Life Lessons – Military Appreciation Month:
Andrea Hanson

*Are you happy at the moment?

Yes, I am happy. I believe that happiness is a choice and I have chosen to be happy even while my husband is deployed. I miss him, but I can be happy in his absence. I am old enough to understand that the energy I give off is the energy that is returned to me. If I am unhappy, then my home becomes unhappy. I grew up in an unhappy home and I would never want to repeat that cycle for my children.

*If you could go back and say anything to your 16-year-old self now – what would it be?

If I could go back and say anything to my 16 year-old self it would be to own her awesomeness. I was plagued with self-doubt at 16 and did not really understand how brilliant I was at that age and all the life I had ahead of me. I had grown to believe that my surrounding were probably as good as it was going to get and anything above that was just a dream that could not be accomplished. If I could sit down with that young girl, I would tell her to follow her dreams and never be afraid of failing.

*What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?

The most important thing I have learned this year is that items, things, or even money will not make up for the pain of my past. I have learned that my joy will only come when I deal with the things that have caused me pain in the past. I cannot actively live in the present if my choices and reactions are dictated by my childhood or past hurts. In order for one to grow, one must deal with the inner self and then I believe everything will fall into place.

*What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?

In the next 12 months, I would like to at least be halfway in the process of writing a book. I laughed to myself when I typed that, but it is a goal of mine. I would like to take the time that my husband is deployed to improve myself and work on the things that I use to think were impossible.

*What’s your secret to happiness?

My secret to happiness is being still at least 10 minutes out of the day and taking everything around me in. I also actively practice living in the moment. This life is an amazing one if you take the time to live. I have been unhappy before. I have been so sick that I did not want to get out of bed and I realize that movement and life in general are gift to be cherished and used.

*What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?

I practice yoga to keep grounded. I am a novice, but yoga has helped me in taking time to listen to my breath and body. It teaches me that with practice I can do things I never thought I could do. It also teaches me that what I could do yesterday, I may not be able to do tomorrow. Yoga truly humbles me.

*What’s your biggest regret?

My biggest regret is not going to college directly after high school. I was a great student, but somewhere along the line I had given up and accepted that I would work and just get by. I didn’t think I was worthy or going to be accepted in certain settings because of my background and being from a bad neighborhood, so I didn’t even try. I didn’t figure out I was just as good as everyone else until I went into the military.

*What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kid(s)?

I believe the most important lesson I have taught my children is that their feelings are valid and to be proud of themselves. I believe that one of the most important things you can teach a child is that their emotions are valid. Oftentimes, because their crying or whining bothers us as adults, we want to stop them from feeling that way. I don’t think that’s right. I think their feelings are valid and not a nuisance, but my job is to teach them how to express them in a productive way. I believe that it is working because I now have a 3 year-old who clearly states when he is mad and a daughter who can articulate how her father’s absence makes her feel. I also believe another lesson that I am trying to teach them is to be proud of themselves. I do not want them to compete with other people. I want them to compete with themselves and feel value from their own accomplishments whether they win or loose.

*What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself?

One bad habit I would like to change about myself is assuming I know how something is going to turn out before it happens. It totally does not go along with my whole “living in the moment” philosophy and it is one of the hardest things to break about my personality.

*Aside from motherhood/fatherhood and marriage what are you most proud of in your life?

I am proud of my service to this country. I joined the Army before the war and had no clue that September 11th would happen. I was a reservist and I never would have guessed that I would one day be in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The whole war is quite political, but my pride comes from serving alongside other Soldiers and supporting one another. That, along with some of my health issues, was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I was in Iraq from 2003 to 2004 and we had nothing. We had no toilets, no air conditioning, no real showers, and no real food. I did my job and withstood the elements. I proved to myself that I was strong, both mentally and physically. I will carry that time with me forever.

*When were you happiest?

I am my happiest when my family is together. My happiest moment of this year was when my husband returned from training and we were at the beach together. I was relaxing and looking out into the water at my husband and my children enjoying themselves. If I could bottle up that moment and save it forever, I would do it in a heartbeat. My family is one of my dreams come true. I am happiest when we are all together enjoying all that life has to offer.

*What ten words best describe you?

Empathetic, Loving, Intellectual, Intuitive, Funny, Determined, Proud, Loyal, Giving, Hippie

*What’s the most important thing you want civilians (or public) to know about Military families?

I would like civilians or the public to know that military families are unique. We do not all come one-size fits all. As in anything in life, every family handles situations differently. Yes, our lives come with some very hard obstacles. The deployments, long trainings, and moving around is an added stress that some families don’t deal with, but that is our normal. We adapt to the stressors and overcome them in our unique ways.

What we need from the public is heartfelt understanding and support. My daughter may seem fine today, but tomorrow it may hit her that she is without her father and instead of sad faces and opinions, sometimes all we need is a hug and a scoop of ice cream.

Andrea Hanson is a military spouse to an active duty Soldier currently on his 3rd deployment. She is also a veteran who was deployed to Iraq in 2003-2004 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom where she met her husband. Andrea left the Army Reserves after the birth of her daughter in 2007 and became a stay at-home mother. In the summer of 2010, Andrea gave birth to a son and the family was officially complete. You can find Andrea online at her blog, Not Your Baby’s Mama. The family currently lives in California.