Where do you work? It’s a common question. As common perhaps as the, What do you do?, question (We’ll talk about this one another time). When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, this is an easy question to answer. I work downtown, between 5th and 6th in that beautiful building with the early 20th century architecture. Working virtually, it’s tougher to explain the where of the work we do.
It wasn’t until recently, when I lost my at-home workspace, that I realized I had an at-home workspace at all. A leak from the upstairs master bathroom led to the replacement of a portion of the dining room ceiling. We had to essentially move out of the dining room, a dining room we have never actually dined in, but in which I made (dumped) my office. An office adjacent to toy alley, but a workspace nonetheless.
This sudden change left me thinking about where I work and the significance of having a space to work. I have never before needed a home office. My past employment took me on location in stores, restaurants, schools, offices. Along with a job description and a task list, even a few very attractive uniforms, I was given a space in which to complete my work. The beauty of working virtually is my workspace is mobile. I admit I dream of a color-coordinated in-home office space where I can display a giant vision board, leave work out in stacks that make sense to me, and close the door (say what?!). In reality, however, my dining room table office must be easy to pack up and move when Lillian’s Art Studio has booked the location or when I just need a change of scenery.
As a Virtual Assistant, at any one time, I'm working on a variety of tasks…some are basic data entry, some are more ongoing projects, research, and some allow for more creativity. As such, some tasks are best tackled at the coffee shop close to my son’s preschool where I order my hot chai tea and get to work. The air is still and quiet, and there is always a spare table. Other tasks are best completed at the coffee shop up the highway with an Americano in hand. This one is always buzzing with people, meeting up with close friends or business associates. Sometimes I need to drive west, closer to the coast, to feel the ocean breeze while I type. Then there are times I just need to think. So I swim. In the cool water, I carve out space to move, to breathe, to think. A lot of ideas were born in that YMCA pool. Blog posts were written. The name MAVAN was derived.
Workspace. Space to work. Space to think. Space.
So I ask you.
Where do you work?
(And sometimes my workspace is seated in Mom Row at my kiddos’ gymnastics lesson…)
I hope this post finds you well after saying farewell to 2017 and cheers to 2018. A new year. A new you. Right? Out with the old. In with the new. I say this as I roll my eyes (a habit I found myself in trouble for numerous times in my youth), and I say this most definitely with my greatest midwestern-sarcastic voice.
Do you love these annual resolutions or hate them? I have to say I have a love-hate relationship with New Year’s Resolutions.
If in the past month, you’ve turned on the TV, or the radio, looked up at a billboard, stepped into a store...you’ve likely been inundated with goods, services, ideas to support your resolutions as you seek a new you in the new year. I currently have a cooking device sitting in a box, a healthy eating guide I’m 3 pages into, a new planner I so desire to commit to fully, a 30-day yoga plan (this one I’ve been keeping up with...go me!), but you get the idea. So many suggestions as to how I might better myself. It’s January 5th, and I certainly haven’t committed to 5 days of all these wonderful resolution-supporting devices. So, fail. I guess I’ll try again next year. Ho hum.
I looove that as we turn the Christmas corner and prepare for the new year, we are led to pause and reflect on the past year, and take a breath before heading into the new year. I haaate that January 2nd feels like a day of extreme failure if we didn’t dive head-first into the resolution pool. I would love to say I don’t buy into all of that resolution stuff, and maybe I do say that, but the state of overwhelm I found myself in after clinking glasses at midnight on December 31st might say otherwise.
I’m not saying I don’t get caught up in the resolutions, even if I do not name them loudly, but I also think we miss a great opportunity if we focus on them solely. Resolutions sometimes lead us to focus on change, which may lead us to look for imperfections, inadequacies. To focus on the kind of change that means something must be wrong and need fixing. To focus on that pesky empty half of the glass.
But what about the full half?
You’re a rock star. You were last year. And you will be this year. Rather than looking for ways to change, rather than looking for imperfections, let’s look at areas to turn up the volume. Areas of ourselves we want to make even more awesome. Or just see with fresh eyes the great impact we have on those around us already. Maybe seeing ourselves the way others see us would be the perfect resolution. Then I suppose we’d get all high on our horses and have to resolve to be more down-to-earth the following year. Oh boy.
