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Ethnography Research – Milspouse

Tiffany Elise is an army wife located on Fort Bragg in North Carolina. She has been a part of this lifestyle for over five years. She is an exemplary woman and mother. She and her soldier, Steve, have been together for two deployments. Each deployment with its own specific set of challenges. Tiffany and Steve’s daughter was born just weeks before the beginning of Steve’s first deployment. This caused hardship as Tiffany experienced the early days of parenthood without her daughter’s father to witness the small joys like the day their daughter lost her umbilical cord and the day she gained her first tooth. She managed the first deployment with difficulty but the second was in many ways more straight forward for her. Tiffany is an exemplary military spouse and is especially inspirational to me and other military spouses in that she handled even her most difficult days with grace and dignity. She took the difficult transition into the military lifestyle without complaint and she continues to encourage others in sharing her story and cultivating friendships within her community.

Assumptions:
Some of my assumptions going into this research were that that most spouses entering their first deployment would have prior knowledge of what difficulties to expect and the systems in place to help them during the time the spouse is gone. I also assumed that a military spouse would have already experienced the four stages of acculturation before their spouse deployed.

Background:

     According to Princeton University’s Office of International Programs, there are four stages of acculturation that typically apply to someone who has chosen to live abroad. However, the stages seem to also suit the transition from the civilian lifestyle to the military lifestyle very well. The stages are thus:
1. The Honeymoon Stage (superficial involvement in the culture, intrigue at the differences from home culture, very motivated to learn about the culture and belong in it)
2. The “Culture Shock” stage (homesickness sets in, subject seeks out friends from prior culture, stereotypes arise, subject only sees differences in the new culture)
3. Gradual Adjustment with Humor (the subject becomes more familiar with the culture, can laugh at themselves and with others, begins to believe they can manage in their new culture)
4. Feeling at Home (the subject begins to feel as comfortable in their new culture as they did in their initial culture). (OIP)
By this it seems likely that a military spouse might go through similar stages while acculturating into the military lifestyle. However, these stages seem to occur later for some spouses like Tiffany.

Purpose:
    The purpose of this study was to determine whether military spouses encounter more personal difficulties during their first deployment experience as compared to later deployments. Also to discover whether these spouses experienced the four stages of acculturation into the military lifestyle.

Research Methods:              

My method for this research was to interview Tiffany personally. I asked her a series of questions regarding her experience with the first and the second deployments. I did not ask her to point out if one was better in her view. I was careful to ask the questions in such a way that she could respond openly without bias towards my own assumptions. On April 9, 2017 we communicated via Facebook Messenger to both expedite the process and because we have totally separate schedules. We spoke back and forth for over two hours about her deployment experiences on that day.

I have known Tiffany for a very short amount of time as compared to other military spouse friends. We met through a Fort Bragg Wives Facebook group where we connected over daughters, deployments, and the difficulty of being far from family. I liked her immediately and found that she is an exemplary woman in the world of military spouses. Though the lifestyle is difficult, Tiffany always rolls with the punches and seems to come out smiling. To me she was an inspiration and that’s why I felt compelled to interview her about her deployment experiences.

From there I took to academic research on the patterns in military spouses as they cope with deployments. There is surprisingly minimal research in this area, and I found less information than I anticipated. Therefore, I sent the original questionnaire to five other military spouses in order to attain a more well-rounded view of  coping mechanisms during first deployments and consecutive deployments. The women who responded have weathered between two and eight deployments.
Presentation of Data:

Originally from Arizona, Tiffany stayed home for her first deployment to be surrounded by family and loved ones. She says that she found the first deployment to be very scary, she was always worried that something bad would happen. Her solace was in the short phone calls she received and in knowing that he was safe for a moment. She coped through this deployment by writing everything down and sending long letters to Steve about their growing daughter.

In her first deployment, Tiffany displayed signs of already being in the second stage of acculturation. Instead of moving onto a base where she would be surrounded by other women who had experienced deployments before, she chose to live with family in an attempt to find normalcy amidst the massive change her life was undertaking. Furthermore, she says she never once heard from the family readiness advisor who is tasked with assisting spouses make the transitions in deployment. This caused some bitterness because she felt that she had been left in the dark as an outsider. These are clear signs of being in the “Culture Shock” stage of acculturation which can be a desperately lonely time.

The second deployment Tiffany and Steve experienced was almost five years later. She had officially moved to North Carolina where they had gotten their first home and the chance to finally live as a family. When it came time for Steve to deploy again, Tiffany took the opportunity to go back to Arizona and spend the time with her family. Some things were easier for this second deployment. Her daughter was older and it was easier to care for her. Tiffany had made military spouse friends so she didn’t feel as isolated. Steve was able to video-chat with them which made communication more simple than it had been with letters. She says that she had learned some of the ropes by the second deployment and felt a little more secure that way. However, this deployment was still difficult emotionally. She says it’s never easy to say farewell to a person you love, no matter how long or short that time period may be.

