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…through all those experiences, you have learned something again: love will help you do what is difficult.

blue book cover with many colored envelopesLizann Lightfoot is the author of Open When: Letters of Encouragement for Military Spouses. Her book takes readers on a journey through many facets of military life, including those less talked about. With chapters like: “Open When You’re Tired of Military Life,” “Open When Everything is Falling Apart,” “Open When You’re Stuck in Temporary Housing with Kids,” and “Open When You’re Searching for Your Identity,” Lightfoot comes alongside her reader with the realities of military life and her own experiences. But she doesn’t stop there. 

Lightfoot is known on her platform, The Seasoned Spouse, and she stands in that title as one that holds up a lantern in dark times. Her words enable the reader to remind themselves that this military life is hard work. But once we recognize that our array of feelings are valid, we can choose to get them out in healthy ways, and then we have to find our next right step. 

She shares, “…once you have acknowledged your anger you have a choice. Stay angry or move forward…channel it into positive action.” The book is full of candor but always finds encouragement to enable the reader to reflect and move forward.

I have moved into more positive action, and it is because I have been spending time with Lizann’s words. Her book spans the vast array of wonderful but tough moments in military life, and it’s helped me reflect on our journey, where I want to go in it next, and who I want to be moving forward.

We need reminders that we are not alone in this military life.

We need cheerleaders that keep it honest but also give us the tools to keep going.

Fortunately, we have Lizann Lightfoot and Open When: Letters of Encouragement for Military Spouses to both champion and companion us. She has been gracious to answer a few questions, just for The Military Mom Collective community:

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Q: Military life did not stop for you whilst you were writing and editing Open When. Please share with us some of the changes your family was going through while you were also working on this book.

You’re right, it certainly didn’t! Because it took me almost three years to finish writing the book, a lot happened during that time. I got the idea during my husband’s 7th deployment, while I was working from home with four kids.

We ended up PCSing twice while I was writing the manuscript: first within the state of California, and then again two years later across the country to Mississippi. I was pregnant with baby #5 when I signed the book contract, and she was just a few months old when I turned in the completed book to the editor. My husband was selected for promotion and extended his contract, so we are remaining in the military past 20 years. I did final edits while he was away training for a few weeks last fall. 

Q: Which chapter of the book was the most challenging to write?

The personal stories that begin each chapter are very powerful and emotional. Sharing my memories of the day I learned my fiance was wounded or the time I gave birth during the hurricane, was very difficult because those were traumatic experiences that were difficult to relive. I was sometimes crying and shaking as I wrote them. But I knew it would be worth it to help someone else in a similar situation.

From a logistical viewpoint, the first section, “New to Military Life,” was the most time-consuming because I had to research and speak to numerous younger spouses to make sure I had the details right about basic training or visiting base without an ID card. It has been two decades since my husband joined, so I wanted to make sure the details I described were up-to-date!

Q: Does your family have a tradition of “Open When” letters? Why do you think they are good practice?

I didn’t actually write “Open When” letters for my husband during his deployments, because I was usually so stressed and busy in the days leading up to them. But I typically wrote to him every day while he was deployed!

His first five deployments were to combat zones in Iraq or Afghanistan, and we didn’t have any technology to connect us. The only option was writing letters. Throughout college, I wrote to him every day, then stuffed the letters into an envelope at the end of the week. He loved that there was always something for him at mail call.

But I have started to use “Open When” letters with my kids, especially if they are going away to camp or facing a major test, and they absolutely love them. So I think it’s a great tradition for any family to develop. 

I chose this format for the book because I think it’s a common image that many military spouses can relate to, even if they haven’t done it personally for their service member. And I think we all wish there was someone writing “Open When” letters for us! I hope that the book will inspire people to write these types of messages to their family members, neighbors, and fellow military spouses. 

Q: What is the one takeaway you hope that readers are left with?

There are several overall messages that appear throughout the book. One is that I don’t want anyone – military spouse, significant other, or family member – to feel that they are going through military life alone. While it’s common to feel isolated because of military life, I hope readers will realize that they are part of a large and beautiful community whose members are all facing similar challenges. 

Next, I want readers to know that whatever they are feeling is OK. I constantly get questions from military spouses asking if it’s “normal” to feel frustrated, jealous, or uncertain about a particular military life challenge. And usually, the emotion they describe is something very common that many military spouses have been through! But if we don’t talk about it, no one knows how common it is. I think when readers train themselves to work through the small, frustrating moments of military life, they will be better equipped to handle the major challenges that can catch us by surprise. 

You can connect with Lizann Lightfoot on Facebook, Instagram, and her website.

Open When: Letters of Encouragement for Military Spouses is available from the publisher Military Family Books and Amazon.

Where are you on your journey in military life? What encouragement could you use right now?

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LINDSAY SWOBODA is a writer, editor, and military spouse. She is the mother of two and lives wherever the Marine Corps sends their family next. Her work has been featured in Legacy Magazine, Coffee + Crumbs, The Line Literary Review and Books Make a Difference Magazine. She is the former editor-in-chief for the U.S. Embassy Quito Newsletter. Lindsay hosts The Choosing Brave Podcast and welcomes connection on Instagram and on her personal blog. When she is not writing Lindsay is either seeking time in nature or pursuing her other favorite hobbies: reading and sewing. She tries not to miss having tea in the afternoon with a cookie.

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