My mom gave me some of the best advice when I was a new mother. On a day when I was reading yet another chapter in yet another book on how to be the perfect parent, she said, “You’re practicing being a mom, and she’s practicing being a baby.” The idea of practicing somehow eased the burden. I no longer felt like a failure at the end of a bad day. I remember many nights telling my little bundle of joy, “We’ll try again tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a better day.” I still carry this idea of practicing with me. It allows me to accept less than perfect. To accept the times I’m unable to cross as many items off my to-do list as I would like. To accept the New Year’s Resolutions that remain in a box, physical or metaphorical, until March. Or until 2021. Or forever. This idea of practicing also leaves space to grow. To adapt. Space to try new things. This space may even lead to change, natural, organic change. It may not happen on a resolution-tight timeline, but it is change nonetheless.
While the idea of New Year’s Resolutions often leaves me thinking about outward changes, like dieting or exercise, I have to admit, listening to others’ resolutions this year has left me so incredibly optimistic. Just this morning I was listening to some am talk show in the car. The hosts were taking callers and asking them about their resolutions. And there came my natural eye-roll (man I have to work on that...oh boy...another resolution...) I admit, I expected to hear about everyone’s favorite fad diet or new exercise program, but that’s not at all what happened. I’m so happy to say I was wrong. I heard one woman proclaim she will be dishing out compliments to strangers daily. I heard a man say he plans to take more time each day to pause and reflect. Another caller stated she is going to focus on gratitude. We seem to be looking inside more than in the mirror. Can you envision the ripple effect of all these positive vibes?!
One of our core values at MAVAN is impact. We work with impact-driven military spouses and impact-driven professionals. We believe together we are making a greater impact within our respective communities and in the world. Leah recently asked our community of Mavans about their transition into the new year. Their responses were so reflective, each desiring inner growth. Each excited for their impact to grow in 2018. A new year can certainly lead us to focus on change. While, I hope the idea of change does not force you to try and pinpoint inadequacies, I do hope the thought of change allows you to make space for growth. With fresh eyes this new year, see the amazing things you already do and the amazing person you already are.
On behalf of Leah and myself, we wish you a happy new year. We can’t wait to see what 2018 holds for each of us. For MAVAN. For you.
Oh, the places I’ve gone. I recall sitting in a poorly-padded-sad-shade-of-blue chair at a DMV somewhere near Lemoore, CA one day (circa 2007), staring at the form in front of me. No, I wasn’t trying to figure out a multiple-choice question pertaining to who has the right of way at a 4-way stop. I was staring at box 3.a. Or was it 4.b? List everywhere you’ve lived in the past 5 years. Ummm. Are you joking? I don’t even think there’s room for that. At the time, I could have listed my parents’ address in IL, a couple college apartment addresses in VA, our first little apartment in FL (the one where the storage closet was actually whatever we could shove behind the red chair), our second, slightly bigger, apartment in MS (the one with the creepy wallpaper), or our newest house on-base in CA (a palace by comparison).
This time of year, I can’t help but think about family. Turning on the tv, every commercial is full of families (I do still catch a few commercials despite the handy DVR and children taking over with Neklix--aka Netflix). Families laughing together. Families eating together. Together. Together. Together. Pure joy, right? What about those of us whose families are separated by distance? Or by deployment? Don’t get me wrong, we still find joy. But our joy doesn’t seem to match the commercials. Or the Hallmark movies I’m drawn to despite their mismatch to my current reality. I am not naive to the fact that these frolicking family winter wonderlands are mismatched to many realities outside of military affiliation, but a girl can dream, right? While I’ve added five (I think?) addresses to the list since that day at the CA DMV, I realize I’ve added many more than five family members as well.
With each move, we’re thrust into new locations, new situations, new communities. I don’t know about you, but at this point, I can walk into a room, slap on my nametag, lock eyes with someone across the room, and be like, yep. You. Me. Same mold. Let’s be besties. In person for 18 months, and then we’ll keep up on social media. I’m sure our husbands will like each other. Wanna do Thanksgiving? I’ll bring an appetizer, two sides, a dessert, and rolls. And we’re off.
