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This week Julie Negron joins us to chat about her one of kind cartoon strip, "Jenny, The Military Spouse".

 

Wendy: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?

Julie: I was born and raised in an Air Force family and lived all over the world (Europe, Asia, and the U.S.). Being a glutton for punishment, I married an Air Force guy and raised my kids the same way I was raised. We can all boast a different school every year until roughly high school age. My brother was also a career Air Force guy so my sister-in-law, Michelle, and I swapped mil-spouse stories all the time. Many of the "Jenny" strips in the beginning were actually taken from hilarious things that happened to Michelle, my mom, and me.

Wendy: How did the idea of Jenny Spouse come about?

Julie: I experienced a medical records snafu during a PCS and was told by the records clerk that she didn't even have to talk to me because I was "just a spouse". I thought I couldn't be the only one who got treated this way so I reached out on the Internet for support and joined the Spouses Forum at Air Force Crossroads. I quickly became friends with spouses all over the world and heard a lot of stories similar to the ones I'd heard from my own family. Some were serious but some were downright funny.

Because I was already a freelance cartoonist and essayist, I looked around for someone out there who might be doing a strip or something funny or touching about the lives of military spouses where I could contribute some of the ideas that were literally flooding into my brain. After a couple of weeks of research, I found nothing and decided to do it myself.

Wendy: Why do you think humor is important during a deployment?

Julie: I never thought about it until a spouse wrote and told me that my strip had made her laugh for the first time since her husband deployed. It made her feel good and I think it made her realize that she'd allowed her loneliness to turn into depression. I hope her laughter filled her brain with good chemicals and that she continued to find things to give her a chuckle. My philosophy is that I need to laugh every day. Some of my readers have told me that if they didn't find something to laugh at, they would just cry all day. Let's hope they can fill their bookshelves with Erma Bombeck, their nights with sitcoms, and at least one day a week with "Jenny".


Wendy: What kind of feedback have you received from military spouses?

Julie: I've received the entire spectrum of feedback. A lot of spouses like even LOVE the strip, but others have complained that it's not true to life. My response is that almost everything that's happened in Jenny's world has happened to me or someone I know. I don't make it up but I do reserve the right to take comic license with situations. "How to wash a flightsuit" comes to mind.

Wendy: How did the idea for the book come about?

Julie: From the beginning, people were asking for a book to give their relatives to "Show them how it really is" or to provide some laughs for someone who feels like they're the only one with those problems. Of course, since the strip was still being written, I had to wait until I had a substantial amount of backlog to even make a book. I took the first three years of "Jenny" and created "PCSing...it's a Spouse thing!" along with original sketches, actual handwritten notes, and a bunch of e-mails from readers. I didn't want to leave anyone out! The book can be found at lulu.com. (By the way, Spouse is capitalized in the book's title for emphasis and respect.)

Wendy: How has Jenny helped you through a deployment or long separation?

Julie: She has kept me busy, busy, busy, either writing, drawing, editing, or maintaining the website. Also doing interviews or appearances. It's best to schedule those things when nobody's going to be home; that way, we spend less time apart.

Wendy: What is the most surprising thing that has happened to you since creating this comic strip?

Julie: I think I was most surprised at who would contact me after they'd read the strip. Not only did I hear from spouses and active duty (a lot of whom were stationed "downrange" at the time) but also O-6s would ask if they could use "Jenny" in a briefing or welcome packet. I had no idea, of course, that this one little idea could reach out and touch so many people all over the world.

Wendy: Do you have a favorite strip?

Julie: I love "How to wash a flightsuit". And I got some backlash from this next one but "TDY is A-OK" has to be my favorite. Some people said I was being insensitive but it's absolutely true to who I am. As soon as my husband is gone, I allow all of the stress to leave my body and I make myself a snack-nest on the couch and just veg for a day or two. The days and weeks leading up to a deployment are SO stressful; I can't understand NOT allowing for a moment of peace or self-pity or quiet time...whatever you want to call it. You have to just relax. So I put Jenny on the couch and let her have some down-time.

Wendy: Who inspires you?

Julie: Everyone. I look for inspiration everywhere because you never know where that next idea is going to come from. YOU inspire me, Wendy. Maybe Jenny's friend, Chandra, should have a mil-spouse podcast.


Wendy: Thanks Julie, that is very sweet. Jenny has definitely made me smile over the years and you know one my favorite strips is How to Shop Around the World. That strip reminds me of shopping in Germany with my long time girlfriend Melinda!...and yes, Chandra should! What advice do you have for military spouses wanting to pursue their passion?

Julie: Do it. If it's truly your passion then you can't deny it. Figure out how to do it and GO!

 

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To learn more about "Jenny, The Military Spouse" visit jennyspouse.com. Look for the cartoon strip in the Stars and Stripes and in base newspapers around the country.

 

Have a military spouse you'd like me to interview? Leave me a comment!

How as humor gotten you through a deployment? Share your funny story!