For the second deployment, Tiffany seemed to be deep in the “Gradual Adjustment” phase of acculturation. Her story reflects this in that she felt somewhat more capable of surviving the deployment as she understood the pattern of deployments. She had also spent time making friends with other Army spouses, so even when she was removed from them and in Arizona, she did not feel as isolated as she had during the first deployment. Furthermore, she was more capable of navigating difficult days because her prior knowledge of deployments.

Still, it is clear that Tiffany was not yet to the final stage of acculturation for her second deployment. While she did have a more positive outlook on her capability to navigate the deployment, she still did not feel totally at home in the military lifestyle. Therefore, when Steve’s time came for the second deployment, Tiffany still returned home to spend the nine months with her family instead of staying in North Carolina to be surrounded by military family and friends.

Tiffany says that Steve is slotted to deploy for a third time within this year. However, instead of going home to Arizona, she intends to stay on base and remain around the military families. She says that she will feel the most comfortable keeping her daughter in one place and being surrounded by the community she knows with the amenities she needs.

From this it seems that Tiffany has come to the fourth and final stage of acculturation “Feeling at Home”. Tiffany has come to a place where she is as comfortable on base and in the military community as she is in her hometown. She trusts that the people will be there for her if she needs them and that her daughter will be better off staying around families that are in similar situations. She knows that the army provides all of the tools she needs for success during deployments and therefore feels that staying where they are stationed is the best option to feel at home.

Tiffany is a prime example of the difficulties military spouses face, as well as the resilience that they have. She shows that while every deployment is difficult, knowing the ropes and having some experience with prior deployments does make it a little more navigable and manageable for the wife who is willing to see it as such. Now she is an exemplary Army wife and an inspiration to me as a woman of good character and resilience.

 

Conclusions:

It seems obvious from Tiffany’s case that military spouses must endure the four stages of acculturation upon entering the military lifestyle. Tiffany’s honeymoon stage was not covered in the interviews but was presumably experienced, as it seems impossible that any person would embark on the second phase without having first experienced the honeymoon period to coerce them into committing. The hypothesis that the first deployment would be the hardest to navigate for military spouses seems accurate. This mostly due to the reality that many military spouses have not had the opportunity to acculturate into the military lifestyle before their soldier leaves for the first time. The reality of this expels the assumption that military spouses are prepared for the military lifestyle upon agreeing to a union with a military member. Further, the assumption that each spouse would have time to acculturate prior to the first deployment is also disproved.

What does seem clear is that each military spouse must become acculturated to the military lifestyle in the same manner that one who has moved to a foreign nation must acculturate themselves. This is surprising as most military families do not spend ample time outside of the states, however, the variance of culture between the military lifestyle and the typical civilian lifestyle is so great that spouses must spend a startling amount of time acculturating themselves to the new lifestyle.

Tiffany is a perfect example of a military spouse walking through the steps of acculturation into the military lifestyle. However, where many cope with the second phase of acculturation through less wholesome means like heavy alcohol intake or unhealthy foods, Tiffany navigated the second phase with letter writing and family. From there she has only continued to be an exemplary military spouse and by her strength others are encouraged and strengthened. She is an inspiration to all who become acquainted with her.

Works Cited

“Four Common Stages of Cultural Adjustment*.” Princeton University Office of International Programs (n.d.): 1-2. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

Wright, Tiffany. “Deployment Talk with Tiffany Wright.” Interview by Hannah S. Ezell. n.d.: n. pag. Print.

 


leaving orange county

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In case you were wondering it can be a little sad
when you know you’re moving away from something that shaped you so much
In this case, a state, its people, and the Marine Corps.
There is no plan of returning this time
there is no need
there is hardly even the spark of a want.
The years have been heavy and hard
and yet they have been full of learning, and laughter and love strong like whiskey.

In case you were wondering even I am going to miss it
even though I can’t imagine staying here and losing my husband again
time after time like he belongs to some mistress
I can’t be unhappy that he’ll be all mine for real.
but still
it can be a little sad when you’re leaving
the only normality your married life has ever known
and yet I hear that there is so much more
just over that hill, maybe.

It is autumn.
The cold is settling into the place where we’re going to be living
We haven’t seen a real autumn together since high school
and I know that I can’t wait to get where we’re going
still, with no plan of returning
no real need to anyway
it feels like the pages of history are turning
and do people really remember when the book is closed?

-Hannah


Live it, Love it. Your superpower.

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Face it, You are a freaking superhero.

Dear you, I know you’re there, liking my posts, bein’ all awesome and stuff. This one is for you.

How many times a day, week, month, year, have you forgotten all that awesome you have stored up?
How many times do you let yourself just be another walking talking human taking up space in a really overcrowded world and completely forgotten that you are one of a kind
fearfully, wonderfully made?

I came today to remind you that you have something uncommon about you.
Somewhere in that mind of yours you know that your quirky, or blunt, or  funny, or fearless self is just in there waiting for its limelight and you’re straight up ignoring it for some reason.
I know a zillion people with incredible qualities that they completely ignore
because some society isn’t a fan
or because they aren’t sure it would be taken well
or they’ve never just displayed their weird.
it needs to stop.

