‘Live Like You Are Dying’ encouragement for spouses
Stars and Stripes March 16, 2008
The wife of a soldier who was wounded in Iraq has written a self-help book that she hopes will provide useful advice for other military spouses.
Nancy Gaskins’ book — “Live Like You Are Dying: How to Transform Your Life in 30 Days” — is based in part on her struggle to transform her life. It is planned as the first in a series of 17 self-help books.
Gaskins is married to Sgt. 1st Class Rob Gaskins of the 1st Infantry’s 2nd “Dagger” Brigade based in Schweinfurt, Germany. Before her husband, joined the Army 18 years ago, the couple, married as teens, were trying to raise three unplanned children on wages of $3.35 an hour, she said.
“I had quit college and he had left high school and my family cut me off financially,” she said. “We had to do everything on our own and made a lot of mistakes.”
Nancy Gaskins said she turned her life around to become a business professor and raise a healthy family. Her son, Bill, is preparing to deploy to Iraq with the Oklahoma National Guard and she has four grandchildren, she said.
Her book is based on a seminar that she gives to military spouses’ groups all over Europe, she said.
In the seminar, Gaskins tells spouses to imagine they have just found out they have only a year left to live and asks them: “Are you proud of what you have done with your life? Have you set a good example for your children? What are your ‘would-have, should-have’ things? What are your regrets?”
Spouses realize they have a lot of unfinished business and often burst into tears, she said.
Then she asks them to imagine they are meeting again 10 years later and that they have achieved all their goals and dreams. Laughing, happy spouses are told to mingle and tell one another what they have done as if it has really happened, she said.
“Neither scenario is true, but there is a different atmosphere. People realize it is all mental,” Gaskins said.
The book also deals with personal finances, she added.
“Military women like to look like they are rich. They drive around in their BMWs and Mercedeses, and they have more value in their Prada handbags than they have in the bank,” she said.
“They live paycheck to paycheck and if they were to lose that, they would be bankrupt within 30 days.”
Spouses should have their own retirement plans and look at self-employment when they are assigned to places with few jobs, said Gaskins, who stays in touch with other military wife authors such as Tanya Biank, who wrote “Army Wives” — the inspiration for a television series — Kathie Hightower and Holly Scherer, who wrote “Help! I’m a Military Spouse,” and Jacey Eckhart, the syndicated columnist.
Rob Gaskins said his wife’s motivational abilities have given him a boost as he struggles to heal from serious wounds suffered after he was shot in December 2006 while deployed to Baghdad with the “Dagger” Brigade.
Rob has a titanium rod running the length of his thigh, a reconstructed knee and a sniper’s bullet still inside him. He should be getting treatment in the United States right now, but the couple stayed in Germany so Nancy could continue to support his soldiers as leader of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment Family Readiness Group.
“Nancy is my personal motivator,” Rob said. “After I was injured, I was not conscious for three to four days. I woke up and my wife was at the foot of my bed. I thought it was in a dream. She has driven me back and forth to Landstuhl. On my dark days, when I want to quit, she is the one who keeps driving me.”
Nancy Gaskins said motivation is just as important for spouses caring for wounded soldiers.
“I’m over a year now and he’s still taking major medication and we have a long way to go. It is tough to have to be the support system, but you have to be strong,” she said.
Spouses in her situation need to take breaks, she added.
“Go out with the girls or go shopping. It is really hard when you are not used to being with someone 24-7 and they are hurt. It is very tiring,” she said.
“And it is very hard on the soldier because they have never been where they had to rely on someone and depend on them to take care of them.”
And people should speak out if they are not getting the help they need from the community, she added.
“My husband was in a wheelchair. Our home in Schweinfurt was on the second level and I had no way to get him up those stairs,” she recalled. “The community hadn’t planned for that, but we let them know our concern and they went to housing and found us a temporary place.”
Information on ordering “Live Like You Are Dying: How to Transform Your Life in 30 Days” is available at www.nancygaskins.com. Proceeds from book sales will be donated to provide free vacations for military family members.