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.

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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.

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

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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! 🙂

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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

Leavenworth Series: Coffee at Meriwether’s

Two ladies quietly whisper and laugh about life at a nearby table, chatting away while they sip on lattes and munch on scrumptious looking doughnuts at marine spouse-owned, Meriwethers, Coffee, Café, and Market.

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Oh, how I want one of those, but not today, not after 30 minutes of sweat on my elliptical. Instead, I am pleasantly surprised and can’t resist the Cuban coffee on their menu…be still my heart.

 

 

The aroma takes me back to those childhood memories of times spent at Abuela’s house, nestled in the heart of Miami of what is known as “Little Havana.” As I type, I’m suddenly understanding the excitement of journalism my great grandfather must have enjoyed. I could visit new places and interview people for a living if I didn’t love my career as much as I do. I’m here to work, after a fellow military spouse blogger gave me the wonderful tip to try this inviting place. I find a quiet table far from others with a window view of historic downtown Leavenworth.

 

 

After a sweet chat with store manager, Mountain Kimley, I’m reminded of how much I love connecting with others. This army lifestyle can feel isolating at times. With every move, meeting others has become easier, but I remember the first couple of PCS’s and how challenging it was to put myself out there and introduce myself. Mountain tells me of their first days, their shop’s expansion, their future goals. It’s just great. I can hear her excitement about this place and working with owner, Christina Carter. She beams while talking of Andrew Kimley’s cooking passion. He is both her husband and the shop’s chef. They will start hosting events later this year, a Mother’s Day special among these. I know where I will be having my mom’s day coffee!

I could have stayed here all-day folks. The diverse clientele, the local artwork on display, the handmade jewelry, the support of our military sprinkled across the store, the colorful purses and alligator toddler shoes, the couches and pillows calling out to me: “make yourself at home.” The variety of candies, gifts, chocolate, soaps, and more. I could go on…did I mention the doughnuts?

 

 

Hard to believe I hadn’t taken note of the shop’s name, although I drive by it weekly. An attractive landmark downtown, but I hadn’t ventured inside because–>kids. The idea of them touching everything, speaking too loud for other customers, and stomping like dinosaurs up and down the stairs makes my teeth clench. Admittedly, I’ve been working on the nonchalant “mom-shrug and smile” more and more these days. My kids are just that: kids! I watch as another military boy-mom sits down with a friend and her toddler. “DOUGHNUT!” he squeals as his face lights up. She responds “please, may I have a doughnut?” and he repeats in adorable toddler lingo that I kind of understand. While the moms share, he plays with his trucks, then sees me and we have a quick session of peek-a-boo from across the store…and I miss my boys. This place IS kid-friendly after all, and I will be coming back to surprise them with their own sprinkled yumminess soon enough. But for today, what a retreat and magical place for this momma to visit. Sitting alone, observing people loving on each other…I savor this moment of solitude…it feels so good.

Whimsical, inspiring, and a great reminder to all military spouses that we can make the military lifestyle work for us anywhere the military takes us. I grab my lap top after drinking my Cuban and I’m ready to work at this newfound gem.

If you haven’t visited, do! Here is their website and FB link for more information, their menu, and catering options:

http://www.meriwetherscoffeeshop.com/

http://www.facebook.com/MeriwethersCoffee/

 

 

Something amazing happens when military spouses support each other, connect, and share. Thank you @LadyJupiter for today—a much needed oasis and fabulous recommendation! 😊 If you all want more information about local restaurants, be sure to check out her blog at https://ladyjupiter.com/.

Great to have been able to support another military spouse doing her thing and making this military lifestyle work for her, while she supports her spouse miles away from her growing business!

In what creative ways can you support your local military community?

Thanks for visiting with me!

Kathy

p.s. Found more buffalo today 😊

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Thriving over Surviving

I’m regularly immersed in literature focused on the experiences of military spouses, couples, and families. I love reading the qualitative narratives of other spouses, like myself. Other than inspiration, I receive a direct heart-to-heart link to their deployment experiences, the challenges they face, the resiliency that helps them survive the arduous times. Military spouses know the impact that wartime deployments can have on couples and family members. I remember those days well…some of you might be able to relate to my deployment experiences, while others are bearing down for your first.

Deployment Experiences: Sound Familiar?