Within our respective military communities, we find our family. It’s true. We can’t always be with our families (the lovely people we were raised by and with) at times we’d like to be. Birthdays. Sunday dinners. Times of celebration. Times of grief. Holidays. But we are surrounded by love and by friends. In our friends, we have found a new type of family, and we have found joy. We could even star in a commercial if we wanted to, and it’d bring tears to your eyes with all the hugging and the laughter.
Oh, but the places I’ve gone. And the memories we’ve made. These memories don’t seem to match up with my childhood memories, but I’ve realized that’s okay. Sometimes it feels like the demands of the military make life, like holiday travel for example, difficult. And it can. But on the flip-side, it has forced me to adapt. To make new plans. And these plans, with our newfound family, have led to new memories. Amazing memories. Memories I would not have if not for the inconvenience of the military. Do not tell the military I’m thankful for inconvenience. I did not say that. Wasn’t me. I’m just being Mrs. Brightside. For a moment.
And now MAVAN has led to a whole new family. A whole new branch of our family-friend friend-family tree. Those of you who are actively supporting us. Those of you who are reading our blog posts. Those of you who are working with us. From our MAVAN haven to yours, we send love this holiday season. Whether you’re spending time with the family you’ve made memories with your whole life or the family you’ve chosen to make new memories with, we wish you nothing but joy in the celebration.
Have you ever lost your voice? I’m not talking about the kind of lost voice that can be remedied with some hot tea containing the perfect balance of lemon and honey. I’m talking about that voice deep inside. The voice that pesters you when you don’t want to hear her, but then seems to burrow down deep when you need her most. Sometimes she disappears altogether or she’s so quiet you can barely detect a sound. Sometimes I think her switch was shifted to Spanish mode, and I can only understand every few words; the ones I remember from tenth-grade Spanish class.
I’ve lost my voice for many reasons over the years.
I’ve lost her in the moves. A couple years back I think she was labeled with a green moving sticker and not a yellow one like the rest of our boxes.
I’ve lost her in raising small children, parenting solo more often than not. I mean, come on, it’s really hard to avoid accidentally throwing her into the Diaper Genie along with that 8th diaper of the day.
I’ve lost her because someone louder made me feel small so I squashed her, allowing someone else to be heard. Have you ever done that? Ugh, I hate to say I’ve lowered mine on more occasions than I’d like to admit.
In reflection, I realize I’ve been slowly losing my voice for years. I’ve lost her in moving. I’ve lost her in raising small children as a stay-at-home-mom. I’ve lost her in fear. But recently, I heard her. I heard her loud, and I heard her proud.
I have a voice. She’s not lost after all. She’s just been laying low. She’s been growing quietly to reveal herself, stronger, louder, than ever before. She’s been developing into a voice that represents a woman who can do anything she sets her mind to. She’s learned to be a force, but one that also knows when and how to listen.
MAVAN has altered my identity, and in turn, has revealed my voice. It was easy for me to be lost in my roles as Mommy, Marine Wife, and even Woman in America. Now, I’m a Mavan, and I’m discovering, once again, that I’m Anna too.
If you turn on any news channel today, you are likely to witness people using their voices. I hear people telling personal truths. I hear people fighting for change. I hear them. And I hear you. We at MAVAN, hear you. We’re here to help military spouses find a voice they may have lost, albeit temporarily. We’re here to match these motivated military spouses with impact-driven professionals looking to make a positive mark on the world. We’re here to facilitate a community; a community of people vocally supporting one another. Come join us! And be loud! We want to hear you!
We have been on the MAVAN journey for less than a year, and in that short time, we have already faced our fair share of obstacles that have required us to step back, pause, and refocus on why we are doing this. We did not start MAVAN because we thought it would be easy. We did not start MAVAN because we were bored and thought being an entrepreneur sounded neat. We were called to start MAVAN based on our own personal experiences and the realization that we could help hundreds, thousands, oh think bigger, millions of other women like us. We started MAVAN to make an impact; to help military spouses attain occupational fulfillment and reclaim their professional identities. This is why we exist. We are not here to do the easy thing; we are here to do the right thing.
