An Open Letter to the Private Housing Companies on Military Bases

Dear Housing People:

You seem to be in quite a pickle, because military spouses have found their voice. You thought you could contain the issues or cover them up with a quick coat of paint. You believed taking our Basic Allowance for Housing meant fixing things in the most basic ways which meant the cheapest ways and did nothing to keep us safe or secure on the most safe and secure installations in the world. Now all that is changing.

Leadership knows the truth. The politicians on both sides of the aisle, who can never agree on anything, agree on this. The American people see another group of greedy companies worried more about their bottom line than their customers. You are in the news. You are all over social media. You control none of the conversation. What you do next will define how military housing is run for decades. Like I said, times are changing.

Right now, around the country military leaders at the highest ranks are inspecting every home on every base. They are looking in every nook and cranny. If there is a molding so much as off center, they are going to discover it and have you pay to fix it. They are looking for safety and health hazards. They are holding townhall meetings your employees are no doubt attending and they are listening to the horror stories about mold and smells. They are taking pictures of the neglect. The truths are all over Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Nothing in this world is hidden anymore. Times are changing.

Personally, I’ve never experienced the atrocities I’ve seen displayed. I’m one of the lucky ones. I never saw mold. I never experienced moisture problems. My Soldier and I have lived on three military bases for a total of 7 years of our 18 years of service. After seeing the conditions my peers have posted, I feel blessed it hasn’t been more. But don’t think for a second that means I’m not just as angry as my fellow spouses that have had to watch as their children and families suffered while you made excuses.

However, I’m not one to complain without offering a solution and this morning it came to me. If you truly want to fix this, and make sure it never happens again there are two very simple things you can do.

1. Fix every problem and make our homes like new. Spend the money to make sure that whatever issues are there, never come back. And when they do, because issues always arise, promise to spend the money to fix things correctly the first time. Without fail, without question, without concern of whether your bottom line is going to be affected.

2. HIRE MILITARY SPOUSES!!! HIRE THEM FOR EVERY POSITION AT EVERY LEVEL WITHIN YOUR ORGANIZATION.

a. Hire a military spouse to run the leasing office
b. Hire military spouses to help new families integrate into their communities, and help families transition away from base with ease.
c. Hire and train spouses to fix maintenance issues.
d. Hire military spouses to inspect homes before families move in and once they move out.
e. Hire military spouses to clean the homes in between residents.
f. Hire military spouses as liaisons to your company and your contractors.
g. Hire military spouses in your corporate offices at the highest levels. With teleworking, the internet and working from home capabilities nothing is impossible for military spouses.

Yes, I know there are special circumstances with hiring military spouses, but any issue can be overcome. Hire spouses that will only be with you for a year or two. Hire spouses that can only work while the kids are in school. Hire spouses with children and then hire a spouse to watch those children too. Hire two part-time spouses when you really only want one full-time employee. If you want us to trust you, trust us to take care of your properties, because our real interest is in taking care of each other.

There is a push to find employment for military spouses. This would be a meaningful way to fulfill that push. As military housing companies you will constantly have new employees to help you take care of their peers. You will have a constant access to the best and brightest spouses who want to do something to help their other spouses, but also need to earn a living for their families. Yes, you might have pay to train them, but spouses who are trained in one location go on to work that training in others. And they teach others. You are staring at a win-win situation right in the face. Will you take it?

Times are changing. I have always believed being a military spouse is among the greatest honor of my life. And I love my fellow milspos. I will do whatever I can for them, their Soldiers and their families. A lot of us feel that way. We are hoping after all the scrutiny dies down, and you’ve fixed all the problems, you will feel that way too. Show us. Hire military spouses at every level. We won’t let you down.

Sincerely,
Steven M. Schmitt
Mr. Army Wife

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Life is a Roller Coaster

Something significant happened to me yesterday.  I rode a roller coaster.  I know, not a big deal.  Yet, for me it was.  For me it was the culmination of a weight loss journey more than a year in the making. Sure, I’ve successfully lost 100 pounds in 2018, but the fact that I rode a roller coaster, and why that’s significant to my weight loss journey is a longer story that started in 2013 when I went to King’s Dominion in Central Virginia.

On that day, close to Halloween, Heather and I decided to spend time together visiting a new (to us) theme park.  Having grown up in Florida, near the best theme parks in the world, we don’t spend a lot of our free time at these venues simply because they never seem to measure up to the ones from our childhood.  It’s hard to compete with the mouse and the wizard.  Still, we do enjoy them from time to time, and decided to take the chance.