  • Anxiety that follows thoughts of war and loss.
  • Fear of how deployment and distance might impact one’s relationship.
  • Stress of parenting while one’s spouse is away.
  • Miscommunication during on-line chats and emails.
  • Missed opportunities to connect while apart.
  • The loneliness (Being in a room filled with supportive family and friends while your thoughts are with your spouse).
  • Coming-home excitement (and angst).
  • First days of reacquainting with your spouse.
  • Weeks or months of reintegration, re-shifting your schedule, and negotiating roles and responsibilities (especially if a new baby arrived during deployment).

Some of you are nodding your head. You’ve been there. You remember the tears, the frustration, the hyperarousal when seeing an unknown car pull into your driveway. You may have had a one-day-at-a-time motto to get you through that season.

These stressors are unique to the military spouse experience. If you’re a spouse visiting this post and are barely surviving the transitional phases of deployments or this military lifestyle, you are NOT alone. There are so many spouses with shared experiences. We just don’t talk about them much. After all, society expects us to be “strong” … strong for our spouses, so they can serve our country and accomplish the mission.

I want to encourage you to consider the following however: Do you want to survive during deployment times and other seasons of change, or do you want to thrive?

To thrive=to bloom. Spouses, I was not flourishing like a beautiful flower during my husband’s third deployment. No. I felt more like a dead, stepped on flower, especially after having my first child. I was depleted and hungry for community. I lived about two hours from the nearest military base, and supportive FB spouse groups in my area weren’t even a thing. I now understand the difference between being in military spouse “survival-mode” vs. thriving in this role, and in life.

If you’re merely surviving, don’t beat yourself up. Feel encouraged and take a positive small step towards thriving. The list below has helped me grow and adapt during the dryer seasons of this military life.

5 Thrive over Survive Strategies:

  1. Grab a journal and reflect on times when you felt passionate about life. What were you doing different during that time?
  2. Get inspired by others (TED Talks and other bloggers have given me quite the push lately).
  3. Meet new people (challenge yourself to go beyond the superficial “hello”).
  4. Step outside your comfort zone and try something new (i.e., sketching, being in the calm of nature, meditation, exercise).
  5. Catch-up with an old friend and share. Chat about your dreams. Friends can be such a source of encouragement!

Hang in there spouses–we’re in this together! Please let me know what’s helped YOU thrive in the comments section.

Cheers friends!

Kathy

Kansas City: Day Trip!

While living in Leavenworth we have taken day trips to Kansas City, MO monthly (do most people know there is a Kansas City outside of Kansas?! You live, you learn.). Here are a few kid-friendly places to explore. Enjoy!

Do visit Union Station.

Their website is below:

http://www.unionstation.org/

 

They have exhibits and events year-round and if you have children who love trains as much as mine do, they also have a miniature train display. We have been there a few times and really loved our holiday visit. After walking through the display, you can head outside to the cross-bridge where you can watch the trains stationed below.

Venture down Grand Blvd to the Crown Plaza Mall

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Here is their website: https://www.crowncenter.com/Shopping-And-Dining

We always eat at Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant because the boys get a kick out of calling in our orders and having meals delivered by a small train. A great kid-friendly place…loud and filled with excitement as children cheer for their meals.

 

Here is their website: http://www.fritzskc.com/

For those who missed the IG post, Fritz’s was started by Navy veteran, Fritz Kropf and his wife, Virginia, back in 1954.

After lunch, stop at the Crayola Café for ice cream and coloring. Our boys love this treat and we get to color with them and relax for a bit.

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At the mall, be sure to also swing by the Best of Kansas City for Wizard of Oz books, KC gifts, and a bottle of the World Famous Joe’s BBQ sauce (made for some yummy BBQ beef meatloaf muffins last night–I nearly burnt them, but the boys still ate them!).

 

 

The Hallmark store also has beautiful KC décor. Did you know Kansas City is home to Hallmark? Free fun fact for you 😊 Here is their history: https://corporate.hallmark.com/about/hallmark-cards-company/history/founding-1910s/

Cross the street to Lego-Land or the Sea Life Kansas City Aquarium.