The massive obstacle we have faced recently is not knowing what happens if our virtual assistant employees, our Mavans, are given orders to PCS (i.e. move) overseas. Is that still considered U.S. soil for payroll tax purposes? Do we need additional insurance coverage? Do we owe the country they are based in some sort of fee or tax? We have researched, tapped our network, asked a Ouija Board and still can’t find a clear cut answer. It has been frustrating. And time consuming. However, we have not given up because in order to achieve our mission, we really, really don’t want to have to tell Mavans they can no longer work for us if they get PCS’d overseas. That totally goes against our mission of helping military spouses maintain a career; a career they do not have to sacrifice when they move (a move which is not in their control).
Then, today, we received an incredible e-mail from an amazing woman, and veteran, at Bunker Labs. She sent this article from the Military Times and said, Get after it Ladies! Your time is now! We could not agree more!
The article starts by saying, Congress wants to help more military spouses living overseas find work, even if that means telecommuting across an ocean. Yes, yes, yes! It goes on to explain that in the annual defense authorization bill, which was passed by the House and Senate earlier this year, there is a provision for a pilot program. This program is intended to help broaden opportunities for military spouses whose careers may be disrupted by out-of-country military moves.
We are overjoyed that Congress sees the same problem we do, and furthermore, wants to help solve it! It’s a validation that we are not insane (at least about this issue!). So, we are just going to sit back, cross our fingers, and see how it goes…
...just kidding. You should know by now that sitting idly by is not our style. In reading this article, we realized that maybe we could do even more than help individual military spouses attain occupational fulfillment. What if we think bigger? What if we can do something to help make it easier for all businesses to employ military spouses? What if we can establish answers to the questions we have had? What if we can remove the hurdles we have had to jump? What if?
To start, we are going to reach out to local Congressional Representative, Mark Pocan, to discuss MAVAN and ask questions on the proposed federal program. We want to learn more and see if MAVAN could be a part of the pilot program.
When a Mavan receives orders overseas, questions abound. What happens to my current employment? is but one. And we do not have a clear, concise answer. And we want to. The fact that there are no clear answers to this specific question, and the fact that Congress also recognizes there is a problem and is actively working on a solution, tells us one thing: our time really is now. Let’s get to work!
Do you have any ideas of other things we could do or people we should talk to in order to get connected with this federal program? Let us know! We appreciate any and all help!
“I’m just fine. I’m happy. That’s the main thing- to be happy.”
These are the words of my 93-year-old grandmother this morning. Words spoken one day after she was transported by ambulance back to the hospital to be checked after falling from her nursing home bed. Words spoken one week after emergency hip replacement and wrist surgery resulting from a fall; a fall, which happened by an elevator outside an apartment where she couldn’t have known she’ll now never return.
My grandma is 93 years old. I know she is nearing the end of her life; a long, full life. I know this, and I’ve known this, for a long time, and yet, her fall has been a shock. I am suddenly forced to acknowledge that she will not live forever. With this acknowledgement has come a flood of overwhelming nostalgic feelings. So often, I wish life were cyclical rather than linear. If only I could go back for a day and truly enjoy being in that moment. I took so much for granted. I always wanted time to speed up. I wanted to see what’s coming up next...can’t I just take a peek at the last page of the book? Puh-lease?
This feeling of constantly looking forward is one I’ve known even more intimately since marrying the military. We PCS (Permanent Change of Station for my non-military friends...aka move), boxes are still piled high, and we’re already talking about the next move. What are our options? Dude, I haven’t even found a dentist yet for my overdue preventative teeth cleaning! Take a breath!
Just live in the moment!
This is a tall order when your whole life is built around 1-3 year stints. We’re always looking ahead.
Ahead to the next move, weighing the pros and cons of attempting to settle in this current location. I can try to love it here and face heartbreak, or I can put the visor down and just surface-live here. Maybe leaving will be easier that way.
Ahead to an upcoming deployment, urging children to go ahead and rush that next growth milestone so Daddy or Mommy doesn’t miss it. Cramming in everything you might want to accomplish; 6 months worth of activities into the last 6 weeks.
Ahead to homecoming, the reunion at the end of a deployment, wishing time increments of 6, 9, 12+ months to hurry up and fly by.
But, what are we giving up with all this forward-thinking? This question comes to you from a natural forward-thinker. I thought about college in middle school. Where would I go, what would I do with my life? I can tell you my plan was not to graduate from the University of Virginia and work at a restaurant called Crabs We Got ‘Em (a fabulous job, on a fabulous beach, with fabulous people, btw.) But, not the plan. The second I met my now husband, and the military, my plan derailed.