One thing that has changed as we’ve gotten older in regard to theme parks is our preferences.  When we were kids, it was rides, rides, rides.  Today, it’s the show schedule.  We want to navigate the park in such a way that we don’t miss the stunt spectacular or the dancing water.  If we happen to come upon a ride with a low wait time while meandering from theater to theater then great, but our goal is never to ride anymore.

So, as we walked into the park, and planned our way to see the limited show offerings they had we looked at the rides.  Since turning 30, roller coasters have had a way of making me queasy and I generally avoid them, but on this day, for some reason, I wanted to give it a try. Heather was up for it too and we got in line.  Before long we were at the platform where riders sat down, buckled up and let the fun begin.  That’s when I felt a new roller coaster experience, I never thought possible.

I didn’t fit.  When I sat, I could feel the fat spilling out the top of the seat.  That wasn’t unusual.  Those things are always small.  When the harness was pulled over my head, I could barely get it down.  Then the belt that connects the seat to the harness wasn’t long enough to buckle.  And it wasn’t too short by three of four inches.  It was a millimeter too short.  I was barely too fat.  The attendant came over and basically shoved the harness down into my gut until we heard the click and I rode the ride.  It wasn’t enjoyable, and it had nothing to do with the uneasy feeling in my stomach from all the twists and turns.

I spent the rest of the day feeling horrible about the fact I was too fat for theme park rides.  I told my best friend about my experience and vowed I was going to lose weight and get back on that ride with no issues. Instead, I just stopped getting on rides altogether.  Three years went by before we even visited another theme park.  When we did return to a park we hadn’t been to since college, we did so knowing I wouldn’t get on any ride that required a harness or seat belt.  We rode the “Cat in the Hat” children’s ride and watched as many shows as we could.  I wasn’t even going to take the chance that a repeat experience would happen.

That’s what made yesterday amazing.  I walked through the turnstile looking for a roller coaster.  Queasiness be damned.  I didn’t care if I puked all over everyone on the ride, as long as that bar came down with ease.  I was ready to stand in line for an hour as long as it meant no attendant would have to help push, pull or slam me into the seat.  I wanted the experience to be so mundane to everyone else, yet so exciting to me.

And it was.  When I stepped into the ride vehicle and put on the safety restraints no one was looking to see if it would fit.  No attendant walked over to make sure it was properly in place.  I just put down the bar, it locked into place and we rode the coaster.  I loved every second of it.  I loved the loops.  I loved the twists.  I loved the turns.  I loved sitting in that car, riding the ride, without worry that I was too heavy to fit. I could just enjoy it and enjoy it I did.

When it was over, Heather and I made our way to the animal adventures show.  There was no rumbling in my stomach and no marks from a seatbelt that was too tight.  I snapped a pic of us with the coaster I’d just conquered and walked away knowing that I could ride anything I wanted.  (We did ride a couple of other things, but still the shows are more our style.)

When I started losing weight in January, I really didn’t think about the roller coaster of the fact that I might be able to get on one with ease after losing the weight, but when it happened yesterday, I remembered that vow I made to my bestie.  I remembered how speaking that goal into existence gave it power.  It may have taken me a bit longer than intended, but after 5 years I’d done what I said I was going to do.  Now it’s time to do more.

My word for this week is aspire, because I want to aspire to be the best each and every time I do something. I also wanted to spend this week thinking about 2019 and what I want to aspire
too in the new year.  If 2018 was the year I aspired to lose weight, then 2019 needs to be the year I aspire to try new things I wouldn’t have at 300 pounds. They might not be things weight related at all, but things I can with confidence try because I’m not thinking about my size or limitations I might have because of the self-conscious attitude I was carrying.

In 2019 I want to continue this healthy journey I’ve been on by getting my body fat percentage down to healthier levels.  I want to publish a book and write a new play.  I want to use my passions for military spouses and woman warriors to engage those communities in new ways.  There are a lot of things I want to do; I aspire to do.  Now it’s time to get on the roller coaster and do them.

It has been said that life is a lot like a roller coaster ride, and it’s true.  Twists and turns, highs and lows, starts and stops.  There are sudden jolts that wake you up, and slow crests that allow you to take a look over the whole park and all there is to experience.  Yesterday, when the ride ended and the locks released allowing me to exit the ride, all I could think about was how I fit.  Isn’t that how we should look at our lives?  When its over, when the adventure is coming to its conclusion don’t we want to say that our lives “fit” into this world because we “fit” into our place the best we could?  Now that’s something to aspire too.

