sis-Sweets-Cookies-and-Cafe-108315919221294/

The clock is ticking, but I keep finding interesting history and little treasures as I inch towards the door.

 

My husband would be pulling on my camera by now! His mom got me into loving everything vintage. It’s our thing when she visits. We try to tackle as many stores as we can in one day. I leave the shop and drive around for a bit trying to scope out all thrift and antique shops downtown, prepping for her next visit. I sort of feel like a private investigator today, with my quick drive-by pics. Hubby would say I’m more like a paparazzi…I wish he was exploring with me this morning!

 

For those who know me, you know I love sunflowers. I decide to hunt some down on my way home and am introduced to Sunflower Sisters Vintage. I will be back on the blog to share that fun experience pronto!

 

Until then friends, be your best self wherever you are!

Kathy

p.s. Fun facts for newcomers: Kansas is known as the Wheat State. I would have thought Tornado State, but I stand corrected. Also, the Kansas State motto is “Ad Astra per Aspera,” meaning “To the Stars through Difficulties.” This has me thinking of military families and how beautiful the night sky looks when it’s clear of pollution…and I’m grateful for our family’s time in America’s Midwest.

7

p.s.s. I spied another Buffalo! Woot!

11

Leavenworth Series: McDevitt and Duffy Corner Market

We hold hands and hop across the snowy parking lot, leaving foot prints behind us as we cozy our way inside this quaint little corner market, McDevitt and Duffy’s. We step inside and are warmly greeted by owner, Charlie Haganey, who invites us to look around. We chat for a bit about CGSC, my blog, the shop’s new beginnings, and the way the Leavenworth community used to hold welcome gatherings for newcomers. He and his wife, and co-owner, Jennifer Haganey, just opened shop about four months ago. Although a new gathering spot in town, this couple is not new to Leavenworth, KS. Jennifer’s father was in the military and retired here a few decades ago, bringing Jennifer, a New York native, and his family with him. This explains the popular bagels at the market, shipped overnight direct from NY, as well as the historic Leavenworth pictures that decorate the walls of the shop. The Haganey’s have lived in this small town for 30 years and have just embarked on this exciting small business venture together. I grab a seat, and briefly day dream about what fun projects my husband and I will begin together someday.

Another military spouse graciously brought these NY bagels over for one of our play dates, giving me a break from preparing brunch. They were AMAZING! Today however, I’m drawn to the sweet delicacies, but opt for the golden ham and cheese quiche instead. I’ve been completing The Fitnessista’s (https://fitnessista.com/) winter shape-up and am not messing up this last week! I’ve got serious goals this year people.

Friends, the quiche did not disappoint! Charlie tells me about their popular specials: the Reuben, Pastrami, Roast Beef and Gouda (wait, did you just say GOUDA?!), Nathan’s foot long hot dogs, and Turkey Chutney on Sunflower bread. ALL of the above please! As my youngest and I brunch together, he snacks on an apple cinnamon muffin, leaving crumbs everywhere for poor Charlie to sweep (insert teeth clenched emoji). I sip on an earthy Chai Apple Cider thinking, “antioxidants for the win”!

For those needing a gluten free menu, Charlie tells me they always try to offer a few things just for you. The market is also open later than most other venues downtown, closing their doors at 9pm or 11pm most evenings. I ask about promotion ceremonies and yes, they DO cater fellow spouses.

I love being surrounded by vintage eye candy. My son’s attention is also easily grabbed by an antique TV playing an old cartoon, and I’m taken right back to Amsterdam, where I last saw this cartoon at an underground laundry shop. Could it be?

I love to travel! I love new adventures and exploring my surroundings. The military lifestyle isn’t for everyone and certainly doesn’t offer the best of everything, but it does gift us with travel. My boys haven’t started kindergarten, but they already know several cities and states across our country from the many mommy and son trips we’ve taken while daddy works. We miss our family and friends back home, but today Charlie reminds me that it’s about having the right mindset while we’re apart from those we love. He shares how important it is to be positive and to get to know other residents and local business owners where the army takes us. I nod in agreement, as I am learning the value of this very lesson these days. I don’t want to leave this friendly little corner store on Cherokee. There’s something about being in the here-and-now. Something about hearing others’ stories and dreams. It feeds me–I feel inspired, encouraged, grateful for crossing paths with this corner market owner—another memory with my boy added to the books, thanks to my fellow boy-moms and military spouses. Thank you for watching out for me and sharing the local “goods!”

