Archive for November, 2011

“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common–this is my symphony.” ~William Henry Channing

Happy Thanksgiving!


Military brats are often very serious about their family traditions.  When you spend the holidays in so many different places—usually far from extended family–it’s nice to have a few things that are consistent. With my family, while we loved Thanksgiving, it was always the day after we got most excited about. I know what you’re thinking. Black Friday.

Surprisingly, in a household where the female:male ratio was 4:1, I don’t think I even knew what Black Friday really was until I went off to college. For us, the day after Thanksgiving meant one thing—a tradition my parents were forced to abide by (even if it happened to be 75 degrees  outside) in order to prevent our fragile childhood psyches from crumbling at yet another stable foundation being stripped away.

We put up our Christmas tree. The day after Thanksgiving. No matter what.

Other than this tangled-light, Lifetime Treasury of Christmas, eggnog overdose extravaganza, the only other Thanksgiving tradition I recall being a big deal was a dish affectionally known as The Chowen Girl’s Holiday Fruit Salad. This was a fruit salad my sisters and I have prepared for as long as I can remember. We each had our assigned roles. Mollee cut the Marshmallowsbananas because she was the baby and this task only required a butter knife. Haylee chopped the apples because if I did, a whole apple usually ended up getting thrown at Mollee. And I, being the eldest, had the oh-so important job of making the sauce.

Yes, the three of us, all adults now, still make this salad when we’re together. Every freakin year. Like I said, for military brats, some traditions die hard. But here’s a little secret…one extended family members have probably been holding in for years.

The salad is disgusting (sorry Mom).

I suppose the fruit part is fine, but anything that includes 2 cups of rainbow marshmallows and maraschino cherries shouldn’t really be categorized as a “salad,” in my opinion. However, if you’re curious—or happen to have children under the age of 5—here’s the top secret recipe.

Chowen Girls Holiday Fruit Salad

3-4 large apples
3 bananas
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup maraschino cherries

Special Sauce
1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp cinnamon

Peel apples, cut in eighths, core and slice crosswise. Peel bananas, slice 1/4 inch thick (dip in lemon juice to prevent browning). Place in large bowl. Add raisins, nuts , cherries and marshmallows. In small bowl mix cherry juice, mayo and cinnamon. Beat until smooth and pour over fruit mixture. Mix well and transfer into serving bowl . Garnish with cherries.
Yield: 6-8 servings (you’ll have leftovers for days…what does that tell you?)

What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving traditions or memories?

Growing up on military bases means experiencing one of the most bizarre American sub-cultures—one that has existed for generations and impacted millions. It’s a sub-culture not many people outside this “invisible tribe” know about or fully understand. It’s also a lifestyle of many paradoxes. Military kids often feel physically homeless, and at the same time, experience a greater sense of “home” based on the close-knit, we-will-survive-this-together relationships established within their immediate family.  Brats never feel completely rooted in one place, and yet can live practically anywhere. We may have trouble investing in short-term relationships if we don’t see ourselves sticking around too long, but many of us also have enduring friendships that span decades and continents. Often we never feel we truly “belong” in the civilian world, but will experience an immediate connection with other brats and have a strong sense of belonging to a tribe made up of many races, economic backgrounds, and religions.

Like I said, paradoxes.

According to Operation Military Brat, there are currently 1.2 million military kids scattered across the globe and 15 million American alive today who are former brats. I have to admit, I never really knew what the acronym B.R.A.T. stood for until recently. I always thought the person who made it up was just trying to be cute, but it turns out the U.S. military borrowed the term from the British. It stands for British Regimental Attached Traveler.

That kind of makes me feel like a piece of luggage, but whatever. The military is nothing if not practical.