Here are their websites for more information:

https://kansascity.legolanddiscoverycenter.com/

https://www.visitsealife.com/kansas-city/

Both offer military discounts for veterans and their families. There is also a movie theater in the building and in the winter months they have an outdoor ice skating rink. Be warned, if you park in a parking garage across the street from your destination, it’s worse than getting lost in a hay maze. We were so turned around after-hours trying to get through the hallways and cross-bridges over the weekend—so many doors, too many options.

Hungry yet? Drive over to FOGO DE CHÃO BRAZIL

Fogo de Ciao

Check them out here: https://fogodechao.com/location/kansas-city

This Brazilian steakhouse was the perfect setting for dinner with friends (minus kids). The meats are delicious and they have a large salad bar with my favorite aperitivos: a variety of cheeses, olives, and prosciutto. After dinner stroll down the streets of Country Club Plaza, listen to live musicians, and explore the “City of Fountains”.

 

Being there always takes me back to my travels to Rome and Barcelona—another great scavenger hunt idea—go find the fountains! Click here for more information: https://countryclubplaza.com/

If you’ve visited and loved other Kansas City venues and events, please do share below. We still have some time left here 😊

Be adventurous and explore your surrounding friends!

Kathy

p.s. I will be back to share more KC fun with you soon!

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El Domino: Beyond the “Thank You”

Dominoes

There we were, slamming dominoes, joking, laughing, and sharing stories. That is, until one of them got triggered. The other players joked and tried to make light of the situation, but I could clearly see this one gentleman was struggling to regain his composer. Things went to a very emotional place, fast. Within a couple of minutes, he was back in the middle of a WWII mission, reliving it and acting it out before us. The others had slowly gotten up and left until I was the only one left to listen. My heart…that veteran pulled HARD at my heart strings that morning as he took me back in time.

You see, years ago during my then “just friend’s” second deployment, I volunteered to work with a geriatric program for veterans. I have several friends in the military and their courage and sacrifice has continuously inspired me to want to pay it forward. Initially, I thought I’d go in there and paint or sing with the vets, but quickly realized they wanted to share their life narratives and legacies with me instead. Little did they know they also needed dominoes. Oh yes! Being a Miami-native, how could I NOT bring el domino?! Those friendly veterans needed community. They also needed a good dose of banter and laughter.

The games allowed for this amazing team of veterans to join and socialize, rather than sit alone in a recliner all day. One Friday morning, they seemed to be on a mission, aiming pries at my personal life. I shared about email exchanges I was having with a deployed soldier. Why did I ever go there?! Every meeting after that they ONLY wanted to know about my now-husband. They remembered his name. They worried about his safety. They didn’t even know him! As our friendship evolved into a dating relationship, I realized I needed these veterans in MY life, probably more than they needed our domino socials. It helped for me to chat about the distance, the fears, the potential military lifestyle. I miss that group but am so grateful for the fond memories and encouragement they gave me. They left their prints on my heart y’all!

Since then, I may have been introduced to the Soldiers Creed once or twice and have read those of other branches. Those creeds speak to the core values of the brave men and women who fight for our freedoms…to the compassion and care these brothers had for my now-spouse. There is a thread of honor, courage, service, and commitment, that I heard across their stories, that I also see in my husband. I am one proud army wife!

The military lifestyle isn’t full of rainbows folks. I know a lot of you reading this already know that, but for those who don’t, there are difficult times. There are sacrifices. There are losses of various types. A little Monday food-for-thought: If you’ve ever thought of volunteering or serving in your community, be encouraged—do it friends! Do it in honor of those service members who have served you. Do it to positively impact your local family, friends, neighbors, and veterans. Don’t stop at “thank you for your service.” Reflect on the talents, gifts, strengths, and resources you can offer to the programs in your local area. Ask what their needs are! They may not need you to paint and sing, but you might need to grab your dominoes 😊

Thanks for visiting with me friends. From my coffee mug to yours—Cheers!

Kathy

p.s. Stuck for ideas? Volunteer Match can help you find a local organization in need of volunteers: https://www.volunteermatch.org/

USA.gov also has a list of organizations: https://www.usa.gov/volunteer

p.p.s. If you know of community programs searching for volunteers, please feel free to comment and share with the @rockyroadsandrainbows community. Has volunteering had a positive impact on your life? I’d love to hear how!

Leavenworth: Hello, Buffalo!

