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As I mentioned in my last post, The Vow Not Taken, my life is indeed a hot mess. In this post, I will let you see more of the “hot mess express” as I explain the consequences of saying two small words (“why” and “not”) in the same sentence!

To better understand my frame of mind, we were at the tail end of getting my son’s diagnosis of high functioning autism. Which, as many special needs parents know, (thanks to Tricare and specialty clinics) can take years. My daughter’s journey of Sensory Seeking Autism was also in the early stages of diagnosis, and I lived on very little sleep. To add to the chaos, the Air Force said,

“Hey how does a sudden deployment sound?”

Why not? SMH!

Now, as an Air force spouse, seven months for deployments is the usual time frame, but we plan for eight months just in case. Normally I hate it, but I understand it is part of this crazy life. In those days, I was overwhelmed, exhausted, sleep deprived and ten and half months of him gone already.

I just felt spent.

It felt as if the Air force could not have picked a worse time to send him again. I have Army spouses who are dear friends of mine and it’s inspiring how a year deployment is just part of their life. I feel solidarity that they know my pain.

So before that deployment took place, the First Sergeant approached me. First sergeants are an entity with whom (over the years) I have had a love-hate relationship with. It wasn’t personal, but I knew what he was asking me to do. Before I could stop it, my Italian side came out, and it didn’t pave well for friendships.

On this occasion however, he introduced me to his lovely wife. They talked about the key spouse program and how much help it could be for our squadron to have more spouses. I don’t know what came over me, it was probably exhaustion (meaning literal sleep deprivation), and without full awareness of what I was doing I said,

“Why not? I can help.”

It did not click in my brain what I had gotten myself into, until she actually handed me the office keys profusely thanking me. I stood there in that office looking at it thinking that it looks like the people who left it had just lost the game of Jumanji the night before. I took a moment to let it register and I finally said,

 “Oh. My. God. (Yes, like Janice from Friends… same tone). What did I just do?”

Why Not

I started blinking a lot, my eye was twitching, and my cell phone started ringing. I answered like I was about to be nauseous only to realize it was my son’s teacher. They were struggling to keep him from leaving the school. The vice principal was doing her best, (and I mean literal best) to physically keep him there until I arrived.

I told her I was on my way and hung up the phone sadly realizing I didn’t have time to cry.

A few days later, I chugged my coffee and met with the outgoing key spouse. A running list of statements ran through my head after our meeting.

I volunteered to help.

I am a housewife.

I can get a stain out of a shirt in no time (those pens on the uniform are my nemesis to this day),

but running a program? Surely they had the training because I simply had no clue what to do.

But…. why not?

I started organizing the office and eventually there came the time in which I was THE key spouse (on top of everything else I had going on in life). I am so thankful for the commander and the two 1st sergeants; they were very welcoming and helpful.

I learned what they refer to in the south as “baptism by fire.”

I started asking myself questions as I built the binder. Little by little, the program came together and I had to learn to be bold. After all, I was it! This helped me tremendously with my introverted nature. I was used to advocating for my kids, but I learned to advocate for spouses too.

I found my voice and I sure used it!

My approach as a key spouse, came from one of my favorite lines of my husband’s favorite TV show, Everybody Loves Raymond. Debra says this line to Raymond,

“You don’t stand there yelling at the iceberg, you load up the boats.”

That was truly my approach, and I’ve seen it all. From infant deaths to having to find guardians for kids. Those are the hard ones, you don’t yell at the iceberg, indeed .

Thankfully, like everything in life there’s the joyful side of  helping. Taking pictures at homecomings is one of my favorite joys.  Another joy was helping the 1st sergeant with his dog. I volunteered to hold her leash on every single event.

I learned something by holding that leash.

Shirts, as we call them, are very busy! Waiting sometimes can feel like an eternity, but you are also welcome to help beyond the “guidelines” of a key spouse. For example, they tell us that we aren’t supposed to be a driver or babysitter.

Guess what? I’ve done both, because that was what was needed. Being kind is something I won’t ever regret. I embraced that time with the same motto.

Why not?

Why not?

Why not bring this family a pizza?

Why not buy the baby gifts on my own?

Why not write personal notes for new parents and drop them at their home off base?

Why not go the extra step?

Isn’t that what God called me to do at that time?

*Read more about The Airforce’s Key Spouse Program here.




  • Ally Darnell

    Ally Darnell is an Air Force wife of 15 years. She has two beautiful children who are autistic . She was born in Peru and grew up in a military family as her father was a General in the Peruvian army. Her family from her father's side is Italian and from her Mother's side is Spanish. She has supported her family proudly from the homefront and holds a certificate in Travel Agency Management. She currently serves as a lead key spouse for the 305th Aerial Port Squadron at McGuire AFB . Ally loves to learn and is a fan of Royal History and decorating. Her family also has a 127 pound labrador who still believes he's a lap dog, and they absolutely love him!

1 Comment

  1. Sharita Knobloch

    LOVE THIS. Why not? is right! And I am totally going to start using that quote about not yelling about the iceberg but rather loading up the boats. Glad you are here, Ally.


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