If you want to visit the McDevitt and Duffy Corner Market, check them out below for more information:

https://www.facebook.com/MARKET.COFFEE.DELI.BAKERY/

or

https://squareup.com/store/McDevitt_And_Duffy

As I drive back home, I’m reminded of times past when it was so hard to strike up a conversation with someone new, but I might just have a new 2018 resolution to meet-without-fear y’all. I might even dream and DO without fear this year too! 🙂

IMG_4318

Where are you exploring this week? How are military spouses connecting in your current “home away from home?” Let me know in the comments section!

 

See you later friends!

Kathy

PCSing: 5 First-Steps for Spouses

Waiting for orders, not knowing where you and your family will be headed next, can be a rather stressful time. Then you get that signed RFO and you’re off, searching for everything to make your next Permanent Change of Station (PCS) a smooth transition for you and your family.

Here’s what our basement is looking like this week:

PCS1We have unpacked all the card board boxes, sorted through everything a few times, making several trips to Goodwill, and giving away as many things as friends will take just to declutter and minimize the “stuff” we will bring to our next home. After all, I’m pretty sure I have a few items that have moved from state to state when I should have thrown them away many years ago (i.e., the Bread Machine). Can you relate? I made bread last night to justify that large box inhabitant, but I think it’s time to say our goodbyes.

bread

Right now, we are going through a third-wave of sorting: Garbage, Donation, Keep, Possibly Keep, Give to Friends, Sell. The lower level of this house is a mess! We have goals this time around, especially after observing others live the simple life with a “less is more” mantra.

In the past we’ve always let the army move us, but the movers have broken furniture, lost items, and even broken closet doors and damaged wooden floors. Where are my DITY-movers? We are DONE. We are doing this one on our own, if it’s the last thing we do! It’s become motivation to clean house and purging is happening.

As I reflect on PCSing and what will help us transition smoothly, I want to share the top 5 things I’ve found to be most helpful in the early stages of acquainting myself with our next “home”. I’ve included Leavenworth specifics, for those of you headed in this direction. A short guide to thrive once you find out where you are moving:

  1. Connect to local social media pages and start connecting with others. There are several types of groups for military spouses. You can find them by typing your installation name AND the word “spouses” AND “Facebook” in a google search (i.e., Ft. Leavenworth spouses Facebook). Everything from military spouse groups, buy and sell groups, and parent groups, to interest and hobby groups typically exist near military installations.
  2. Obtain an installation guide on-line at websites like mybaseguide.com and www.military.com. You can also walk into a Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Center (MWR) on base and ask for one once you arrive.
  3. Review the installation’s MWR website for information about Child and Youth Services (CYS), child care resources, hospital information, post-wide tours, etc. Here is Fort Leavenworth’s MWR page: https://leavenworth.armymwr.com/
  4. Visit the local and nearby cities’ visitor websites for event information, job opportunities, garbage day instructions, etc. Here are a few for Leavenworth, KS and Kansas City, MO: City of Leavenworth, Kansas: http://www.lvks.org/Visit Leavenworth Kansas: http://www.visitleavenworthks.com/

    Visit Kansas City: https://www.visitkc.com/

    City of Kansas City: http://kcmo.gov/

  1. Visit military spouse blogs. For those who know this Xennial, I’m somewhat of a digital dinosaur, and am barely dipping my toe in this ocean of information. After immersing myself in social media these past few weeks, I’ve found blogs truly helpful. There are several spouses that have lived where you are moving and might offer tips and insights on their blogs based on their experiences. Here are a few I’ve recently found useful:The Military Wife and Mom: https://themilitarywifeandmom.com

    Military Spouse: https://Militaryspouse.com

    In-Dependent: https://in-dependent.org/blog/

    Spouse Buzz: https://SpouseBuzz.com

    NextGen MilSpouse: https://nextgenmilspouse.com

Are there other initial to-do’s that help you get excited about your next move once you have official orders? What helps? Please feel free to share in the comments section.

I hope someone find this information useful!

Have a great week!

Kathy

 

Marriage: Pushing through the “Stuck”

We tied the knot, flew down for the wedding celebration a few months later, and a few weeks later, we both came home with news to share. It went something like this:

Me: I’m pregnant!!!

Him: I’m deploying.

Y’all, it felt like my heart stopped. Like many other military marriages, my husband was gone for most of the pregnancy. No problem, I’ve got this. Other spouses have gone before me. If they can do it, I can do it, (right?). I can drive cross-country back home. I can have this baby alone. I can raise him on my own until daddy returns…if he returns.