I tried. I really tried to capture the roaming buffalo for this blog. I tried to outrun the gate guards, after trespassing on federal property, and sprinted for dear life before being stumbled over by those giant beasts. OK, not the last sentence, but I tried, and was told I couldn’t, so–>U-turn! The last thing this military wife wants is trouble for my soldier-man. They are here, and you will see them as you drive past the grassy area next to the U.S. Penitentiary (aka The Big House), across from the Metropolitan Steak House (lunch date for you couples).

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They will tell you at the CGSC Spouse’s orientation that this year is a time to reconnect with your spouse (since they aren’t busy working in the field). Let me give it to your straight: Your spouse will spend the morning in class, the afternoon in the library, and the evening studying in the basement or getting a graduate degree nearby. It is what it is. That said, there are fun and creative ways to connect and make time for each other and your family (I’ll save the detailed list for another day). We have attended Strong Bonds retreats with friends (free full-day child care, hotel, meals, and date night—woohoo!), found babysitters for date nights, and camped at a nearby site for a weekend getaway with our fabulous neighbors. Together, you CAN make fun new memories here. Talk about it, plan, and maintain realistic expectations.

So, no buffalo picture yet, but I did run on post to capture the popular Buffalo Soldier Monument.

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Want to know more about the history of Buffalo Soldiers? Check out the Kansas Sampler Foundation website here:

https://www.kansassampler.org/8wonders/peopleresults.php?id=313

I also snapped a shot of the Combined Arms Research Library for you. They have a children’s library inside too.

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It took some serious self-control and some healthy fear to keep me off that ice!

Charming Leavenworth is rich in history, after all, it’s Kansas’ first city and one of the starting points of the Oregon Trail. Downtown is lively too with sandwich and coffee chops, specialty stores, thrifts and antique shops, churches, health providers and other small businesses.

 

Parents, there are historic murals across the downtown area for a fun fall-time scavenger hunt. Below are some I’ve come across:

 

For future CGSC spouses curious about your initial days in Kansas, let me pause, and rewind to our summer 2017 move. We arrived at the housing office, thinking we were way ahead of most, only to be listed 55 on a first come, first serve wait-list (you read correctly and no, the 6 months prior housing application did nothing for us). Fun times indeed. We considered living in our trailer with two dogs, a cat, and 2 wild boys, but the campground was going to flood over the weekend, so we secured a room at the Lansing Econo Lodge. Everything else within the required 30-minute drive to secure housing was booked. We lived there for 5 days too long. Talk about being irritable!!! By day 5, we were ready for a rental home. We saw two houses, and BOOM we were moved in that afternoon. Good thing we did because we didn’t hear from the housing office until a month and a half later. While waiting for our belongings to be delivered, we gathered for family dinners around a storage bin, and ran around an empty house with our boys and fur babies (I know some of you can relate!).

Here’s the thing, we didn’t have anyone to prepare us for the unexpected. We thought we were ahead of most by moving at the end of June. We thought we would move right into a house on post day 1. Then we thought we could travel a bit and camp out while we waited for something to open…wrong. There are other non-army families and international students that arrive earlier than others and there IS a wait list for housing. Plan and get connected before your move, then be flexible. Visit the various Fort Leavenworth face book spouses’ pages to learn tricks of the trade from spouses who have already gone through the obstacles. They share housing ideas, child care resources, hospital information, and their own experiences so that it’s less painful when it’s your turn to make the big move.

Let’s talk about living in small-town Leavenworth for a minute. Deep breath…Kansas City is a 20-40-minute drive away. Being from Miami, FL, I need my big city fix occasionally, so we spend a Saturday in the city once a month. There are a lot of things to do there–I will need to devote a separate blog for those. As far as what to do in Leavenworth, it’s slim pickings. I had to shift my perspective and expectations a bit. Some of you will be pleased to know that yes, we do have sushi here! Sushi Garden has been our go-to for local date nights (Yes, the one in the I-HOP plaza. That’s right, next to the Econo Lodge). While we’re on the topic of food, The Depot is another finger lickin’ meet-up. We met there for breakfast with other CGSC families in the old “cigar room” of the historic train station downtown. I’m big into genealogy and history, and finding historic gems like this, re-purposed vintage, or renovated-anything makes my heart smile big.

 

What else is there to do? There is an old movie theater nestled downtown, mini golf on post, and bowling allies on and off post. My boys get a kick out of this big dinosaur outside of Crown Lanes.

Bowling

The historic C.W. Parker Carousel Museum is unique to Leavenworth and riding their 10mph speedster is a must-do. Excuse the laughter in the pic below, we were so dizzy, it was laugh vs. vomit.

 

Fort Leavenworth does a great job at hosting family events on post, especially during the summer and fall seasons (winter and spring for another blog). We joined their 4th of July celebrations our first week here—think live band, bounce houses, food, and vendors.  This community also holds several family friendly events downtown, to include the Summer Concert Series, Alive After 5, the farmers’ market, parades, and Christmas tree lighting event. Check out the Leavenworth Main Street web page here: http://leavenworthmainstreet.com/

We arrived right in time for the Amelia Earhart Annual Festival in neighboring Atchison, KS. For those who love funnel cakes and planes, 2018 dates are July 20th and 21st.

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Excuse my eldest, he is such a clown…gets it from his daddy!

We also had fun petting dozens of farm animals and riding carnival rides at the Leavenworth County Fair in Tonganoxie, KS. There are a few back to back fairs in this area, but we enjoyed the rural drive to Tonganoxie and the sunflowers. There are quite a few small towns to visit in the area, Weston, Platte City, Smithville, Lansing, and Bonner Springs are among these. By the way, best ribs in the area can be found at All Slabbed-Up BBQ, just up the road from, you got it… the Econo Lodge. Can you tell I’m a foodie yet?

For those with energized toddlers and preschoolers, there is Play, Bounce, & Jump Family Entertainment Center off 20th and Spruce with great deals and birthday party options for the kiddos. Winters here are cold!

Bounce house

There are also farms off Santa Fe Rd, northwest of post, for the warmer months. Salt Creek Valley Farms has weekly events for families during the fall–Big hit for our family! This city girl was diggin’ the farm-life and cooking the fresh stuff.

 

Picking fresh flowers from their flower garden also made me one happy momma!

Need another to-do? The Leavenworth Public Library is AWESOME. It’s right off 4th and Spruce.

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As we waited for our items to be shipped, we took our boys to wiggle time and story time, both of which they loved. If your passionate about genealogy like I am, you gain free access to some genealogy sites while visiting (you can also do this from home with your spouse’s library card). The Family History Center is another local resource on Limit St. and the Leavenworth Historical Society is on 5th. Their web page lists all Leavenworth county museums and has information on the Leavenworth Candlelight Vintage Home Tours. Check them out here: http://leavenworthhistory.org/

Back to the Library, as I need to mention, this was where we made our first friends. Other military spouses find their way to the Libraries on and off post—say hi and meet someone new! I was somewhat shy but met two lively boy moms and clicked right away.

Let me talk to the spouses who are a bit introverted. I’m with ya! I get it. It’s hard to even make eye contact sometimes, so you avoid. Don’t. Not here. You can make Leavenworth your best or worst experience. I have forced myself to step outside my comfort zone to invite other spouses with toddlers over, whether the nasty rug in this rental home is vacuumed or not. I also set up a park play date right away to get to know other parents. It felt weird asking random women I had merely introduced myself to, to spend a few hours with me and my family. I invited others over for walks, and we grabbed our strollers and talked (Y’all know who you are…THANK YOU!). Their willingness to join, connect, and share has made this move easier and easier.

There is something to be said about the transparent heart-to-heart conversations that ripple over a gathering of military spouses. I have wanted to make this my best move yet and that has meant being me, being honest, making the effort, and being curious about others here. I’ve asked about others’ moves. I’ve asked about their challenges. I’ve asked about what’s helped. We help. Being in community with each other and sharing ideas and resources helps. In this one to two-year PCS (for you SAMS folks), you can choose to connect, or isolate. Be courageous and put yourself out there—it will make the skies seem bluer while you’re here 😊

Ciao for now!

Kathy

p.s. This blog is not all inclusive. If you’ve trudged these roads, post your favorite memories and suggestions in the comments below. I’ll circle back with more seasonal activities later. Let’s share our knowledge and experiences with one another!

Update: I did it! Took me 3 attempts, but I got a pic of the Buffalo for you…see? Told ya we had buffalo here!

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