The big news in the realm of YA-book-turned-teen-movie was the recent release of the new Twilight movie, which raked in $283.5 million over the weekend.  If, like me, you are not one of the millions of twi-fans bursting with delight at the thought of Bella and Edward walking down the aisle, the trailer for another popular YA series–the most important of the last decade, imho–also debuted this week:

I had my reservations about this book being turned into a movie, but based on the trailer, I’m excited! In addition to a kick-a*$ heroine, The Hunger Games is a story with strong characters and powerful themes. Not only does the author create a terrifying world ruled by a gluttonous, reality TV entertainment-driven,  government–the Capitol–THG deals with the brutal reality of violence, the fight for freedom in a totalitarian system, and the lasting effects of war.

It was not at all surprising to learn that Suzanne Collins, the author of ths hit trilogy,  is a military brat.

Collins’s father, who served in Vietnam, was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force and a professor of military history at West Point.  In a New York Times article–“Suzanne Collins’s War Stories for Kids”–Collins shares her thoughts on dealing with the absence of a deployed parent.

“If your parent is deployed and you are that young, you spend the whole time wondering where they are and waiting for them to come home. As time passes and the absence is longer and longer, you become more and more concerned — but you don’t really have the words to express your concern. There’s only this continued absence.”

I’m curious to hear the thoughts of other military brat fans of The Hunger Games. What is it about the story that impacted you the most? Do you think the movie will live up to the book?

The Perks

Posted: November 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

Rothenburg, Germany

Do you hate the question “where are you from?” Are your closest childhood friends spread all across the globe?Do you get the itch to move somewhere new after living in one place for approximately two or three years? Would people describe you as adventurous, independent, and resilient?

Then this blog is for YOU–military brats young and old!

My name is Ashlee Cowles and I created this website because I know there are thousands of other military brats out there who have lived the ups and downs of this exceptional and at times, overwhelmingly difficult, lifestyle.

The Brat Life has a lot of perks. After spending the first 18 years of my life  living on Army posts around the world–from Hawaiian paradise to the Bavarian Alps–I still haven’t “recovered” from an insatiable need to see the world. My closest friends are other military brats I’ve stayed in contact with over the years. When I went away to college in a state where I knew no one, the adjustment was no big deal thanks to the “skills”  I’d acquired from my unique upbringing.

Yet this transient lifestyle has its downsides too. Every brat knows the heartbreak of saying goodbye to friends after only a few years (or maybe even months!), or the disconnect of never quite feeling like you have a “home.” Even more serious are the fears and challenges that come with long deployments and parental absences.

Because the Brat Life is such a wonderful, terrifying, intense, heartbreaking adventure, about a year ago I decided to write a Young Adult novel that highlighted the experiences and emotions thousands of military brats go through each day…or can recall in vivid detail years later.

What’s the story about? Here’s a taste!


Lily Adams hates  being the new kid. Unfortunately, that status pretty much sums up her life. Only this time, Uncle Sam has gone too far. Lily has already been to five schools in six states in fifteen years, and now her dad gets stationed in Germany. This may mean no driver’s license until she’s eighteen, but moving overseas is nothing unusual for a lifelong “army brat.” What makes Lily really strange is that she’s a Traveler…as in Time Traveler.

All Lily wants to do is survive her sophomore year in a boring country of sauerkraut and leather overalls. A few friends would be nice, but when Lily meets her oddball neighbor, Nik—a half-German kid whose after-school activity happens to be traversing through history with a secret society of Time Travelers—she gets way more friendship than she bargained for. After a Halloween dare in the village cemetery ends in disaster, Lily and Nik travel back to Romania in the year 1462 to rescue their school’s biggest snob, Katelyn Abeya. This is the last person on earth Lily wants to get stuck with in the Middle Ages…except for maybe Vlad “the Impaler,” Katelyn’s stake-happy captor! Lily and Nik quickly discover that the real count Dracula is way scarier than the myth, making this one history lesson they won’t soon forget.

Okay, so Lily isn’t your average Army Brat. Not only does she live in Europe, she Time Travels in Europe. Perhaps the one thing that would make an overseas PCS even better! 🙂

Whether we’re discussing Lily’s story or your own, I hope this site connects you to other readers, writers, and explorers who know BRAT is one military acronym that will never leave them!