Military spouses often have to spend tons of time apart. One couple gets super creative.

Distance is relative as long as you have a strong Wi-Fi connection.

Nick spent the first three years of his relationship with Stephanie stationed on a Pearl Harbor submarine.

The couple first met when he asked her for directions to a nearby restaurant and then invited her to join him.

The next day, she took him on a hike, then they went sightseeing. Each day, they spent more and more time together, planting the seeds for a romance that would blossom overseas.


Image via iStock.

Or rather, under it: Once Nick’s submarine began leaving port regularly, the tools and technology they’d come to rely on for their long-distance communication became tricky, a challenge that became even more difficult once Stephanie was deployed in Asia for six months.

These circumstances would be enough to put a strain on any relationship.

Thanks to resources like Skype and FaceTime and a strong commitment to making time to coordinate schedules and stick to it, they got through.

Image via iStock.

Hearing Nick call her his "bunny" at the end of the day was always worth it.  

Despite the occasional weirdness with underwater scenarios, the access to various communication technologies kept bringing them together, and their relationship sailed on smoothly, through the sharing of funny animal videos and recalling the memories they’d made while walking hand in hand.

Stephanie and Nick's story is reflective of many military couples who find themselves placed physically apart.

When a romantic relationship exists solely over Wi-Fi and phone calls for months at a time, you come to rely pretty heavily on a virtual connection to sustain your love.

Image via iStock.

To meet this growing demand to keep couples together, a number of technologies have been developed, including Couple, which allows couples to send each other intimate notes, photos, and videos that disappear after being seen, and MyMilitaryLife, which helps those at home get supplies and advice they might need while their partner is deployed.

Thanks to a good international texting plan and a constantly growing number of Wi-Fi spots around the world, Stephanie and Nick’s connection to each other remains strong as ever.

Sometimes, it even allows them to experience things as if they were in the same room together.

They often watch movies at the same time and comment on the action as they would if they were sitting side by side on the couch. And on one occasion, Nick brought up the idea of building something with the same Lego set so they could feel like they were being creative together.  

Image via iStock.

"Nick was always trying to think of things we could do over Skype together, so he sent me a small Lego set and bought himself one too," Stephanie recalls. "We put them together while on Skype one day."

The couple normally loves to do majorly physical activities when they’re together like going on long hikes and runs, so this was was just one small way for Nick to spark that same physical connection with Stephanie while they were so far apart.

Modern technology even allows them the chance to "travel the world together."

They got to go on an impromptu remote date while Nick was in Singapore.

"He and some friends used free Wi-Fi at a cafe in Clarke Quay, a fun riverside area popular there. So I got to people-watch and drink beers over Skype with him," she said.

Image via iStock.

Whether you’re in a military relationship or just a long-distance relationship, being away from the one you love is hard.

During a time of uncertainty, especially with heavy military action underway in the world, staying connected is important when we fear a loved one’s safety may be at risk.

We take it for granted now, but considering that years ago, people had to wait months to find out whether or not the people they cared for the most were still alive, being able to connect to the people we love with just one click is a gift.  

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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