By MJ Boice, Marine Spouse
It all began when Mrs. Bonnie Amos compiled a number of books written by and for military spouses and children. This list is now known as the First Lady of the Marine Corps Recommended Reading List. In an effort to explore the titles on the list, MCAS Beaufort’s Marine Corps Family Team Building (MCFTB) in Beaufort, SC began a book club to offer as a mid-deployment activity, aptly named “Read Your Way Through Deployment”.
You’re probably thinking: “Um, you’re kidding, right? A book club?” You might picture a group of ‘seasoned’ ladies wearing drab clothing huddled around some dusty old books in someone’s dingy basement. Back in the 19th century, many ‘typical’ book club meetings looked like this. However in the light of day that we know as the 21st century, book clubs are a heck of a lot more inviting and fun!
As military spouses, our lives are anything but ‘typical.’ This is demonstrated in everything from our schedules to our challenges to what we view to be ‘normal.’ We have creatively changed and adapted so many other aspects of our lives, so why shouldn’t we cater a book club to fit our way of life?
As a new Program Trainer with MCFTB, I inherited “Read Your Way Through Deployment” and decided to make this book club one of my priorities. The concept of a traditional book club just seemed so bland to me, so I sought feedback from spouses and researched literary blogs, library sponsored book clubs, and individual author websites. BORING, BORING, BORING! That’s when I decided that I needed to look deeper into the demographic that we serve–the demographic that I myself belong to as a Marine Corps spouse of 15 years.
I tried to anticipate every possible roadblock: from child-care issues, scheduling issues, cognitive abilities and even where each person might be at in their own personal journey of military life. The moment I tapped into my inner spouse, the ideas began to fly! Here are some things to think about when starting your own book club:
- Ask yourself what you want to get out of a military spouse book club
As a Trainer, I am required to hit on key learning objectives, one of them being RESOURCES. There is only one resource available to us that is completely off limits to fiscal uncertainty, sequestration, program cuts or politics, and that is US. WE are a resource to one another. “Read Your Way Through Deployment” was started to promote spouse-to-spouse mentorship as a resource. The books are the conversation starter. The topics serve as the gateway into the sharing of experiences, failures, challenges and best practices. Through dialogue, we are acknowledged and validated both by the authors and by each other. TIP: Start by researching books written by and for military spouses to get an idea of how you could cater this format to YOUR book club.
2. Find a central location to hold meetings
MCFTB has access to a house on Laurel Bay that we utilize for some of the activities that we offer. There is a children’s room in the back and we have a child-care provider come and provide onsite child-care. This has proven to very beneficial since many spouses would have a hard time participating in many activities due to child-care constraints. TIP: If you believe that childcare may be an issue, consider rotating that responsibility between participants or chipping in for an on-site sitter for your meetings.
3. Consider how often and when you would like to meet
In our lifestyle, we may only have a few minutes here and there to steal away or we may find ourselves with hours on our hands. A three-week time frame caters to both scenarios. Our book club recently began meeting every two weeks because the spouses couldn’t get enough! TIP: Think about meeting the same day of the week each time (ex. the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month).
4. Leverage Social Media!
Spouses are often inundated with updates and information from Family Readiness entities. To keep book club information from getting lost in cyberspace (or someone’s SPAM folder), I decided to start a book club Facebook group.Not only am I able to keep everyone informed, we are able to stay engaged in discussion between meetings. For example, I once posed the question “What would you do if you KNEW you could not fail?” This discussion had over 30 comments in less than an hour. TIP: If you’re thinking about starting a book club at your installation, you use social media as a way to find participants! I’m sure you already know that in the military community, word of mouth is the gold standard of advertising!
5. Let the authors in on the fun!
You would be so surprised at how willing the authors are to meet with their readers! To date, the “Read Your Way Through Deployment” Book Club has had author chats via Skype with: Jacey Eckhart (The Home Front Club: A Hard-Headed Woman’s Guide to Raising a Military Family), Sarah Smiley (Dinner With the Smileys), Laura Vanderkam (168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think), Loretta Nyhan (I’ll Be Seeing You) and Holly Scherer (Military Spouse Journey). Mollie Gross (Confessions of a Military Wife) even came to our book club meeting in person while she was in town for her comedy show!
They were all delighted to hear from us jumped at the chance to meet! Author Holly Scherer and co-author Kathie Hightower challenged our book club to do the “Ideal Life” exercise in their book and we even had a mini-workshop during our author chat! TIP: If you get Skype on your laptop, just plug an HDMI cable into your TV so that everyone can see the author! You would need a webcam of some sort as well, although many laptops these days come standard with one built in.
“Read Your Way Through Deployment” has really taken off and has gained quite a bit of notoriety. The success of this book club comes in part from research, effort and passion on my part but also from all the spouses who attend. The greatest part of the interaction with the authors is knowing that they value our feedback. Wouldn’t you want to know that YOU were making a difference if that’s what you set out to do?
See the next page for a fun recipe!
Whether it’s Deployment Daiquiris or Homecoming Hurricanes, cocktails can be a fun addition to any get together! Here’s a special recipe for YOUR military spouse book club!
Jane Wayne Juice
1 c. water
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. Jack Daniels
ice & water
1. Juice all lemons, set aside fresh juice.
2. Cut up the rind of one lemon, place in a medium saucepan along with 1 c. water and 1 c. sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat. After the sugar is dissolved, turn off heat, strain and let cool.
3. In a 2 quart pitcher, combine lemon simple syrup, lemon juice and Jack Daniels. Fill pitcher with ice and water – stir well to combine.