I thought that Household Baggage was easy to read because the chapters are made up of very short, funny essays. I found myself saying, "oh, yeah," laughing out loud and being comforted by the fact that although no two milspouses are alike, our lives, in many ways, are very much alike.
It's hard to figure out how to discuss the book. I've picked out my favorite stories from each chapter and would like to hear from you which stories you could most identify with.
Chapter One - Moving.
I could relate to the "Curtain Calls" story because, as I've discovered, no two windows are alike. With each PCS, I accumulate more window treatments, most of which are never used again. As much as I could relate to the window challenges, "The Hunt for Hairstylists" story really hit home.
The Military lifestyle has challenges. Getting reassigned wipes out our checking account. Transporting children and pets across the country makes me grumpy. Acres of unpacked boxes gets my blood pressure soaring.
Another seemingly minor concern causes a lot of anxiety - finding a new hairstylist.
Marna goes on to recount some of her "hairstylists-gone-bad" stories. I think there are three "professionals" that I hate having to discover each time we move. Hairstylists, Dentists and Gynecologists. The last of those are "assigned" to us, but we have to hunt for the others, and it's always been a frustrating process for me.
Chapter Two - Marriage.
Outsiders have the wrong idea about homecomings. While it's great to have our spouses back from long deployments or TDY assignments, the reintegration process or, as Marna puts it, "The Fiery Re-entry," can sometimes be, well, "fiery."
"It's infinitely easier to run the house and make decisions when the 'alpha dog' is not around," a friend emailed me. What happens when the alpha dog returns? All hell breaks loose. That's the fiery re-entry.
This cracked me up:
"B is home for good to bug us all daily! I can't begin to explain the readjustment we are going through. I thought we had this stuff figured out, but this one is the WORST! I'm very thankful he is out of harm's way, but if he keeps up the attitude, I'm gonna have to kick his ass!!"
But, as Marna points out, before long, for most of us, things do get back to normal. It's just that "re-entry" is a big adjustment for the entire family.
Chapter Three - Motherhood.
I don't have children, but it was still nice to read Marna's stories from the perspective of a milmom. I learned a new term too, "Mommy Meat Market," which is explained in the "My Kingdom for a Babysitter" story. After Marna and a friend stalked kids coming off of their school bus in search of babysitting prospects, she recalled the conversation.
Sarah met me back at the porch. We had a debriefing.
"Two promising prospects," I said. "Their backpacks were full. They must be good students."
"Mine, too," she said. "We're bound to get a decent babysitter out of the three of them."
This was the Mommy Meat Market. Normally, I handled this mission alone. Parents on military posts considered information about babysitters "Top Secret." The better sitters were so safe they could be in the Witness Protection Program. I usually didn't share my list, but Sarah and I agreed to pool resources.
Household Baggage is a very light-hearted, easy-to-read book. Marna's self-deprecating humor is charming and she touched on so many topics that are unique to milspouses. I enjoyed the fact that Marna dealt with sensitive topics in a good-natured way. For me, reading the book has been a stroll down memory lane. It's made me think about all the places we've lived, all the people we've met, all the friends I've made and all the events -- good and bad -- that we've experienced as a military family. This really is an interesting life, I think I'd be bored out of my mind in a civilian setting!
What are your thoughts on the first 104 pages of the book, and which stories did you enjoy the most? Do you have any questions for Marna about the first half of the book?
We'll post a discussion thread for pages 105 through the end of the book on February 16.