Most of you who follow my blog know I had created a facebook page for male military spouses(MANspouses) called MANning the Homefront. In addition to that facebook page a few other pages were created as "groups" on facebook to give guys a more private area to shoot the breeze. Not only is MANning the Homefront online, but we have also been meeting guys in person here at Fort Riley for all sorts of activities and get-togethers. But for those of you that are close with me, you may have noticed things have seemingly deteriorated over the last few months, and I felt a blog was in order to explain where things are and where they may be going.
I think for this blog some music will help ya get through it. And who better than Kenny Rogers?
Over the summer last year(2012) MANning saw a surge in popularity. We began connecting more and more men as well as spreading the message that MANspouses may in fact not be as rare as many people think. While we will never equal the number of female MILspouses, there are literally tens of thousands of us, close to 100,000 MANspouses of Active Duty female service members. As far as MANning was concerned, it was going FANTASTIC!!! We even had several men who expressed a desire to launch an in person group at their installation, sadly that didn't materialize the way many of us had hoped.
In addition to the popularity of MANning, I saw a popularity of sorts begin to rise for me as an individual. The highest high's were speaking at (Association of the United States Army) AUSA's Annual Conference in Washington, DC (you can view my presentation by clicking here and moving along to the 20 minute mark) This was the first time that MANspouses were spoken about in such detail on the National level. Another REALLY big thing was participating in a "choir project" that is expected to be aired on the USA Network this summer. What made this such a high was not that I will get to be on TV(I have a face for radio) or that I love to sing(although a voice for my ears and ONLY my ears), but it was the fact that for several months the production was ONLY going to cast female military spouses. I like to believe that I played a very large part in getting MANspouses involved in the project.
In addition to those I just mentioned, there were many others. Earlier in the year I was invited to join Her War Her Voice and Not Alone for a fundraising opportunity also in DC, later in the year I was asked by Military.com and SpouseBUZZ.com to speak at the New Media Expo in Las Vegas. Throw in a speaking opportunity with the Manhattan Military Relations Committee and an invitation by the spouse of Fort Riley's Commanding General to share the idea of MANning to many of the "Senior Spouses" and other individuals within FORSCOM, and, well..... it was quite overwhelming for a man who has only been a military spouse for 3 years now(2013). On top of those things I just mentioned, there were many other opportunities that never in a million years could I have imagined being offered.
What I didn't count on as the popularity in MANning rose was how it would impact me. I have been open about my struggles with my mental health and I do believe as busy as last year was it contributed to my stress level rising to an unmanageable level. Not only was I becoming overexerted with MANning opportunities, but I also wasn't prepared for the ridicule that came with being "in the light". Like most people, I don't much care to be talked about in a negative way. And what I found was the more opportunities I was given, the more smack talk was directed at me. The worst of which is of course spoken behind one's back, by people they feel they can trust.
All of the above led me to take a hiatus from my effort with MANning. And sadly, it led me to resign my position from the Army Wife Network. And this is where the song I hope you are listening to comes in.....
So what am I doing personally and with MANning? Am I "holding, folding or walking away"? I can't "walk away" because I believe so strongly in the need for men to have other men in their lives to strengthen them. I can't "fold" because I am not a quitter. So that only leaves "holding". For the time being I am just taking a break. I don't have a solid time frame to go back "all in", but for the time being I am just going to let the game play out. I will "ante up" for various opportunities that are presented to me, and unless the hand dealt my way is too good to pass up, I will just play the cards as they come.
In June of this year my family will be PCSing to Fort Lewis. While I am sad to leave Fort Riley and the wonderful community it is, I am VERY much looking forward to the fresh start. I am looking forward to taking the lessons I have learned over the last 3 years as a military spouse and applying them to my new community. I have learned so many things about myself and how to be an effective leader as I have reflected on the past year that I am confidant the next chapter to this story is going to be more amazing than what has already been written.
As I said, I will "ante up" and still be in "the game", but I am going to continue to "hold" until I feel led to jump back in.
There are SO many people who have helped me along the way I want to give them a shout out(thank you)! While this list may be long, there are bound to be many I leave off.....
First and foremost, thanks to my wonderful wife for having supported all of my efforts over the last couple years. I am a much better man because of her.
THANKS to Tara Crooks, Star Henderson and the ENTIRE team of Army Wife Network, Babette Maxwell and Erin Whitehead of Military Spouse Magazine, Amy Bushatz and Jacey Eckhart of SpouseBuzz, Bianca Strzalkowski, Jeremy Hilton, Chris Pape of MachoSpouse.com, Allison Pulcher, Melissa Kinney(Ft Riley MWR), Everett Lopez, Guy Dreier, Dave Etter, Patt Donaldson, Tim Blake, John Avelis, Jenny Carr(Not Alone), Bevin Landrum, Sandy Risberg, Shand Mayville, Rich Crowley, my mom(Nancy) and Aunt Jo, April Blackmon(Ft Riley USO), Patty Barron(AUSA Family Programs Director), Nicole Carrol, "Mama" Mary Urzi, Cyd Weeks, Karen Francis, Angela Caban(who was the first to "give me a shot"), DJ Purvis, and countless others.
One person who deserves to stand out amongst the rest is my "Yoda", Melissa Selgiman of Her War Her Voice. If not for her, I may not have been given most of the opportunities I was given..... but more importantly I may not have known that I had a voice.
To all those I mentioned and those I didn't, THANK YOU! And this song is dedicated to you. I won't stay out of the game/down for long.