We believe stories are important - they connect us with other women who share similar experiences and help us feel as if we're not alone when life throws us a curveball. And as a military spouse - owned company, we believe in the power of sharing stories of fellow military spouses.
The military spouse community is a unique sisterhood - they show strength with every relocation, deployment, and lost job; they’re resilient - making a new home and forming new friendships at each duty station; and they are fiercely devoted to the family and military hero they love.
Despite the uncertainty and sacrifice that military life brings, military spouses face each new challenge with grace and bravery. At Charliemadison Originals, we're celebrating our sisterhood of military spouses through our Meet a Milspouse series - sharing one story at a time and giving you a glimpse inside their world.
GIVE US A BEHIND-THE-SCENES PEEK AT YOU AND YOUR FAMILY – HOW DID YOU BECOME A MILITARY SPOUSE (MILSPOUSE)? WHAT DO YOU DO IN ADDITION TO BEING A MILSPOUSE? AND A FUN FACT ABOUT YOUR MILITARY FAMILY?
My husband and I met while going to The College of New Jersey. We both worked as Community Advisors (commonly referred to as Residence Advisors at other colleges) and were working with freshmen. We lived on a tiny, beautiful campus, and Jon was going through ROTC out of Princeton University.
One of our very first dates (after the dinner and movie date) was getting a private tour of Princeton's campus and learning all the neat stories about different students and urban legends.
A couple of months later, Jon deployed for the first time. The day he left was also the day I got into my little sedan with everything I owned and moved out to Ohio to start my first job out of college. This experience prepped me for military life and made me really appreciate the resources the military provides for moves.
It might not be perfect, but it's better than nothing! When I arrived, I didn't have a ready-made community of people with similar life experiences. I didn't live near neighbors who I felt comfortable and safe asking for help.
The first time I realized what it truly meant to live away from family and friends was after driving to Ikea to buy furniture. I had to wait a couple of months using folding chairs and an air mattress before I could afford to buy any furniture. I walked through the entire store marking things that I wanted to buy on this trip and on another trip.
I could not wait to furnish my apartment and sit on a chair that had some cushion! Unfortunately, I couldn't lift the first box by myself, nor would it fit in my small car. It was a big dose of reality that I couldn't do everything by myself. I would need to ask someone I didn't know that well for help.
This lesson continues to serve me well in military life. I now know that asking for help is a sign of courage and strength. More importantly, when you ask for it, generally, most people are happy to assist!
Currently, I work full-time for WWC, a women-owned government consulting firm. I also spend my time volunteering for InDependent, a non-profit that makes wellness accessible for military spouses. Both challenge me in unique manners, which allows me to use my skills in different ways. There are other benefits too. I am surrounded by incredible colleagues, I have no shortage of opportunities to learn, and I meet new people every day.
WHICH MILITARY BRANCH DOES YOUR SPOUSE SERVE IN AND FOR HOW MANY YEARS HAS HE SERVED?
My husband is Active Duty Army. He has served for over 12 years. It is crazy to think how fast those years have flown by!
WHERE HAS THE MILITARY MOVED YOUR FAMILY OVER THE YEARS? WHICH WAS YOUR FAVORITE DUTY STATION AND WHY?
We've lived at Ft. Campbell, KY; Ft. Lee, VA; Camp Casey, South Korea; Ft. Bragg, NC; and now we're living at Ft. Leavenworth, KS. I have a hard time choosing a favorite because I love each one for different reasons. Ft. Campbell was my first experience living as a military spouse, and I met incredible mentors and fellow military spouses there.
I loved Ft. Lee because it has been the closest Army post to our families. Also, Richmond, VA, is a beautiful city. I love history, and there are abundant opportunities to relive the past and explore how our nation developed in the Richmond/Ft. Lee area.
South Korea was a meaningful experience because we got to travel and truly immerse ourselves in another culture. Unfortunately, living so far away from family and friends was tough.
While we were stationed at Ft. Bragg, I got involved with InDependent and started acting again. InDependent has brought so much joy and fulfillment that I can't imagine my life without it! While at Ft. Bragg, I also met several military spouse small business owners. Knowing military spouses who create opportunities for themselves and employing others is very inspiring for me.