Do we sit in this derailment and mourn the could-have-been’s, or do we get back on track; maybe just a different track? I admit I often like my main course planning with a hearty side of pity party.
Our goal in building MAVAN is to give military spouses stability. Through skill-building and employment experience, providing a steady track that remains despite other plans that seem to derail when sudden orders are received. Providing one way to remain focused on today; this moment. Providing something consistent despite a changing address.
With Thanksgiving approaching, I am reminded to pause and express thanks. I’m thankful for my family and the lessons they teach me. I’m thankful for the life plan that derailed. I’m thankful for you.
My grandmother’s words remind me to pause. Take a moment to stop dreaming about yesterday and anticipating tomorrow. Take a moment to be thankful and see the happiness in today. I invite you to join me as I hit the pause button. Pause a moment and really dive into it. Head first. Dive into today. Because in the end, “I’m just fine. I’m happy. That’s the main thing- to be happy.”
In anticipation of Veteran’s Day, I have spent a lot of time in recent weeks feeling overwhelming gratitude for our military women and men, and their families. Growing up, I remember Veteran’s Day as a fun holiday. In school we spent time talking about American history, sugar coating a lot of the scary war stuff. Our local VFW members would parade in wearing their uniforms and pins, each proudly waving an American flag. I have always loved the elderly (seriously, my grandma is my best friend), so this was truly a happy occasion for me. Then we’d go down the line, saying, “Thank you for your service” to each veteran, shaking hands as we moved along. For a time, I thought veterans, which sounded to me a lot like veterinarians, were responsible for taking care of the pets during war. And, I love pets, so naturally, I wanted to thank them for their valuable service.
As I got older, I learned that veterans and veterinarians are in fact not one and the same. I learned that my Grandpa is a veteran of the Korean War. I still blindly said, “Thank you for your service” on Veteran’s Day. And I was thankful for their service, but the meaning behind it hadn’t yet sunk in.
Now it feels personal. When my sister, Anna, married into the military, I started to realize more and more what it truly means to serve our country. I want to take this opportunity to share some things I have learned, as a third-party, to those serving and sacrificing for our freedom. While incredible service women and men are serving and sacrificing abroad everyday, I want to focus on the service and sacrifice that is taking place here at home.
Danger is not just for Deployment - I really thought the only time my brother-in-law was in danger, was when he was overseas. I had this pie-in-the-sky picture of him on the base, teaching in a classroom, running through mud pits and jumping over walls, always home in time for dinner. That is not the case. He flies a jet. He instructs younger pilots. He participates in training drills that are dangerous (in order to prepare for situations that could happen while on deployment). And the jets he is flying are not top of the line, new jets. They are old. They are dangerous to fly. He puts his life at risk each time he takes off. And each time he is on the flight schedule, my sister kisses her husband goodbye, always knowing somewhere in the back of her head that this could be the last time.
Dinner Time, Shminner Time - I also thought that when my brother-in-law was not on deployment he would be home for dinner every night. I figured he’d work a pretty standard 9-5 on the base. Maybe take an afternoon off to see his daughter’s ballet recital or watch his son play soccer. That is not the case. Even when our men and women are not on deployment, they still work extremely long hours. They sacrifice time and experiences with their families, and their families are left to accept that memories are made without their loved one. When my brother-in-law is deployed, my sister is a single parent. But when he is not on deployment, she is still a single parent most of the time.
Loss of Control - I did not realize until Anna was a part of the military that she would have to sacrifice control over her life. She does not get to choose where she lives, nor how long she will stay (orders range from 1-3 years). If she doesn’t like where they are stationed, she can’t leave. She has to stay. If she loves where they get placed, and builds a strong community, she can’t stay. She has to leave. She can’t need her husband to be home for dinner, or help her run errands. He can’t promise when he’ll be home. She can’t beg him not to deploy, persuading him by noting he will miss their kids’ birthdays, Thanksgiving, or Christmas. He will have to leave anyway. She chose to give up a teaching career to be the one constant in her kids’ lives, giving them the stability that is so often lacking. My sister, who loves to be in control, has had to sacrifice so much control in her own life.