You, stranger, are absolutely one of a kind.
That weird thing about you, it’s a super power.
And there you are, pretending it doesn’t exist
And I don’t get it.

I’m super good at making friends and I’m a decent knitter, baker, and just an all over strange-o with a joy complex that can get overwhelming (it’s the joy thing I tried to hide because people can’t handle it when you can find a reason to smile when you’re not supposed to be smiling… which is weird because thats like a super awesome thing to be able to accomplish when life is hard.)
What’s your superpower?
Seriously, I’d love to hear about them.

hannah.


New Rules to Live By

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I, Hannah, of sound body and mind do post these rules under the new acknowledgement that my body is a temple and is to be treated as such. I acknowledge that I can fail as a human and fall into the temptation to be self loathing and overly critical to the body I have been given and this is a post in good faith that I will learn to love my body just as it is for what it is
simply a useful container for a beautiful and eternal soul.

1. No more pinching fat to see if it’s still there — it either is or it’s not.

2. I’m going to eat with enthusiasm the food that gives me energy to carry on the life I love — occasionally this will include chocolate and wine and that’s not something to go on a guilt trip about.

3. I’m going to exercise to keep strength in the body so that when I say “Here am I, Lord, send me” I will be physically strong enough to go wherever that may be.

4. I will take rest days and let my body recoup.

5. I will be kind to myself and to others as we all walk the pathways set down for us.

6. I will refuse negative talk about my body, and help people around me refuse such talk about theirs — self criticism is only a downer.

7. For every negative word said about any body around me I will find five positive things to say.

8. I will eat cake when the occasion is right, and I will enjoy the crap out of it

9. I will stop complaining whenever something hurts — it’s annoying and it doesn’t get me anywhere

10. I will surround myself, fill myself, and help others find: JOY in themselves, in God, in life.

hannah.


Things New Paleo People Say

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1. When will our 25 lbs of almond flour get here?!

2. Is there some sort of limit on nuts or can I just… [demolishes a handful in two seconds]

3.I know there is a way to make pancakes — there has to be.

4. Steak for breakfast, Steak for Lunch, Steak for Dinner.

5. If we call beer a “recovery drink” we’ll call it not a cheat after a hike, yes?
(The answer is yes)

6. [creepy child voice] I love broccoli…

7. ugh, I need to crossfit more… I feel all weak.

8. Don’t tell anyone we made those grain free cookies — we eat all the cookies!

9. What haven’t we tried bacon on yet?

10. This whole “Paleo” thing it’s one of those 80/20 theories — right? RIGHT?!

So much healthy fun
Hannah


Home Free

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Dear world

You have been conquered for now.
I have lived an entire life wondering if I died right this moment — would I be happy with it
I absolutely would.

Today I have survived two deployments and I am back with my husband — this time forever

Today we have hiked miles into the sky on mountains we’ve been attempting for years together. We are happy
He is home and when he puts his arms around me, I am home.
I have achieved so many goals I never thought I would
I am loved. I have friends that I love more than anything, family I would die for, and I believe in myself.
World: You’ve got nothing on me. I am happy.
Goodness friends, who knows what tomorrow has for us… but heck, It’s good to be good today.

Hannah.


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“It took her breath away” -1 Kings 10:5

This girl, the Queen of Sheba, hears about the wisest king that ever lived who conveniently lives a few kingdoms over and goes to see if he is really all that awesome after all. I call that straight up snarky, but I like her for it, because she’s like “this is unbelievable, I’ve gotta see this man for myself.”
So she goes, asks a million trillion questions (I wonder if she had her smart guys think some extra ones up) and not a single one of them stumps this amazing man.
So she starts to look around, and behold, wonders abound — gold, monkeys, pretty people, smart people, happy people, not so many sick people. Amazing cups, amazing linens, amazing food, amazing world.
She gives the king the gifts she’s brought for him — He doubles them in return with good faith and when she saw all of this
IT TOOK HER BREATH AWAY.
An english Idiom right smack there in the middle of the — typically not english idiom filled — book that I believe in with my whole tiny heart.
Not just any english idiom — one of my favorites. I call everything that is good breathtaking, a lot of things effect me that way. But here it is, being used about the beautiful, heart thirsty, wonderlusting, Queen of Sheba. (an amazing character in her own right)
I get that this has probably no relevance to your life except for to see this:
There was a girl who ruled a country so long ago they just call her “Queen of Said Country” and leave it at that
she was beautiful and doubtful and she went to a man whom God had glorified.*
She had everything the world had to offer and more
and still there was something new in the whole wide world that could completely overwhelm her to the point that she was breathless.
This post is just in case you feel like there is nothing new under the sun
If this girl could still have her breath taken away by something magnificent
so can you.

Find something breathtaking today.

Hannah

*read kings if you want to know the whole shebang about that