Lastly, Ft. Leavenworth gave my spouse and I a chance to re-connect and catch our breath after the high operation tempo he'd worked at. I enjoy exploring local restaurants and stores, and the Leavenworth/Kansas City areas are full of adventures to explore!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A MILITARY SPOUSE? TELL US SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE LEARNED OR HAS MADE YOU STRONGER BECAUSE YOU ARE A MILSPOUSE?
My favorite thing about being a military spouse is getting to live in so many different places. I'm from the northeast, where people are not afraid to judge other parts of the country and their lack of "culture."
Because we move every 2-3 years, I've been able to live in places that I may not have chosen. However, I am so blessed that I got to live in each location. I met incredible people, tried new foods and new experiences, and learned that each place has the potential to be memorable.
You have the power to create joy in every day, even when it's in a location that you may not have chosen. There will always be something you will miss when you leave, so find those unique places and memorable events early.
Explore your area like you are a tourist and enjoy the sites, sounds, and people often. Be a positive influence on the community around you and help others create positive memories, too.
WHO INSPIRES YOU AND WHY?
I am inspired by people who lift up others. Too often, I hear that there isn't enough within the military spouse community- not enough jobs, not enough support, not enough "things to do."
But then I see a person rise up to congratulate another person when they get a job or a promotion. Or I witness a military spouse congratulate another military spouse who has a thriving business. Sometimes the support appears small, like when someone opens their home for a neighborhood pancake breakfast.
These acts inspire me. I've learned that just because someone else is succeeding, doesn't mean that I am a failure. Maybe it's just not my time yet. Or perhaps it isn't yours. But I guarantee that you'll feel a lot better if you lift someone up, rather than tear them down.
WHICH CHARLIEMADISON EVERYDAY REMINDER DO YOU WEAR ON YOUR WRIST AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THAT PARTICULAR BRACELET?
I have three that I wear all the time. Each of the bracelets was designed for the InDependent Wellness Summit, which is an online wellness event developed by InDependent for military and first responder spouses. Each bracelet is based on the theme of that year's summit.
The bracelets are a reminder that my wellness matters, too. Which is sometimes easy to forget! I love that each one is a diffuser bracelet because I don't wear perfume. Depending on the day, I'll put a dab of a different oil on and it will inspire, relax, or encourage me all day!
(left to right) Renew You Bracelet | Purpose Bracelet | Strength Bracelet
WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY CONNECTED TO WHAT MATTERS MOST, DESPITE THE UNCERTAINTY, FREQUENT MOVES, AND DEPLOYMENTS THAT GO ALONG WITH BEING A MILITARY FAMILY?
I always try to cultivate a group of in-person friends who encourage and allow me to be myself. It's easy to stay connected with friends all over the globe that we meet through the military, but nothing will ever take the place of an in-person friend.
The hardest thing I had to learn was that it is almost impossible to maintain the same level of connection after a move, even with social media. But I have learned to let go of that expectation. I understand that a friendship will evolve into something else after we move, and that doesn't make that friendship any less important or real while we're together.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A FELLOW MILITARY SPOUSE WHO IS STRUGGLING WITH MILITARY LIFE OR DEPLOYMENT?
I have two pieces of advice.
1) Get outside of your house and get involved in a community organization. We all have something to give, whether that's friendship or time, and we all need an in-person connection.
Staying home might feel comfortable, especially if you have recently moved or transitioned, but you need that interaction. Also, don't be afraid to "shop" around for friends.
2) My second piece of advice is to invite a new spouse to something. It's hard to try something new! I believe we place too much emphasis on the new person having to go to everything alone for the first time. But going solo is intimidating, and many people struggle to overcome the hesitation or fear.
If you see someone new, go up to them and invite them to your circle. We've ALL been the new person, and we've all experienced a time when either someone welcomed us or when no one reached out to include us. It is much easier to go to an event when you already know someone who will be there. Help someone new make a connection and integrate into the community.
WE HAPPEN TO BE QUOTE LOVERS AROUND HERE – CAN YOU SHARE A FAVORITE QUOTE THAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED?
This quote always helps to remind me what Is Important.
“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” ~ President Woodrow Wilson
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