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?
John and I met on my first day of band camp at Penn State. He was a sophomore; I was a freshman. We were both trumpet players… in a section of 68! We went on one date a year later; it was awkward.
Fast-forward four years, and John's brother (who I also knew from band) posted John's boot camp address on Facebook. I decided to send him a note. A few weeks later, I got one back. We exchanged letters for a few more months and when John could start calling, he did.
We ended up on the phone for literally hours every night and a year later we could (finally!) go on our second first date. We long-distance dated for a year and John asked me to marry him a few weeks before he deployed to Afghanistan for a year. We got married a year later, after he came home.
Before I was a military spouse, I taught for five years In Baltimore City as a high school English teacher. I loved it. When we got married, I had to leave my job--and subsequently, my career.
I ended up growing Jo, My Gosh! during that time, freelancing, and then eventually finding remote work in the military community in the communications field. I currently am the social media manager for Military.com.
While John was in the military, he started working on a business plan for a coffee shop he wanted to open when he transitioned out of the Navy. Two years ago, we opened Swatara Coffee Co. in a small town close to Hershey, PA. I also run Jo, My Gosh!, serve in various capacities at our church, and do some volunteer work with other organizations locally and nationally.
In late 2019, John and I brought home a Jack Russell/Fox Terrier puppy and named him Albus. (Yes, as in Albus Dumbledore! We are insufferable nerds.) He's so much fun; we love him to death.
WHICH MILITARY BRANCH DOES YOUR SPOUSE SERVE IN AND FOR HOW MANY YEARS HAS HE SERVED?
John served in the Navy for 6 1/2 years.
WHERE HAS THE MILITARY MOVED YOUR FAMILY OVER THE YEARS? WHICH WAS YOUR FAVORITE DUTY STATION AND WHY?
We were stationed in Virginia Beach and then Quantico. Our favorite duty station was definitely Quantico-- we lived in Fredericksburg, VA-- which is one of the cutest towns you'll ever see. We loved the intersection of history, great outdoors activities, delicious restaurants, independent shops, easy transportation options (including a train station in town), and close proximity to major cities and areas of tourism.
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?
Don't get me wrong-- I loved, loved, loved being a teacher. When I had to change career directions because of licensing and PCSing timelines, it took a long time for me to wrap my head around my new identity… and to build a new career for myself. Looking back, I can see that the experience helped me stretch myself and do something I always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity before-- get paid to write!
WHO INSPIRES YOU AND WHY?
There are quite a few people who inspire me. I had the chance to attend President Jimmy Carter's Sunday School class (which he taught!) twice and shake his hand. His grace, dignity, and quiet adherence to his beliefs are some of the things I hope to embody.
I am also inspired by Georgia Representative John Lewis, who quite literally put his body on the line as a Civil Rights activist in the 1960s and now serves as a representative for his district. His humility and fearlessness are admirable.
I also am inspired by Louisa May Alcott and Harper Lee, two of my favorite authors of two of my favorite books. Their characters, turn of phrase, descriptions, and plots that withstand the test of time make me want to keep writing and honing what little writing skills I have.
WHICH CHARLIEMADISON EVERYDAY REMINDER DO YOU WEAR ON YOUR WRIST AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THAT PARTICULAR BRACELET?
I felt completely unprepared for military life, for making new friends, and for starting a new career. But somehow (sometimes I still actually wonder how!), I did. And I am so glad that I did, too. I still sometimes struggle with Imposter Syndrome and feeling like I don't have something to contribute or don't quite belong. Not only do I love rose gold and the tones of this bracelet, I think it can sometimes be difficult to remember to be yourself. (At least, it is for me!) This bracelet is a tangible reminder that I have something to contribute and that being exactly who I am is good enough.
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?
When John was in the Navy, we made an effort to be present with each other as often as we could-- to kiss each other good morning and good night, to eat meals together when we could, and to try to check-in with each other. It was harder than it sounds since John had a rotating schedule; his shift changed every single week. Of course, that made it even more important to try to stay in sync with each other!
Now that we're a veteran military family, we try to do what we can for the military families who are in our area. We live close to the largest National Guard training base in Pennsylvania and one of the largest in the nation, so we're still very close to military culture.
We offer a military discount for service members and veterans at Swatara Coffee Co.; we also do a Veterans Day coffee giveaway. When a large group of National Guardsmen deployed from our area, we had a "Deployment Sucks Day" and gave coffee away to military spouses who were left behind.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A FELLOW MILITARY SPOUSE WHO IS STRUGGLING WITH MILITARY LIFE OR DEPLOYMENT?
There is no one right way to be a military spouse or to deal with deployment. Everyone learns to survive (and thrive) in military life in their own way. I think it's important to listen to others' experiences, take what is useful to you, and implement it in a way that makes sense for your situation.
Not everything I write about on Jo, My Gosh! can work for everyone, but I hope that there's something that everyone in military life can use at some point in their journey.
WE HAPPEN TO BE QUOTE LOVERS AROUND HERE – CAN YOU SHARE A FAVORITE QUOTE THAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED?
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." ~Joshua 1:9
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