Friday, April 8, 2011

The Mocha Manual to Military Life mini-review (Virtual Book Tour)

The Mocha Manaul to Military Life, cowritten by Pamela M. McBride, seasoned military life/writer/career coach, is kind of like giving your  newly married/dating military girlfriend a bunch of advice and stories all wrapped up into 11 chapters and 300-something pages. And although it's called the "Mocha Manual," rest assured that it's for girlfriends of all hues.

Though there are loads of good stuff in there, I've decided to focus on two chapters that are near and dear to me.

Chapter 2 -- Surviving the first year: Your induction into the MS world and Chapter 3 -- When honey is away dealing with separation and deployment.

Chapter 2 -- Surviving the first year: Your induction into the MS world
My first year of military wifehood wasn't necessarily a disaster, but I definitely had a few speed bumps. #1: Not really understanding my husband's job and having the battalion commander's wife explain it to me during her welcome reception (though at the time, I didn't really understand what a battalion was exactly, so I didn't really know what a battalion commander was either). And #2: Being my usual goofy self, I jokingly said something that got taken out of context and which garnered me the side eye from other spouses until they all eventually PCSd. Add that stress on top of the already super-stressful first year of marriage and, well, it can be a bit of a problem. Especially if you find yourself across the country, or even in another country, than your family, friends, job, et.

Chapter 2 can't fix everything (the chapters on protocol and relationships would have also been useful in all my faux pas), it's a start in the right direction. Pamela and Kimberly Seals-Allers get spouses pointed in the right direction from the get go, discussing how to get an ID card, make sure you're properly enrolled in DEERS (if you don't know what that is, you need the book) and getting set up in military housing. I actually found it hilarious to read the part about standing up for the national anthem before a movie in an on-post theater in one of the many extras found in the book. It was funny because I remember looking in confusion as everyone stood up before a movie at the Fort Sill theater.

She also touches on something I think we can all relate to; finding hair products no matter where you're stationed! I got many a package from an online retailer I'd never before heard of to do my hair, buy ball dresses, get contact lenses, etc. etc.

Chapter 3 -- When honey is away: Dealing with Separation and Deployment.
This chapter is near and dear to me right now because my own honey will be going TDY for a couple of months soon, and friends and others are saying goodbye to their honeys who are deploying. Although separations, whether it be a trip to the field, temporary duty (TDY), overseas deployment, are a part of military life, that doesn't make it any better. You just have to find your own coping mechanisms to deal with it. That's what chapter 3 is all about. I remember at one point during my husband's deployment (when I was not working), I checked out to back-to-back seasons of the Pretender and stayed up late watching the episodes. Fyi, I also repeated this with episodes of Prison Break. Obviously, staying up watching TV and sleeping wasn't the best way to cope with  deployment? But what is? That, my dears, is a question left up to each person, but this chapter gives lots of helpful pointers to get you started. The predeployment checklist has some of the same info you might get from the unit FRG, plus a few more. I especially like the "Military Spouse Survival Kit." This list is invaluable; not because women aren't in the know about household tools, but it provides a list to help make sure you have everything. My only problem with it is that I think the most important tool should have been at the top of the list instead of the middle; a good corkscrew :)

A couple of other notes about the book: There are a few little vignettes in each chapter that I really like. One is "The Mocha Mix" in which you can read stories from actual spouses and/or female service members about whatever topic fits the chapter. This gives a few different perspectives. Also included are "His turn," in which you hear from the husband/boyfriend service member; "Senior spouse spotlight," a brief story on a spouse; and a "Service member spotlight," about a female service member. The end of the book contains a handy glossary for those easy-to-forget, yet often used military acronyms and terms that contains everything from "RSVP" to "RFO."

All in all, if you are, or if you know someone, who is new to the military lifestyle, this is a great book to send as a "Welcome to the military" gift.

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