While the best gifts in life aren’t tangible – the smiles, the butterflies in our stomachs, the way our heart races when we see our deployed spouse for the first time – the next best things in life can be. Material items should never outweigh the love we have for our significant other, but you have to admit: opening something nice can make your heart race too.
Well, our spouses are no different. Their hearts might go pitter-patter over items we may not like, but there are still ways to make them feel special by wrapping the perfect gifts both before and after deployments. United States Marine Corps Spouse Amy Nelson found away to capture those intangible feelings with something tangible: sticky notes. Confused? So was her husband, Major Joshua Nelson, at first. “To be honest, I don’t know how I came up with the idea except that it was during a period he was deployed a lot, in and out on the 31st MEU and he was feeling isolated from the rest of the family,” Amy Nelson said. It broke her heart knowing that her husband felt like he was missing everything and she wanted to make him feel involved and let him know the family thought of him each day he was gone. ” I had really little kids so I needed something that was quick and inexpensive,” Amy admitted. That quick and inexpensive gift would turn into one of the most special gifts Joshua had ever received…and one he totes along with him after each PCS because he doesn’t want to let it go.
Amy began jotting done little notes each time she or another family member thought of her husband throughout the day during the three months he was gone. She’d stick them on his dresser, detailing everything from funny quotes the kids uttered, stories that reminded her of him and reasons why they missed him. By the time Joshua got home, his dresser was covered! “At first he was a little confused as to why I’d decorated with sticky notes, but when I explained it, he loved it!”. It’s been 10 years since he walked into that surprise and he still carries the sticky notes to each new place they call home.
Fellow military spouse Ashley Barth really wanted to drive home the message how much she missed her husband during her deployment…literally. “He had told me to find a car while he was gone, like a minivan,” she paused. “So I got a part time job to pay cash for a reliable older car for me and got him the Camaro instead.” The 1968 Camaro was his dream car. She found one at an auction and pulled all the stops, even enlisting the help of friends to help with the surprise by having some of them roll around the corner in his new car when he returned from deployment. It will forever be a day the couple, now stationed in Pensacola, Florida, won’t forget. But the gifts we give our spouses don’t always have to be waiting for them upon their return from a deployment, trip to the field or training.
Many choose to send their loved ones off with gifts of love and warm memories. Liz Fisher and her husband still hold onto strong memories from his first deployment in 2005. “I would fold up little notes and stick them throughout his luggage. He still has one from his first deployment that he wore in his helmet.” As for his post-deployment gift, it was paper…but a different kind. “The best reaction to a coming home gift was the time I handed him a bank statement showing him we’d saved all of his deployment pay,” she laughed. But for many, the gifts are more subtle. Lindsey Buffamante and her husband, Major Joseph Buffamante currently live in Virginia but spent several years in North Carolina. During that time, her husband was often gone and Lindsey managed the house and brainstormed and completed countless projects. She and the kids loved making ‘Welcome Home’ banners for him and showing off the photographs of the whole family hard at work while Daddy was away.
Gift Giving Tips From the Pros
No matter your budget, it is always possible to give a gift that captures the moment you both want to remember forever or says exactly what you’re feeling inside. You can learn something from the women who shared their gift ideas from years passed or take some hints from the professional gift givers and find something special all on your own.
Think about it
Kaela Worthen Gardner is a marketing manager at reddit and redditgifts and suggests in her blog to make the gift-giving moment an experience for all involved. Whether that is a scavenger hunt leading to the ultimate gift or date full of fun elements, the gift should make that person feel special. Gardner also suggests making a list of everything the person you’re shopping for is interested in. She wrote, “Make the list long, spend at least two full minutes writing as many things as you can. Now brainstorm something to go with every item on that list, small or big.” The brainstorming session will help you get a clear idea of possibilities; you can then combine a few small gifts or splurge on something big!
Meanwhile, the folks at RedEnvelope suggest luxurious gifts for the world-travelers we’ve all married; for beer lovers…they recommend a bubbling variety of beer glasses, home brewing kits and stylish bottle openers. They also suggest personalizing gifts with sweet messages, initials or special dates.
Get Sexy and romantic
This gift is not rated ‘G’. The Boudoir Divas are famous in San Diego for giving women “The Ultimate Supermodel Boudoir Photography Experience.” Founded in 2006, Marissa Boucher and Kimberlee West have traveled the world making women feel sexy and empowered. The all-female photographer team says they believe every woman is gorgeous. “The experience is totally private and while we think this is time to reveal your sexy, that doesn’t mean that lingerie is the go-to. Some bring a cute outfit or sexy cocktail dress to reveal their sexy!” The scandalous photo shoots are a growing trend among military spouses and studios can book up quickly. It is best to research the photographers and gather personal opinions before booking any shoots.
Make it Memorable
Think about the most meaningful moments in your life. They’re probably the milestones like your first kiss, your engagement, wedding, births of your children, etc. What elements do you remember most? Surely you don’t remember the material details (except the beautiful rock your now-spouse gave you when he proposed!), but you probably remember the faces of the people around you; what it felt like inside to hold your baby for the firs time; how thoughtful it was of your wedding guests to travel to be with you. The details you remember aren’t measured with dollar signs, they’re measured with emotions. And the gifts you give should strike that same feeling in the person you’re giving it to. Think about the activities and products your spouse loves and find a way to capture those and give them to him. It may be through a photo book, an engraved item or maybe just a well-written note or an art project from your kids. Don’t get bogged down by cost and material value, think about what makes your husband smile…and go from there. You’ll do great!