Tough love. A good sense of humor. That’s what Hilary Martin shares in “Solo-Ops: A Survival Guide for Military Wives” (Xlibris, 2003).

Martin’s mother was in the Army, so “I knew what I was marrying into, but I was surprised how many wives didn’t get it,” she said.

She met her husband right around boot camp and after three years of marriage, Martin felt ready to share survival skills with others.

The former teen counselor decided she would write a book of her own, after women kept telling her “but I read it in a book.”

The book has the tone of a girlfriend, and Martin commiserates with the miserable. She also offers tips to break out of it and move on with life.

Martin minces no words and sprinkles a sarcastic sense of humor and racy language throughout. This is not a guidebook for the sensitive.

Chapter titles include topics such as “A Guide to Your Government-Issued Husband,” “The Many Benefits That May Appall You” and “Day-to-Day Life in the Mafia.”

The book includes lists with advice on activities such as moving, deciphering jargon and making care packages. Martin is best at sharing experiences and relating how to make lemonade when the military hands you lots of lemons, such as “Getting through it,” at left.

If the spouse group isn’t serving its purpose, find your own support, she suggests. Friends from Weight Watchers, bingo or college classes can also help you get through it all.

Her husband left the military in December, but Martin continues her enterprise through the Web site, which she started in October. The site includes a newsletter, bulletin boards and the opportunity to ask Sgt. Wife for advice. There are links to bases around the world and a Knowledge Center that compiles all sorts of useful information. You can even purchase a shoe necklace charm — identical to the one on the book cover.

Martin says she already misses the military community. There are so many people in one place who are the same age and have the same income and small children. She found it easier to relate.

“I found it harder to be a military brat than a military wife,” she said. As an adult you have more control, but you also have the ability to choose to let go.

And in the military lifestyle, being laid back and flexible helps spouses not only survive, but flourish.

Getting through it

All women have the ability to be strong and I would like to see less of them locking themselves up in the house because their husbands are away. I have found that there are many things you can do that are impossible while your husband is home. Here are some suggestions:

• Have a slumber party with your girlfriends! Don’t have any friends yet? Find out who else on this deployment has a wife at home, and invite them out to dinner. You will have many things to talk about.

• Go for midnight drives just for the hell of it.

• Just stop shaving, what’s the point?

• Go out to dinner by yourself and be proud! There is no one there to argue with you about what restaurant you should go to.

• Go shopping for care package junk! It’s always fun to get to the local Wal-Mart and he will love it that you are thinking of him.

• Start taking yoga or karate and fantasize about how you will astound your husband with your new flexibility.

• Start that diet you’ve been thinking about. It will be much easier now since you don’t have that husband scarfing down Ho-Hos and cookies right in front of you.

• Buy yourself stuff. You are only budgeted for one now, I’m sure the grocery money can be raided with the diet and all.

• Start a project that you have wanted to do, but make sure you have enough time to finish it before he gets home.

• See what your bathroom wall looks like after you paint it bright pink. Experiment with other decorating ideas of this nature. With any luck, the house will be completely “feminized” by the time he returns.

• Go out for a night on the town with the girls. If men hit on you, reject them and then start exaggerating about how great your husband is. They’ll be out of your hair in no time.

• Write your husband a letter about the big tattoo you just got on your butt. Wait for his reaction by mail (it will be quite amusing). If you really did get a tattoo on your butt, wait until he gets home and surprise him with it.

• Make brownies, but eat all the batter and don’t even bother cooking them. There is no one around to judge you.

• You can now safely leave all the lights in the house on and no one will complain about the electric bill (except maybe you) at the end of the month.

• You can watch whatever you want on TV. No more sports, “Cops” or reality TV.

• Stay up late.

• Revel in the fact that you have 90 fun-filled days left where you don’t have to iron cammies!

• Sleep in the middle of the bed. And hog the covers while you’re at it; empty beds are a GREAT thing!

— Source: “Solo-Ops: A Survival Guide for Military Wives” by Hilary Martin (Xlibris, 2003)

The 10 commandments of the base

Hilary Martin’s book is full of advice with an attitude, such as the following:

1. Thou shall flash your military ID at the gate. You will only need your military ID at the front gate if it is inaccessible to you. If it is in your hand, you will be waved right through.

2. Thou shalt never park at the front of the lot. There are no handicapped spaces; the handicapped spaces are replaced with high-ranking officer spaces. You’ll notice that they are always empty because if you are an officer of this status, you can basically park right in front of the store where it says No Parking. And anyway, these high-ranking men send their aides to shop.

3. Thou shall sweat in July and freeze in December without complaint. The military feels that air-conditioning in military facilities is not required, especially in the middle of summer.

4. Thou shall tip all baggers whom the gov underpays. Remember that the people at the commissary bag your groceries for “free.” They will expect you to tip them. If you don’t tip them, you will be chastised and made to feel “cheap.” You are expected to learn this by example, or through your own mistakes.

5. Honor thy ID card. You will need your military ID on base for everything.

6. Honor thy military rent-a- cops. People drive like maniacs. But if you do this, you will be ticketed. A base ticket is a pain in the ass. Just be slow, but not too slow; you wouldn’t want to get a ticket for that. Always remember that the military police are very bored! Like all men, they want any excuse to play with their lights.

7. Thou shall not go to base on payday. Paydays are the worst for crowds.

8. Thou shall not taunt the guards. No, they do not find it amusing if you say you might have some “contraband” as they are searching your vehicle. Don’t [tick] them off. They have M16s, you know.

9. Thou shall not drive up the down aisle in the commissary with the cart. You will get in trouble.

10. Thou shall not show affection to thy husband on base. There is nothing more obnoxious than standing in line behind the girl who is clinging to her husband like a scared puppy. If your husband is in uniform, this is unacceptable. If he is in civilian attire, it’s still not attractive. You are an independent woman; act like it!

— Source: “Solo-Ops: A Survival Guide for Military Wives” by Hilary Martin (Xlibris, 2003)

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