It was March 2009 when the Guyader family – husband, wife and cat – uprooted from sunny California and landed in Upstate New York. I was excited and fresh and completely ready for our new adventure. Of course, the path I thought we were taking was nothing like the one we actually started down – living at the United States Military Academy will do that to a person.

STRUCTUREbags family

When you live on a military post, you cannot help but see the sacrifice and commitment surrounding you everywhere you look: deployments, circumstantial single-parenting, tragedies and volunteerism. But I was still in a personal adjustment phase, unable to take it all in. I was still a civilian looking in.

STRUCTUREbags started as an outlet for a new mom semi-ripped from an over-demanding career looking to make some one-of-a-kind goods for her toddler (think, self-imposed demands meets identity crisis meets Elna sewing machine). My husband was in his second year coaching football at West Point, and I needed some original Army gear!

Gradually, I came out of the new-mom fog and began to hear and listen to everything happening outside of our brick house walls. West Point is many things – historic, picturesque, academically excellent – but most of all it is humbling.

From the story of the tactical officer killed in action who was laid to rest in front of standing room only crowds, to the deployed husband who died while Skyping with his wife, to the woman brought to tears after receiving candy on Valentine’s Day from the “deployment angels,” it was clear that my previous civilian perspective was grossly naïve.

Today, I am a woman who is learning to stretch in ways I never before felt safe: volunteering more, sharing more, listening more. As a military friend recently told me, “You move to a new place and you say to your new neighbor – ‘You’re my emergency contact and I am yours.’ You don’t wait – you act.”

This summer STRUCTUREbags will relaunch with a fresh look and reflect many of the lessons I have learned in my four years here at West Point. STRUCTUREbags is about giving back: to the environment, to those who serve, to those left behind.

I hope you will join with me on this journey - share what excites you, share what changes you and share what moves you. Tell me what you want to hear from me – DIYs, stories, new products. Whether via email, social media or in person, I will be listening!