Hello, folks. It’s April here. So, today is Friday and my brain is pretty much mush after a particularly crazy busy week. My writing genius has checked out and went home for the weekend. So, I decided to fish through the archives and share some previously written material with you (this is called recycling content and it’s all the craze these days).
First, a short explanation. A few months ago, I made the decision to join a local Toastmasters group. I’m not planning on engaging in a lot of public speaking, at least in the near future, but I’m a firm believer in getting out of your comfort zone. Standing in front of a room full of people and delivering a speech is not on my top ten list of fun things to do. But it is challenging, exhilarating, and a darn good way to build my confidence. So I’m doing it. The following three-part series was my introductory first speech delivered as a Toastmasters member.
Greetings! Today I’m going to provide you with a colorful introduction to me, April Michelle Berry Keating.
My mom hails from southern Iowa. Way down there, almost to Missouri. She speaks in a dialect that is definitely not from central Iowa. She says words like “feesh” and “meelk”. My dad and I like to lovingly joke that she has created her own unabridged dictionary and filled it with words that only she knows.
Apparently I inherited that tendency. Occasionally I am inspired to coin a brilliant new word (in my unbiased opinion). One of the newest additions to my vocabulary is the word that we are going to talk about today: milimompreneur. This little five-syllable, three-part noun effectively summarizes me and the kinda-boring-but-never-dull life that I lead today.
First section of the word: mili. On August 5, 2006 I became a military spouse. My then-fiancee BJ and I rode RAGBRAI for a week, got married in a gazebo in Indianola, Iowa the following Saturday, then packed up the car and drove to Washington, D.C. the weekend after. So began our journey. Seven years and two duty stations later, I am extremely proud to be a part of the military spouse community. Some people ask how I do it, moving every three years. I don’t even blink; I just do it. It’s like an adventure to me, and I cherish making friends all across the country…even the world. It broadens my perspective and gives me a taste of what it’s like to live in places like our nation’s capital and in the hot & humid state of Georgia. We milspouses are bound by a strong sense of community and an undying patriotism. I have seen the president speak at Arlington National Cemetary. I have bowed my head as the caisson leaves the chapel at Fort Myer and makes its way to a funeral – making no noise except the clip-clopping of the horses’ hooves on the grey pavement. I have biked to Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington; ran along the Potomac River and through the National Mall; had my breath taken away by the stately monuments of D.C. after dark. I have caught my breath as I watched my husband jump out of a perfectly good airplane and utter the cry “Airborne!” as his feet touched the ground. I have stood in the halls of the general’s house at Fort Benning and enjoyed a holiday celebration in the National Infantry Museum. I have lived on an Army base where every morning the orders of drill sergeants are overheard, the sound of gunfire is common, and “yield to tank traffic” are everyday road signs. I have shed many tears as I dropped my husband off the airport, knowing that he is leaving to go to another country for several months and I may never seem him again. I have leaned on the support of friends who become my family because they are the people walking beside me and holding me up when my husband isn’t able. It is a life that I would not trade for anything.
Second section of the word: mom. Let me lay it out for you. Two boys, 14 months apart. Ages: 2 and 3. Do you think I’m busy? I like to joke that one was made in Virginia, born in Georgia and the other was made in Georgia and born in Iowa. (I’m sure they’ll love me telling them that in a few years). Shortly after making the move from National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Virginia to the Warrior Training Center on Fort Benning, Georgia, we discovered that we were going to add another member to our family. I will never forget the process we went through for deciding on a name. My husband, BJ, knows far too many people whose names he didn’t want associated with his son. Tucker, who is named after his grandpa Keating, was born June 24, 2010 in the Martin Army Community Hospital. By Christmas of that year we prepared to add another boy to the Keating household. Justin Joseph, otherwise known as JJ, joined us on September 6, 2011. He was born at Iowa Methodist Medical Center. Our two boys could not be any more opposite, but they are the loves of my life. They make me laugh, cry, and smile in wonder every day of my life. I look forward to watching them grow up, but want to smoosh them down and keep them little at the same time. When they say that kids grow up too fast, they don’t warn you about just how quickly it all zips by. No matter how much time I spend with them, I never feel like it’s enough.
Section three: preneur. Okay, so this is the newest phase of my life story. This part came along as a consequence to the first two sections. The first challenge of being a military spouse trying to hold a career came nearly immediately after I married my Soldier. His orders were taking him to Washington, D.C. and I had every intention of going with him. That meant that I had to quit my job of 9 years in Des Moines and start over again once I hit the ground in a new city. Once I had finally found my new occupation in D.C., I was reminded of some limitations when starting a new job. Keep in mind that we were newlyweds with very few responsibilities in a place far away from our families. We wanted to travel around the East coast and explore in addition to visiting family and friends back home about every six months. That takes vacation time, and plenty of it. Vacation time that is usually limited until tenure is built with a new company. About two years into our stay in DC, I faced a crossroads: my husband was deployed, Christmas was coming, and I wanted to travel home to spend the holidays with our families. But, I did not have any vacation time to use and my employer wouldn’t let me take time off without pay. I had to quit my job in order to spend the holidays with my family. This was the first time I considered starting my own business. After this similar situation played out a couple more times, I was researching my options. The deciding factor came when I was laid off from my temporary job in Georgia and was six months pregnant with our first child.
That was the spring of 2010. Now it’s the fall of 2013. After two babies and one move, my business is finally starting to gain some momentum. I am intentional in how I structure my online marketing firm so it allows me the flexibility in location and in schedule that I need to fulfill my duties as mom and wife of an Army National Guard Sergeant Major. I have big plans for the future and I’m overjoyed that building my own business is part of it.
The exciting story I’ve told you today may captivate your attention and steal your hearts, but let me assure you…we are really pretty boring people. But, I love my boring life. We celebrate the small successes and relish each day we spend together as a family. We love that our “family” has grown to embrace all the friends we’ve made at different duty stations, our two beautiful boys, and our relatives that are sprinkled throughout the Midwest. I get to wake up every day doing something that I love and allows me the flexibility to wear a lot of different hats. Life may be kinda boring, but it’s pretty darn good for this milimompreneur.