Spouse Calls: ‘Idiot’s guide’ for spouses
March 1, 2009
Don’t let the title mislead you. Lissa McGrath, author of "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Life as a Military Spouse" (Alpha Books 2008), knows those married to the military are no fools. A Navy wife and author of four books, Lissa said she thinks military life is about as good as it gets.
"I absolutely love everything about being a military wife," Lissa said from her home in Whidbey Island, Wash.
"We get to move around, which I love … I get to experience different cultures, and if it weren’t for the Navy, I wouldn’t have met my husband."
"Different cultures" for Lissa include the United States. Born and raised in England, Lissa became a U.S. citizen as an adult.
One thing she doesn’t like about military life: Deployments. She’s experienced eight of them in her eight years of marriage.
"I’ve been through a few things," she said. "Immigration was certainly a challenge, so when I see people who are going through some of the same challenges, I try to reach out and say, ‘These are things I’ve already done.’ "
Lissa said the military provides many resources and programs, but people don’t always know about them or how to access them. For the author of "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to eBay" (Alpha Books 2007), writing for military spouses was a logical step.
The purpose of the guide for spouses, she said, is to provide facts and resources about a wide range of military family subjects all in one volume.
The book covers many subjects — from calculating military pay and benefits and having babies to becoming a citizen and preparing for retirement — in what Lissa called "bite-sized pieces."
"Obviously, spouses who are brand new to the military will get a lot out of the book," Lissa said, "but also people who have been around for a while, (who) are coming up on something new. You could be a military spouse for five or six or ten years before you make an overseas move."
Deployment gets heavy coverage, with almost a third of the book dedicated to planning, enduring and recovering from deployments, including two chapters about possible outcomes of dangerous duty.
These chapters, "What If He Doesn’t Come Back?" and "What If He Is Injured?" were the hardest for her to write, Lissa said.
"That is information that had to be in here," she said, "but my husband was deployed when I was writing this, so it’s the kind of thing that you just don’t want to bring to the forefront of your mind."
"That was quite challenging to me. I got very emotional trying to research … and read some of this. It was very, very difficult to write those two chapters. But it had to be written. It wasn’t an option to say ‘This is hard for me, therefore I won’t do it.’ "
Nor does she advise others to avoid difficult tasks.
"My philosophy for surviving military life in general is ‘Be proactive; be positive,’ " Lissa said.
"When a curveball gets thrown your way, learn about it ... get information, talk to spouses who’ve done it before ... seek out the support. Then you don’t have as much uncertainty."
"You then get a chance to talk to people who’ve been there and done that," she said, "and that can really alleviate a lot of the concerns, a lot of the fears, a lot of the unknown in anything."
"So," I commented, "Information is power?"
"Exactly," she said. "That’s pretty much why I wrote the book."
For more about Lissa and her books, see the Spouse Calls blog.
Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org and see the Spouse Calls blog at: http://blogs.stripes.com/blogs/spousecalls.