My husband and I were so excited to be first-time parents. I think the eagerness of it all helped us overcome several typical stressors of deployments, although we certainly experienced those too. A few weeks before the due-date, we learned that he wouldn’t be able to fly home for the birth after all. What do you mean?! That’s not what we were told! Other soldiers are being sent home to go to school, but you can’t come home for the birth of our CHILD? That IS NOT part of our labor and delivery plan husband! Talk about needing a dose of expectation management. I couldn’t start drafting letters to our local legislators, advocating for expecting military families any faster than I did that night. It was my coping mechanism and my small way of helping others who would walk the same roads someday. In that moment, it helped.

How do you get over missing the birth of your child? I know some of you reading this are still there. Stuck. Unable to push past the anger or resentment that follows. My heart breaks for those service members because I saw how that one experience changed my spouse, who was still expected to be army-strong while deployed.

How do you go through labor without your best friend in life by your side? I know there are spouses out there still holding on to the hurt and trauma such an experience can cause. It didn’t matter that I had three women I love in that delivery room with me and nearly every family member on both sides waiting in the lobby for hours. Folks, it was like a chaotic version of “My Big Fat Greek wedding.” I can laugh about it…now. That morning, he continuously tried to call and stay on the line with me, but the hospital reception was horrible. At 2:09pm, the calls stopped. I still remember the image of that wall clock.

How did we do it?

That’s a loaded question because so much has happened through our military journey to yield the rainbows we’re experiencing right this moment. If you haven’t figured it out, we had rocky times, like so many of our military families do. We’re far from perfect. We were stuck like many still are today. That man has shown me, he is anything but a quitter though. He shifted his marital dance steps, leaving me with no option but to step on him, trip and fall, or shift my own steps. We started a new dance together. We work hard at being better partners every.single.day. We make the conscious decision and effort, daily, individually, and jointly. We’ve learned a new type of love language and so many factors have contributed to this. See, for a long while, we didn’t have other military couples who could relate and encourage us because they’d walked beyond the rockiest of roads. Most were still stuck back then too. I’m so grateful for those families whose paths led to Alabama and the couples who loved on us during our time there. The neighbors that waved at us daily and genuinely took interest in us. The ones we met with weekly. We had a sense of community again. We had mentors showing us a healthier way. They shared their stories, their struggle, their successes. They invested in us, and still do even though we’re miles apart. There is something to be said about the larger military family. I think that’s why Alabama stands out as my “sweet home” without doubt. It was a time for growth and reconciliation. A time to turn our experiences into fuel for thriving as a couple, instead of just getting by. A time to respond, instead of react. To listen more and become curious about one another again. A time to be courageous about what matters most, our marriage and our family.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to listen in on a wellness chat with Corie Weathers, Licensed Professional Counselor and military spouse. As I’ve reflected on what to share and what not to share in this blog forum, she touched on the topic of healthy boundaries and I want to extend that to any readers joining me today. If you’ve had difficulties in your marriage, there is value in sharing your story and being transparent and vulnerable. It’s equally important to consider your audience and what parts of your story are adequate to be shared outside of your most intimate circle of support. Your marriage is sacred. Over time, my spouse and I have learned to let down our pride and insecurities and share our story. We’ve also learned to protect our marriage and work through certain things together or with the help of a counselor or mentor.

If you’re like we were, you don’t like having your business out there. Perhaps you’re afraid to let others know your marriage is struggling because of your social status or military career. As I’ve reflected on “what’s helped” however, other couples sharing their stories helped. The couples who never had a care in their marriage didn’t help. The ones who were equally jammed didn’t offer much hope. The ones that recognized the struggle and reached down to help pull us out if it, helped. If you’ve experienced deployments, you’ve been changed through those experiences, and can’t seem to push through this season of “stuck,” be encouraged. Small steps matter. Here are a few resources for military couples that can help today:

  • The Military and Family Life Counseling Program (MFLC): A non-medical counseling service offered to military service members and their families. If you’re worried about confidentiality, please click on the link below for more information about this great resource.

http://www.militaryonesource.mil/web/mos/-/the-military-and-family-life-counseling-program?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2Fmilitary-and-family-life-counseling

  • Military Chaplains: Chaplains represent several religious organizations and offer pastoral counseling services to military service members and their families. You can visit Military One Source below to locate one locally, or you can head on over to the closest chapel.
  • Military OneSource: A hub of resources for military families. If you click on their menu icon, there is a button for confidential help. Military One Source offers telephone, face-to-face, and on-line consultations for up to 12 sessions.

http://www.militaryonesource.mil

  • TRICARE and Humana: Can help you locate counseling service providers in your area. They also have a crisis hotline that you access via the first website listed below:

https://tricare.mil/CoveredServices/Mental

https://www.humanamilitary.com/provider/health-and-wellness/behavioral-health

Be well friends!

Kathy

%d bloggers like this: