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

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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!

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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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Kansas: A Time to Reflect and Connect

 

Hello, and thanks for joining me on this blog journey! I’ve decided to start a blog, hoping it will evolve organically with my life experiences as an Army spouse, boy mom of two, and counseling professional. Being an Army family, we move a lot (6 moves in 6 years). As we prepare for PCS moves, I’m always searching for information about our next location. What is there to do? Where will we live? Where can we connect with others? What schools are in the area? What’s the weather like? Our family always drafts a bucket list of everything we want to see and do at our new “home”. I never thought this semi-nomad life was for me, but I’ve kinda fallen in love with it. I terribly miss our family and friends, and saying goodbye is never easy, but I’ve learned that military families find each other. We click, we build friendships quickly (we don’t have time to waste), and we lean on each other because in some states, we are all we have.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been teaching helpers how to work with military families. In the process, I’ve learned so much about coping as an Army spouse and being a resilient military family—it’s been a blessing in disguise. There is a plethora of resources for our military community, but often missing bridges. Over the past few months, and a PCS move from Rocket City to Leavenworth, Kansas, I’ve started reflecting on how I can help other spouses and families connect to the resources that will be most helpful to them. What’s helped me? What’s helped others? What would I want other spouses to know when they learn they are moving to the land of Oz, or anywhere else for that matter?

I searched endlessly for a blogger to tell me everything I wanted to know about Kansas. I dreaded the move, and the thought of tornadoes. The idea of living in a home surrounded by 7 nearby correctional facilities was not appealing at all! Then I discovered the priceless Facebook pages for CGSC spouses in Leavenworth. Game changer! When we come together, military spouses are one empowering and powerful force. I couldn’t keep up with the number of resources shared and questions answered from those preparing to leave. Their insights and encouragement helped me accept this move.

The early days of this blog will be an attempt to share our family’s experience in Leavenworth during the year that we are here. In the process, we will receive orders to PCS again and I may just write a few blogs of the other places we’ve lived and those we will end up residing in over the next few years. Might as well put those great memories and pictures to good use! I also want to bridge other spouses and families to resources they may not know of. I’m always curious about what helps other spouses and families survive deployments, PCS moves, and the transitional periods and am excited to start this journey, sharing my own, and learning from yours 😊

Stay tuned for my next blog, Leavenworth: Hello Buffalo!

Cheers!

Kathy

(Disclaimer: Mom life is messy and so is my writing.)

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

 

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