The Real Lives of Navy Wives: Calendar Squares

Hey Folks,

I’m writing to you from California today.  Did I mention I would be in California?  I can’t remember.  But in California I am, and I am pretty darn stoked about it.

Elisabeth and I arrived about a week ago after a nine-hour flight from Tokyo.  I’m still recovering.  The stress and exhaustion of such a trip is so monumental it requires lots of time and alcohol to feel normal again.   Still working on it.  But the monumental-ness of the trip also inspired a mini blog series I am going to kick off soon: What Not to Do with a Toddler.  That will be next time.

Because today I’m going to kick off a different mini blog series!  The Real Lives of Navy Wives.  (I hear Bravo calling now….)

I’m in California is because it’s deployment season again.  Bummer, right?  I schlepped Elisabeth out to CA to wait out the first part of deployment with the grandparents.  Last year I touched on the highs and lows of deployment, but I thought this year I could really get into the nitty-gritty of what it’s like to be a military wife (or husband) with a deployed spouse.  There are numerous articles and blogs that offer thoughtful and sentimental details into the life of a military family, and I highly encourage you to read them.  Because this ain’t one of them.

No-no.  Things are about to get real.  This post – this post is going to rage.  This post …is about calendar squares.

What is a calendar square?  A calendar square is a 6-inch by 6-inch square that spouses decorate for their husbands or wives while they are on deployment.  Each squadron has a large calendar with (I would assume) 30 or 31 slots into which these carefully decorated calendar squares are inserted.  The idea is that the deployed serviceman will gaze upon his designated calendar squares and be filled with joy and happiness at the sight of a 6×6 cardboard square decorated just for him.

We wives typically decorate the squares with family photos and little notes to give our husbands a small reminder of home.  We also make squares for the guys who aren’t married, so they know they are loved and thought of, too.  However, the squares for the single men typically involved scantily clad women.  Okay.  I’m supposed to find those where? My stack of Playboys hidden under the mattress?  Right.  And then those scantily clad women are going to be put up next to pictures of my cute, chubby baby?  It just seems… wrong.

Well, new rules have disallowed the more distasteful of calendar squares.  If only they would disallow calendar squares as a whole.  I can’t really explain what exactly it is that make calendar squares so loathsome, but loathsome they are.  Perhaps it is the tedium of measuring and cutting months worth of squares.  Perhaps it’s the panic that sets in when you realize that calendar are squares are due in a day and you have no pictures!  Perhaps it’s the pressure each spouse feels to make her squares not the worst.  Perhaps it’s that calendar squares require MANDATORY CRAFTING.

Last year a friend of mine was describing how she uses a cricket to assist her in such crafting endeavors.

I was confused.  How did a small, chirping insect assist with cutting and pasting?

Silly me!  It wasn’t a cricket she was describing, but a cricutA machine devoted to the art of crafting!  I was floored.  Such things exist?  I’m pretty sure a woman, probably with children, probably trying to prepare her family for a deployment, probably having no time for crafting, invented this machine after slaving away over calendar squares.  That’s just a guess.  And no, I didn’t go buy this nor will I.  I just wanted to bring this invention to your attention.

Last year when this concept was introduced to me, I had just arrived to Japan, was living in a hotel room, and had none of the necessary supplies to make these Calendar Squares.  So on the recommendation of a friend, I went through Stickygram, an online service which very conveniently makes your Instagram pictures into magnetic 6×6 squares.  Genius!  Totally overpriced – but genius!  Worth every penny.

This year I forgot to order my squares in time, so I was forced to go the old-fashioned route.  I stocked up on cardstock, colored paper, scissors, and glue.  Then I forgot about it all until the last minute.

I imagine that Damon (and whatever unlucky single guys get stuck with my squares) feels completely unloved when their last-minute, slapped-together squares are revealed.  And I’m sorry about that.  I really am.  So I’m here to say: Calendar Squares are NOT a measure of my love or affection.  They are a measure of my extreme aversion to arts & crafts.  Calendar Squares are the Navy’s Pinterest: Someone out there makes really pretty, thoughtful squares that set the bar way too high and everyone else tries to emulate them but inevitably fails and feels inadequate and sinks into a deep depression.

Even crafty spouses with things like cricuts hate calendar squares.  Seriously – what spouse of a soon-to-be-deployed husband or wife has time for this?  We Calendar Square crafting spouses are a special group, bonded together by our shared hatred of this mind-numbing, time-wasting tedium.  But we soldier on, crafting in the name of love.

So now you know – this is the real life of a Navy wife.  Intriguing stuff, I know.

I’m curious – any other military spouses have some not-so-beloved traditions you’d like to share?

(Oh, and if any of you do enjoy making these things – can you please make mine?  I’ll pay you!)


  1. Our squadron does “themed cruise boxes” each month that the guys open on the first of every month, filled with movies, games, surprises and of course junk food. It is not only every spouses responsibility to complete calendar squares, but remember to order far in advance the goodies and games for the prescribed themes. I LOATHED them for the longest time, because I just thought they were stupid and quite “mom-ish”; the stuff your Mom would lovingly (but slightly desperately) send you in college to let you know she was thinking of you, and possibly be experiencing a little empty nest syndrome. The stuff you would “aww” at, throw away, and then feel completely guilty about throwing away. The guys could care less about the movies, games, and crap we would send. They just want the junk food and snacks for the plane. After most of the guys griped about a botched “Japanese” themed box we did last cruise (too many fish-flavored, seriously weird treats), it has since changed to mainly just snacks. Thankfully, we can just pick those up from the commissary the day before the due date. No more having to remember a month in advance to order stupid party games of the designated theme from Oriental Trading Company that the guys are just going to trash. Guys are happy; wives are happy. Win-win!

  2. I especially enjoy printing out said pictures to fit into a small space and then realize my spouse will need a magnifying glass to see them. Wouldn’t it be fun if the deployed spouses made us a calendar for us at home,turned tables and probably hysterical.

  3. A not-so-beloved military tradition with which I was very familiar during the years that I was growing up in the Marine Corps is that it was mandatory that when a wife gave birth to her husband’s child, he had to be several thousand miles away.

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