“Advent” ures

adventcandlesWe are in the season. That time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas when holiday music graces our airwaves and decorations grace our homes.  That time of year when cookies and cakes become a little bit sweeter and a lot more festive.  That time of year when wrapping paper and bows make their annual appearance under a bedazzled evergreen tree.  It’s the holidays, and for most of it still is “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

For Christian faith traditions this time period is known as Advent.  It’s best described as the time spent waiting and preparing for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  I remember it as a time when special candles were lit at church. There were three purple ones and a pink one placed around an advent wreath.  Each week the priest would light a new wick until all four faintly flickered. That meant Christmas was close, as was the arrival of Santa Claus.  Hey, at least I was anticipating something.

As an adult Advent is much different.  While I love the holiday season with its festivities, I also dread some of the coming complications that always seem to lurk whenever Christmas is close.  My least favorite activity is gift giving and the entire process that comes with it.

“What do you want for Christmas?” my mother always asks.

“I want you to spend the money on your grandchildren.” I always reply.

I don’t really need anything, and if I do need something, I go and buy it before I think about the holidays and my mother’s desire for me to open a gift from under the tree.  In my mind the money is better spent on toys or books for my nephew and nieces.  Plus, as adults, gift giving has become mundane.  I get my brother a $50 gift card to his favorite restaurant.  He gets me a $50 gift card to my favorite clothing store.  Let’s just skip it and save the 50 cents it costs each of us mail the cards via the US postal service.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love giving gifts.  I spend hours mulling the perfect present for my wife.  If I see something while I am out and about that I believe anyone else might enjoy, I’ll buy it in a heartbeat, and there doesn’t have to be a special occasion or reason.  I know a spouse who likes llamas, and I saw a llama iPhone cover, so I bought it.  I thought she’d like it, and I didn’t need to wait until Christmas to let her enjoy it.

But Advent isn’t about the gifts, at least I don’t think it’s supposed to be.  To see if I could find out what it is really supposed to be about, I consulted the experts.  I asked “google.”  Here are what some people have said about advent.

“It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.”– Pope Benedict  XVI

Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving the others with God’s own love and concern.”– Mother Theresa

“It is now, at Advent, that I am given the chance to suspend all expectation…and instead to revel in the mystery.”– Jerusalem Jackson Greer

“The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment right before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.”– Frederick Buechner

Thinking about that last quote reminds me of another one.

“Life is a journey not a destination.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I look back at 2018, I see a year that was much more journey than destination.  I spent the entire year trying to lose weight; trying to get healthier.  I spent time this year, putting words on paper, writing the first draft for a book idea I’ve had for a long time.  I spent time reflecting on where I’ve been and wondering where I might go next, both literally and figuratively.

Which brings me back to Advent. In the religious sense, yes, we are preparing and waiting for a Savior. But everyone, no matter how they celebrate the holidays are waiting and preparing for something else.  They are already thinking about all the great things that will come next.  They are making resolutions.  They are thinking about words that will describe their new year.  They are looking at 2019 staring them in the face.

I’m no different.  When I set weight loss goals for 2018, I did it during Advent.  When I planned my diet and exercise plan, I did it while gorging on Christmas cookies and Egg Nog.  When I set “fitness” as the word I wanted to describe my 2018, I did it before Santa came. My 2018 adventure was set during Advent.

Wait a minute.Adventure.  Advent.  ADVENTure. That can’t be a coincidence. Advent is literally in adventure. Not only that, it’s the beginning of the word.  It’s practically the whole word.  What does that mean?  What does that say about life?  When I look closely, I realize, you can’t have an adventure without starting with an advent.  There has to be a time where you are waiting and preparing for what comes next.  Even if you aren’t actively prepping for an adventure, before something starts, you’re in a period of Advent.

Remember those candles I mentioned at the beginning of this.  It turns out they each represent an attribute we’re supposed to reflect on during this season.  They represent hope, love, joy and peace.  I don’t know about you, but when I think about those four things, I think about how I want my life, my adventure to look.  I want to find hope in where I am headed and what might come before me. I want to love others in the best way possible, so they might love others with the same possibilities.  I want to find joy in every adventure, even if it’s not in the happiest of circumstances.  And I want to have peace, knowing that my adventures are going to better me as a person and member of society.

The fact is that I want to be in a constant state of advent.  I want to always be waiting and preparing for life’s next great adventure. I want the attributes of hope, love, joy and peace to infuse their way into everything I do.  I want to awaken memories of goodness.  I want to serve others.  I want to suspend all expectations, and revel in the mystery that is life.  I want to remember that life is a journey, not a destination.  Life is an adventure.

This advent season, whether you are waiting and preparing to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, or waiting for Santa, take some time to prepare for whatever might be next in your life adventure. You don’t have to plan every step you’re going to take, or wait around for that step to find you, but being in a constant state of advent increases the odds that opportunities for adventures will arise.  Look for them.  Be aware that they will come.  Be ready. Adventures await.  Advent is here.